Breaking Pointe, Season 1, Episode 1

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Dance shows are HOT this summer: “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Bunheads,” (premiering June 11 on ABC Family) and now a new series from the CW: “Breaking Pointe.”

Courtesy of Sheknows.com

The station that has brought us dramas such as “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries” promises that there’s more – in the world of ballet:

“Viewers will also see the dark side of this seemingly perfect world; the jealousy, competition and intensity that exist behind the scenes at a professional ballet company. For under the tights and tutus lie warriors, who battle in a gritty world of extreme athleticism, focus and dedication, while hunting for the unattainable…perfection,” according to the CW’s website.

And what professional ballet company is this you ask? The Salt Lake City Ballet Company, Ballet West. Appearing will be Artistic Director Adam Sklute, and his dancers: Principal Artist Christiana Bennett, Soloist Ronnie Underwood, Demi-Soloist Allison DeBona, Demi-Soloist Rex Tilton, Beckanne Sisk, Kathleen (Katie) Martin and Ronald Tilton. For six weeks viewers will get to know them all.

Beckanne, 19, is a frist year dancer who has already had prinicpal parts. Rex, 24, is in love with Allison, 28, who is ok with choosing ballet over love. Ronnie, 30, is a hotrod gear head. Christiana, 32, has worked since age 19, and strives for perfection. Katie, 23, rounded out the cast with Ronald, her boyfriend.

Courtesy of Cwtv.com

But this is no glamour shot. This is an epic cinematic view that brings you right into the dancers’ rehearsals and lives, giving the audience a glimpse of what it is like to be a modern-day competitive ballerina.

“No one sees the sacrifice and discipline it takes to look perfect for the audience. Nobody knows that in order to advance and get the best roles, dancers have to navigate the complicated social politics inside the company. And, no one sees, when the curtain goes down, the drama that bleeds into the dancers’ private lives…until now” said the CW.

Training, injuries, competition, rivalry, relationships and passion were just a few of the topics highlighted in the premiere episode on June 31 at 8/7c. Contract time had come to the company, and with only 40, it was up to Adam to decide who would stay and who would go, leaving everyone on their toes.

“The nature of my work…is to make difficult decisions about the company, and I often have to make decisions the dancers don’t like,” said Adam. “It’s hard on them.”

Christiana wasn’t worried: she would get two years notice if her contract were in peril.

The other dancers said they admire Christiana. Her dedication to perfection is “a lot to live up to” she said.

The other girls seemed to like Katie.

“Good friends like Katie are very hard to find in a company,” noted one of the girls, with another adding she wouldn’t know what to do if Katie had to go.

New artist, corps de ballet, demi-soloist, soloist, principal dancer is the way the ballet company hierarchy runs, viewers were told, and when contracts rolled in, many dancers expected promotions.

Courtesy of Tv.yahoo.com

Christiana’s was, of course, renewed.

Allison was promoted to demi-soloist.

First-year apprentice was given to Ronald, demi-soloist to Rex.

Ronnie wanted to be a principal, but got first-soloist and a pay raise instead. He did not make a decision.

Beckanne had a meeting. Adam praised her beautiful feet, but said he didn’t want to push her too far. However, he decided to move her up to demi-soloist, which he warned would require her to become a role model, at 19.

Katie also had a meeting, and hers did not result in a happy ending but tears. Her contract was not renewed.

That left Ronald with a choice: his love, or his brother. He decided to stay with his brother and to make it work with Katie.

The dancers went to a dance club to blow off some steam, where viewers learned more about Allison and Rex’s relationship, which is rocky, or “tumultuous” said Christiana.

Rex told Allison, “I love you.” Allison basically called him crazy.

With three performances coming up, it was time to push, but Rex was noticeably distracted during his rehearsal. Katie was feeling the pressure as well. While her contract was not renewed, she still had two months to finish with the company, all while looking for other jobs.

“I hate packing,” Katie said, packing for an audition trip to Idaho.

“You’re going to do great,” Ronald said, adding, “I’m going to make it work with Katie, no matter what.”

But will he? Find out next week.

“Breaking Pointe” airs Thursdays 8/7c on the CW.

SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 2

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

“So You Think You Can Dance” took viewers to the paradise of Los Angeles in last night’s audition episode.

Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murhpy were joined by “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Murphy laid down the law, which included “no booty shaking.”

