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Top 10 Contemporary Dance Performances of 2013

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Pittsburgh had another full year of contemporary dance, with even more small showings and plenty of large theater productions. I feel I must mention some of the work I didn’t get to see, simply because I know they were among the best shows. The esteemed Mark Morris Dance Company (NYC) graced the Byham Theater stage in late spring. Pearlann Porter’s Pillow Project debuted what will hopefully be an annual fall event, “The Carrie Furnace.” And Beth Corning performed another one-woman show at the New Hazlett. From what I saw, ten others stood out as the best of 2013.

1. Compagnie Marie Chouinard at the Byham Theater (Pittsburgh Dance Council) in "Henri Michaux: Mouvements," and "Gymnopedies"

This Canadian dance company opened the International Festival of Firsts with remarkable and fresh choreography. From start to finish, the work was some of the best dance I’ve seen in years.

2. Abraham.In.Motion at the Byham Theater (Pittsburgh Dance Council) in "Pavement"

Pittsburgh native and acclaimed NYC choreographer, Kyle Abraham, was inspired by Homewood, the Hill District, and other city neighborhoods.

3. Attack Theatre at the Spring Way Studio in “The Chalk Line”

The company revised an old work in this evening-length show, using wit and entertainment in their version of a crime drama.

4. Gia T. Presents at the Wood Street Galleries in “The Frequency of Structure and Flow”

Dancer and choreographer, Gia Cacalano, brought together local, national and international artists in a stunning, improvisational collaboration with French artist, Miguel Chevalier.

5. Black Grace at the Byham Theater (Pittsburgh Dance Council) in "Pati Pati"and "Vaka"

This New Zealand company featured unique, rhythmic sequences inspired by traditional Samoan dance, as well as slower partnering sequences against a backdrop of beautiful, blue cloth.

6. The Pillow Project at the Space Upstairs in “Backlit in a Whole New D”

Pearlann Porter considered this show a sixteen-year work-in-progress. The piece was truly a collaboration with lighting designer, Mike Cooper. Cooper’s “luminography” lit the dancers in unusual ways and created stunning visual effects.

7. Murphy/Smith Dance Collective at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in “See What I Hear”

This was the first large-scale production for choreographic duo, Jamie Murphy and Renee Smith. The two explored the theme of hearing loss, using video footage, composed sound by Gordon Nunn, and the dancers’ own voices.

8. Staycee Pearl Dance Project at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in “...on being...”

Pearl's choreography investigated “post-blackness," gender, and sexuality in America, accenting all five of her dancers’ individual talents and unique experiences.

9. Anonymous Bodies at the Alloy Studios in “Mash Up Body”

Kate Watson-Wallace, a Philadelphia artist, was interested in the “random ways in which we use our bodies to play people we are not.” The piece was definitely random, often hysterical, and somehow deeply resonant.

10. Dave Bernabo, Taylor Knight and collaborating artists at the Wood Street Galleries in “LightLab"

Curated by Bernabo and Knight, several local and national performers presented work in the experimental genre of dance. The show gave voice to both non-dancers and veterans in the field, with impressive work from everyone involved.

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