Contemporary ballet

Texture Contemporary Ballet prepares local dance dishes for the season opener

Alexandra Tiso (Photo: Mark Simpson Photography)

By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
[email protected]

Home cooking has been a staple of Texture Contemporary Ballet and its menu of dance works has been served to local audiences for the past decade. For its ninth season opener fly and fall, July 18-21 at the New Hazlett Theater, the company features even more home cooking, including debut contributions from two new chefs; Katie Miller and Madeline Kendall, members of the Texture Society.

The first class of the 2-hour program will be given by Texture Artistic Director Alan Obuzor and Associate Artistic Director Kelsey Bartman’s new ballet, “The Beauty of Flight.” The 32-minute non-narrative ballet for a dozen dancers is danced to a 7-song suite (including instrumental mashups of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with OneRepublic’s “Secrets” and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with “In My Blood by Shawn Mendes) by the American musical group The Piano Guys. According to Obuzor, each of the ballet’s sections explores different influences. One has a Bollywood energy, it is reminded of the action-adventure vibe of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and another includes reconfigured dance steps and footage from the ballet Swan Lake.

Contemporary ballet Texture performs fly and fall, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 18; 8 p.m. Fri. Jul. 19 and Sat. New Hazlett Theatre, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-30. (412) 320-4610, or

Next, Miller’s “Molto Appassionato” is the first of two choreographic dishes on fly and fall which debuted as part of Texture’s 2017 TEC (Works-in-Progress) Choreography project.

Miller, a Flint, Michigan native who began performing with Texture in 2012, is a former Sacramento Ballet dancer. Titled after the first movement by Felix Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, “Molto Appassionato” is Miller’s very first choreographic creation.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career to have danced in places that were always encouraging in giving dancers the opportunity to choreograph,” says Miller. “I never felt like it was something I wanted or had to do. You can be a good dancer and not necessarily a good choreographer and I didn’t want to choreograph just to do that.

Miller says that when she came to Texture, Bartman and Obuzor further encouraged her to choreograph as a way to learn more about dance and improve as an artist. What really pushed her to finally take this leap into choreography, she says, was finding Mendelssohn’s music that spoke to her as a dancer and as a dance maker. “My ballet seeks to bring this music to life,” says Miller.

According to Miller, the additional motivation for the 12-minute ballet for 5 women and 1 man was to incorporate into the ballet feelings one experiences in the moments before a big change in one’s life.

A refreshing palette solo excerpt from Bartman and Obuzor’s “Broken Flow” (2011) set to music by Cleveland rapper Kid Cudi then takes the stage before the program’s third course, Obuzor’s 9-minute ballet, “Reshifting Time”.

Created earlier this year on 11 dance majors at Livonia, Michigan’s Madonna University, the ballet was inspired and set to music by Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix of Los Angeles-based Two Steps from Hell, who are primarily known to create music for the film. trailers (Harry Potter movies, Creation etc.) and TV series (game of thrones, Doctor Who etc).

“I wanted to create something more primitive and raw,” says Obuzor.

And while “Reshifting Time” isn’t narrative, Obuzor says that in the second half of the ballet, it feels like a dancer is consumed or walks away from the group of 11.

For dessert, fly and fall goes old school Hollywood in an expanded version of Bartman and Kendall’s “Hats Off to the Greats,” which also had its genesis in TEC Choreographic project.

Part of Texture’s connection in Sacramento, Calif., which includes Miller and his classmate at the Capitol Ballet Center in Sacramento, Texture dancer Brynn Vogel, Kendall, 24, has previously danced in the trainee program at Salt Lake City Ballet West before moving to Pittsburgh and Texture. Now eenter sound 4and season with the company, Kendall says “Hats Off to the Greats” started off like a lark with her and Bartman joking about dancing to a duet version of “Fit as a Fiddle” from the 1952 musical Sing in the rain. From there, the co-choreographers expanded the 35-minute ballet for 13 dancers, to include several more moments from Hollywood’s Golden Age films, including a dance solo to Judy Garland’s song ” I Don’t Care” from 1949. In the good old days of summer, 1954 selections white christmas and the 1949 song “Miss Turnstiles” On the city.