First to audition was Alexa Anderson, 19, who made it to Vegas last year but was cut in the top 20. This year she was back again, and hoping her time to explore dance and learn to relax would earn her a place in this season. She channeled a unique energy in to her powerful moves. That got her a ticket to Vegas, with no comments at all from the judges. But will it earn her a place in the top 20?

Jontel Johnny “Waacks” Gibson, 20, a waacker was up next, with an outfit as bubbly as his personality. Gibson had been waacking for almost one year, inspired to take up this odd dance form by watching videos on YouTube, and also told the judges he had experience with contemporary and hip hop. He managed to do it without looking crazy, one of his goals, to a disco song – maybe he’ll be one of the first to do well with disco should he make it onto the show – and impressed Lythgoe with his musicality. He was sent to the choreography round.

Next up was Eliana Girard, a contemporary dancer who attending the Joffrey Ballet School, and also danced and did aerial pole with Cirque du Soleil. She blew Lythgoe away immediately with her long legs. She certainly used them effectively, stretching through in her leaps. She received thunderous applause from the audience.

“I felt as though you felt your music, and it was just beautiful to watch…one of the best girls this year,” Lythgoe pronounced, with Murphy adding that Girard is definitely top 20 material.

“We’re like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie… [except] we’re broke” – The Ninja Twins “with attitude” were about to take the stage. Nick and James Aragon dedicated their contemporary performance to their first dance teacher who passed away this week. The two were like synchronized swimmers on the stage, taking on Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” with coordination and flair. There were chants of “Vegas,” but since the twins were over 30, they were sent home, chilling the crowd.

“We aren’t dead, dang!” said one, ever optimistic.

“Everything is going to end up good in the end” was the story of the next dancer’s audition. Six months ago when Sam Lenarz, 18, came home from dance, she found her mother had kicked her out. It dealt her a blow, but best friend’s mom, Mary, brought her in.

“You can always believe in yourself,” Lenarz said, with Mary cheering her on in the audience.

The judges agreed she was a beautiful dancer, but needed to find freedom in her movement, and placed her in choreography.

“This is your destiny, to be a beautiful brilliant dancer…I am so sorry…your family wasn’t here,” said Ferguson to a teary Lenarz.

Surfer/tap dancer Caley Carr, 25, was up next. Tap was the perfect medium for his ADHD as a child, he said, especially when he realized no one was telling him to stop making noise. The judges certainly weren’t about to tell him to stop, with a brilliantly witty audition to “Somebody That I Used to Know,” immediately sending him to the choreography round.

“You have a mustache, you surf, and you tap…I’m bored,” yawned Ferguson jokingly.

Next was Megan Branch’s audition. Murphy said she cared about Branch from the get-go and Ferguson commented on her likeability.

“You’re a fire cracker aren’t you?” Lythgoe said. “I felt your joy.” Branch was sent to Vegas.

Martial artist and dancer Cole Horibe was ready to bring his shaman to the stage, with powerful moves and music, eliciting a “wow” from the judges.

“That was absolutely stunning to watch,” said Lythgoe.

“You have major presence,” added Ferguson.

“You know what, you know how to dance,” said Murphy, noting that she was skeptical when Horibe began. Horibe was on his way to Vegas.

Hoops and fire? Just another day in the life of David Matz, 27. Matz provided the most unique audition of the season, dancing in his hoop, demonstrating his strength and balance.

“I have never seen that before,” Murphy commented to Ferguson during the audition.

“It’s amazing what you can do with one of Cat Deely’s old earrings,” Ferguson said when Matz was done.

“I don’t know what else you can do dance-wise,” Lythgoe said, and sent Matz off to wait for the choreography round.

Stephen Jacobsen was up to show the judges what not classical ballet looked like. They did not like what they saw. Lythgoe was especially upset: Jacobsen had danced for 17 years and worked with the Cincinnati Ballet. Lythgoe offered him a redo, and, after, a ticket to Vegas.

“I used to be, I guess, like, cocky,” said Jonathan Anzalone, 25, who first auditioned for SYTYCD four years ago.

“You just have to keep going,” he said. “Life is beautiful.” He was ready to show the judges the real him.

Murphy said Vegas. Lythgoe said choreography. It was up to Ferguson to break the tie. He agreed with Lythgoe.

Jasmine Mason and Marshea Kidd were ready to dance again, after recovering from a car accident that happened six weeks ago. Kidd was pronounced dead on arrival and in a coma for two days. Both would give beautiful auditions. But would both get tickets to Vegas? Yes.

