For his latest production, reflections, Texture Contemporary Ballet adds a bit more texture. The company, whose programs for five seasons have been dominated by the ballets of artistic director Alan Obuzor and associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman, will include works by three other choreographers, including a performance by guest dancer and quadruple amputee Kiera Brinkley.
“We love bringing in other choreographers. We get tired of ourselves,” jokes Bartman. She and Obuzor will still make up half of the works on the program at the New Hazlett Theatre, whose four performances from March 18-20 include an abbreviated March 19 matinee for children.
Bartman’s last “O” is set to the Coldplay song of the same name. Dancer Victoria McWilliams’ three-minute solo “is about admiring someone and being excited about wanting to be where they are in their life,” says Bartman.
Obuzor’s new solo for dancer Jean-Paul Weaver is also titled after and danced to a rock song, The Fray’s melancholy “Happiness”. Obuzor’s other new ballet is the 29-minute “Un-preservation of Humanism”, set to classical music by Ezio Bosso. The abstract ballet for eight dancers talks about humanity and the transition from past to present.
The prolific Bartman and Obuzor, who have already created more than 60 ballets for the company, need the dancers they work with to be versatile and able to learn choreography quickly. With a lot of talent coming out of Point Park University – the company’s main source of dancers – Obuzor says that hasn’t been a problem.
One such Point Park connection is dancer/choreographer Jamie Erin Murphy. His new 11-minute contemporary/modern dance work for the company, “Scrambled”, set to music by German composer Nils Frahm, is about “trying to overcome and get rid of the anxious feelings that can take over our thoughts and control us”. Murphy said.
Another Point Park alumna is Annalee Traylor, a former member of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble. His first work for Texture, the six-minute “Hypno,” is inspired by “the mysterious and haunting music” of German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten.
Marquee work in reflectionshowever, comes from Texture company dancer Weaver, whose 20-minute multimedia “Vwayaj” (Haitian Creole for “traveler”) taps into his Haitian/American cultural roots and features Brinkley.
The abstract and multimedia work is set to the traditional African music of Belgian musician Le Motel, modified by a dance club rhythm. The piece “presents the folk stories of Haiti through an Afro-futuristic perspective,” says Weaver. The idea is to explore how current scientific thought might reveal the truths of these universal folk themes.
One of the themes of the work’s motifs involves spiral images, like that of snakes coiling together. Weaver relates this to the DNA double helix. Another motif references Haitian folklore that describes the origins of life in the ocean; other themes include evolution and reincarnation.
In a video of some of the work shown last November, at Texture’s WIP choreography projectI found Weaver’s choreography to be a captivating and comprehensive blend of African and contemporary dance styles.
“Vwayaj” also plays with the idea of a journey – both the journey that Haitian dance and culture has traveled over time and the individual life journeys of the dancers in the work. Among them is Brinkley, 22, who, aged 2, lost his limbs to a bacterial infection known as pneumococcal sepsis. Brinkley took up dancing in sixth grade to help him communicate with others “who really didn’t know how to communicate with me at the time.”
Weaver chose Portland, Oregon-based Brinkley to dance a lead role in his new work because the two had danced together years ago at Portland’s Polaris Dance Theater and had been looking for an opportunity to perform together ever since. .
“I was blown away by her,” Weaver says. I’ve never seen someone with their specific set of obstacles move so brilliantly and so artfully. To be fair, I don’t see too many dancers in general moving so brilliantly.