Robert Roldan and Courtney Galiano, former SYTYCD contestants, were ready to take the remaining dancers through the choreography round. Many of the dancers sent there, including Matz and Anzalone, decided it was just too much. But Lenarz got her ticket.

Roldan and Galiano/Courtesy of Examiner.com

Next week SYTYCD hits the South.

“Can Nigel handle the heat?” Deely mused.

SYTYCD, Season 9, Episode 1

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

“Isn’t it about time for a little dance?”

Courtesy of Twylah.com

Dancers across America certainly thought so when “So You Think You Can Dance” premiered its ninth season on Thursday, May 24 on Fox.

Cat Deely will host the show that is on the search to find American’s Favorite Dancer. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and Tyce Diorio returned as judges as the auditions kicked off in New York City, with Christopher “Lil’ C” Toler joining Lythgoe and Murphy in Dallas, TX.

Courtesy of Tvline.com

“Wherever you are from today, you are representing New York!” Lythgoe, also an executive producer of the show, told the cheering dancers in the auditorium.

Dancers had their time on the stage and then were either invited to Vegas, asked to stay for the choreography round to see if they had more to give, or just sent home.

First to take the stage was contemporary dancer Amelia Lowe, 18, from New Jersey. Lowe started dancing at age three, and loves the 1920s, an era that inspires her to bring action to her dance. Her audition was theatrical, and showed beautiful lines and definite stage presence, earning her a standing ovation from Lythgoe, Murphy and Diorio. When asked if she had ever been to Paris and seen the Eiffel Tower, Lowe said no. Lythgoe acknowledged that there is a smaller one in Vegas, and sent her on her way with a plane ticket.

Watch Lowe’s audtion here.

Up next was red haired (we’re talking clown red) hip-hopper, locker, popper, ballerina Toshihiko Nakazawa, from Japan. He gave one of the most entertaining auditions of the evening.

“There’s been very few people who entertained me like that,” said Lythgoe, placing Nakazawa in season one’s Twitch’s category.

“Your body’s like a musical instrument, like a puppet…you have gift!” Diorio said in Nakazawa’s broken English.

Nakazawa was sent to the choreography round along with 35 dancers and Courtney Galiano from season four.

“I cannot lift so I cannot stay,” said Nakazawa as he left the theatre. No Vegas.

Watch Nakazawa’s audition here.

New York dance legend? America was about to find out when Austin Freeman, 21, from New Jersey hit the stage with his new dance style: the wiggle, saying the judged were about to “find out if you have the Freeman Fever.”

Lythgoe looked scared the entire time before he finally waved the music off and Murhpy said, “Oh no, oh mercy.  When someone shouted “Vegas” for Freeman, Lythgoe’s reply was, “whoever shouted Vegas kick them out now!” Legend? Maybe. America’s Favorite Dancer? No.

“It doesn’t sit comfortably” Lythgoe added.

Watch Freeman’s audition here.

Shafeek Westbrook from Pennsylvania brought the talent flipping back – literally.

“I trained like a lab rat,” he said, practicing flipping over three chairs in the beginning and working his way up. He also worked hard on his showmanship, which he says is so important for street dancers, or else you’re just, “somebody on the corner dancing for no reason” he said. He certainly caught the eyes of the judges.

“With what you’re doing, you extend this entire program. It’s a pleasure to watch you do what you’re doing” Lythgoe said, with Diorio adding, “You move like silk, completely effortless, and that is so loud. I really appreciate your artistry.” Westbrook explained the story of his dance: his friend passed away during 9/11, and in his dance he was his friend’s soul.

“Well that soul can fly up here,” Lygthoe said, “because that soul is flying to Vegas.”

Watch Westbrook’s audition here.

And just like that, day one was done.

Day two started on an emotional note, with Leo Reyes, a 21-year-old from Brooklyn, whose mother recently attempted suicide.

“It’s going to give her a reminder for a reason of why she should be here.” he said. “Mom, this is for you…te amo.”

His solo was a beautiful picture, filled with talent, technique, artistry, beautiful lines and a powerful story. Reyes received a standing ovation from the dancers in the audience.

“Thank goodness that on this show…we are not manipulated on by the audience,” Lythgoe said. “So, you’re going to Vegas!”

Watch Reyes’ audtion here.

But not everyone was as impressive as Reyes and the dancers from day one.

Said Diorio of one audition, “I did not enjoy that at all. Sorry.”

But he was about to enjoy what came next.

Ballet dancer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp from Sweden really wanted his ticket.

“I hope the judges see my will to dance is really strong,” he said. Powerful, artistic, big, he flew through his dance effortlessly.

“Well, I suppose if you like that sort of thing it was ok,” Lythgoe said.

“That was ridiculous, sick and amazing,” said Diorio. “I think he needs to do to Vegas.”

“Oh, alright then,” Lythgoe eventually sighed.

Watch Wespi-Tschopp’s audition here.

Then it was goodbye New York, (although 38 dancers from the Big Apple were about to greet Vegas) and hello Texas! Dallas, to be specific.

On day one, first up was Bree Hafen, 29, a mother of two and a loving wife. She brought her kids, Luke, 5, and Stella 2, and husband with her to the audition. Lythgoe had the kids come to the judges table to watch.

“She’s good, huh,” Lythgoe said to Luke as Hafen performed.

And she never got to finish. Luke brought her a ticket to Vegas during her solo.

“You are a very, very good dancer,” said Lythgoe, and asked her why she had never auditioned before. Hafen said her confidence hadn’t been at the right level before, but being a wife and mother built it up.

“My turn,” little Stella said, and Lythgoe let her take the stage.

“This is the best show ever” Lil’ C said.

Watch Hafen’s audition here.

Next up where an interesting duo: Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams and Stepheon “The Zombie” Stewart.

First on stage was Stewart, whose audition ended in cheers of “Vegas!”

“You have been extraordinary…I loved every second of it” Murphy said. Stewart was on his way to Vegas.

Watch Stewart’s audition here.

Then it was Williams’s turn. He received a standing ovation from the room.

“You are an artist. I think you could be a genius. You really have created something quite unusual” Lythgoe said.

“I want to kick you in your face right now….excuse me but that s*** was BUCK!” Lil’ C said. “Man, hats off to you. I enjoyed every millisecond of that performance, I loved it.”

“I feel really honored to have seen that,” Lythgoe agreed. Williams got a ticket.

Watch Williams’s audition here.

Handsome Australian Daniel Baker, 23, auditioned next, to cat-calls from the females in the room. Baker moved from Down Under to San Fransisco, inspired by a book about America his father gave to him as a boy. Baker became a ballet dancer in order to obtain a sponsored Visa to come to the States. He worked with the San Francisco Ballet, and thinks that the show will be a “great opportunity to learn what I haven’t learned in the ballet world” he said.

“Ok, um, Daniel, I’m not gonna let any of that cheering affect me in any way. Yeah. It was alright,” Lythgoe said after his audition.

“Guess it was like semi-buck. If you want to come to Vegas I supposed you can,” Lil’ C added. The girls were not disappointed.

Watch Baker’s audition here.

Next came a touching performance from Sam Shreffler, a young man who is on the autism spectrum and studies at the Burkhart Transition Academy.  

“It makes me feel like that I am free to express myself and just to let myself go to,” he told the judges.

“Whatever you do, do not stop dancing,” Lythgoe said, although Shreffler would not be joining them in Vegas.

“You are one of the buckest individuals I have seen all day,” said Lil’ C. Shreffler received a standing ovation from the entire room.

“It was a great day,” Shreffler said as he left.

Watch Shreffler’s audition here.

And then it was day two.

A very negative young man was the first to audition, Von “Legend” Kipper, 22. He said he did not agree with the way the show was run. Unfortunately, he did not have enough talent to make the judges look past his bad attitude.

“You’ve got a bad attitude young man, and you’ve just got to listen,” said Lythgoe. “You are the worst person and attitude we’ve had on this show.” No ticket for a bad attitude.

“If anyone else feels like that, leave with him please,” Lythgoe added.

The last audition of this episode was the most touching.

“Jarell Rochelle. It rhymes,” Rochelle said to introduce himself. He had brought his family along to the audition. His mother was what brought him to the audition. She has an eye disease slowly degenerating her sight, and will eventually go blind. Lythgoe had her come to the judges table so she could see her son perform.

“Every millisecond of the performance just touched me,” said Lil C’ when Rochelle was finished. “…what I love more than talent is when talent meets skills, it leaves me spellbound, I am a fan.”

“That was complete entertainment from beginning to end” Muphy said.

His mother gave him a ticket to Vegas.

Watch Rochelle’s audition here.

Next week, the So You Think You Can Dance auditions hit LA – are you ready?

Vote for Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward

By Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Do you love “Dancing with the Stars”?

How about Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hines Ward?

Hines Ward/Courtesy of Baltimoresportsreport.com

Then don’t miss your chance to vote for Ward to be on “Dancing with the Stars” – the all-star season!

Ward first made his dancing debut on season 12 of the widely popular competition show, and brought the Mirror Ball Trophy home to Pittsburgh with partner Kym Johnson.

Representing Steeler Nation with black and gold on "Dancing with the Stars"/Courtesy of Behindthesteelcurtain.com

“The fans are the reason I won the Mirror Ball trophy, so, for me, if time permits and it works out with my schedule, it would be something I’d strongly consider if the fans want me to be on the show again,” Ward was quoting as saying on WTAE.com.

Vote here!

Ward and Johnson dance the samba on “Dancing with the Stars.” Please note that voting for this particular season is closed. Please vote for Ward to join the all-star season cast by following the link above.

Spotlight On: Katherine Alexander

By: Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

From prima ballerina to founder of Exhalations Dance Theatre, Katherine Alexander has come a long way.

Katherine Alexander during Exhalations' "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

When the 21-year-old pharmacy student began ballet she stuck to it. “I was a very strict ballerina in high school,” Alexander said. She would practice between 24 to 26 hours per week.

When she began to look at colleges, Point Park University was definitely in mind; but Alexander chose Duquesne University for pharmacy. There was a dance team at Duquesne, but no dance theatre, so Alexander began Exhalations Dance Theatre.

Exhalations broke the ballerina from her mold. “I never thought as a strict ballerina I would be performing some of the things I’m performing,” Alexander said. She has now added contemporary, modern, Fosse jazz, tap, ballroom and hip-hop to her repertoire. She described the experience as, “Oh my gosh, I’m wearing foot thongs.” She has also studied Martha Graham contemporary, as well as Greek, Ukrainian and Bulgarian folk dancing.

Alexander, front, with Brandi Salter, during an Exhalations' modern number/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Alexander also dances with the Junior Tamburitzans, focusing on Croatian dance and music, and plays an instrument called the brač, which belongs to the tambura family. The instrument is, “like a little guitar that sounds like a mandolin,” Alexander described. She enjoys performing with the Tamburitzans for, “celebration, carrying on traditions,” she said.

Alexander performing "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

“Anytime I am on stage…that is happiness for me,” she said of her dancing, choreography and teaching.

Alexander taught and choreographed Exhalations' beginngers class for "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Alexander has been fortunate, with no serious injuries holding her back from what she loves. However, she does have to be careful to avoid dislocations, as her extreme flexibility can sometimes cause them.

When asked if she had any regrets about not attending Point Park, her answer was no. Alexander is, “excited about being a pharmacist, and would not have been able to start Exhalations,” had things gone differently. She is grateful to her family, who has given her great support with her Exhalations venture. Her mother supplies costumes and food for the shows, and her aunt and brother help out as well.

Alexander also performs with Spotlight Musical Theatre Company and Encore Show Choir, and belongs to KE and ASP.

Dance Panorama Reviews “Expressions”

On April 28, 2012, at 8 p.m., Exhalations Dance Theatre wrapped up its spring showcase, titled “Expressions.” This was the third spring showcase for the dance theatre, and the last for its founder Katherine Alexander, who will be moving on to her fifth year of pharmacy school next semester.

Wrote 2012 Exhalations president Lea Fosbenner of the theme “Expressions,” “this was chosen to highlight how the dancers can interpret their emotions through the art of dance.” And express they did.

Exhalations' company opens "Expressions" to "Let Go" by Frou Frou. Choreography Lea Fosbenner/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Opening the show was Exhalations’ company, dancing to “Let Go” by Frou Frou with choreography by Lea Fosbenner. Company members include Alexander, Fosbenner, Brittany Cerimele, Victoria Climo, Sandi Comunale, Felicia Freger, Kali Fronczekk, Carly Fuller, Shaylyn Livingston, Ariel McKeown, Rachel O’Rorke, Brandi Salter and Emily Stokowski. This opening number suited the theme perfectly. During this first piece, and throughout the show, the dancers literally let go; every turn, every jump, every facial expression showed them letting go and using dance to express themselves.

The intermediate class dances to "Express Yourself." Choreography by Brandi Salter/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

The second dance of the night, aptly set to “Express Yourself” from the Glee Soundtrack, was performed by the intermediate class, made up of Rachel Bristow, Haley Draper, Stephanie Kuratnick, Kylie McGraw, Bridget McGinty, Stacy Miller, Stephanie Novakowski, Jessica Probst, Hayley Ricy, Jenna Trill and Jennifer Wood, with choreography by Salter.

 

"Nast Boys" performed by the advanced class. Choreography by Victoria Messino/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Nasty Boys,” music by Janet Jackson and choreography by Victoria Messino, was performed by the advanced class, including Kristen Best, Courtney Caligiuri, Erica Carbaugh, Lauren Curry, Rebecca Ipjian, Kate Iseman, Francine Kusher, Christine Lugaila, Lauren Maha, Christine Sajewski, Kayla Sparkman and Megan Tiernan.

"Fool of Me," choreography by Messino, dancers belong to the advanced class/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

The advanced class later took on another Messino piece, “Fool of Me,” music by Me’Shell Ndegeocellob.  Sam Potter executed a series of excellent lifts, and the dancers’ expressions through their movements communicated the sadness of the lyrics in the piece.

Acro to "Hit the Lights." Choreography by Sam Potter/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

The modern/jazz routines were followed by a snappy acro routine, choreographed by Potter, to “Hit the Lights” by Selena Gomez. The level of acrobatics in this routine was high, and the costumes accentuated the dancers’ moves perfectly. The dancers incorporated in this routine were Messino, Fronczekk, O’Rorke, Rebecca Clayton, Maria Clements, Sandi Comunale and Emiley Duespohl.

Exhalations presents its graduating seniors/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Expressions” took a break as Alexander took to the stage to present Exhalations’ graduating seniors. 2012’s graduating class included Cerimele, Fosbenner, Messino, Novakowski, Clements, Seth Laidlaw, Cheryl Dusky, Brooke Mulkins, Marla Veschio, Rachel Bristow, and Rebbeca Clayton.

 

The beginners broke onto stage with their number "Grenade." Choreography by Alexander/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

 

The beginner's second number, also choreographed by Alexander/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

 

The beginners, including Dusky, Bianca Coleman, Miranda Cunningham, Karie Diethorne, Denise Herr, Brooke Jackson, Kristina Logan, Kaitlyn Mellor, Kelsey Vale and Christina Yohe, took to the stage with “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Alexander choreographed the piece and was incredibly proud of the dedication her beginners showed. Their classes began at 7:30 a.m., but they stuck to it and their dedication certainly showed in this piece. It also showed in their second piece, also choreographed by Alexander and set to “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray. Besides being well-equipped dance-wise, the beginners also showed what some more experienced dancers tend to forget: passion in their faces. Their expressions could not be clearer.

The ballerina in the music box. Choreography by Potter/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Tutus flew onto the stage for Potter’s acrobatics number to “Music Box” by Regina Spektor. They were gone just as quickly, but their fast-paced number was not one to be overlooked or soon forgotten. It contained very powerful choreography and very powerful dancers. I, for one, would have loved to have seen more.

Duquesne’s Encore Show Choir broke in twice. First, to sing “Love Song” and then again to sing “Beautiful Day.” Their voices were lovely, but I would have loved to have seen more movement from them. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much “Glee.”

Tapping away to Fuller's number/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Kaboom,” music by Ursula 1000 and choreography by Fuller, was a lively and colorful tap piece. The tappers were well in sync and formed a cohesive group, which included Fuller, Freger, Yohe, Caligiuri and Kelly Folk.

“Power Trip Ballad and Requiem for a Dream” (music by Maria Mena and Clint Mansell) showcased the talents of Messino both as choreographer, and as a soloist.

Messino's solo/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Dancing for joy/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

This was a high energy routine that required the strength of all dancers involved, including Potter, Messino, O’Rorke, Comunale, Duespohl, Cerimele and Bristow. While Potter fought for his power trip, he was quickly unplugged by the girls as the swirled around him. Potter made some fantastic lifts, highlighting his strength as a dancer and gymnast. The technique of all the dancers was showcased in this piece, as well as their ability to tap into the darker side of their emotions.

Potter on a power trip/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

 

Potter's powerful lift/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Messino ends Potter's power trip/ Choreography by Messino/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Potter is finished/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

A powerful routine to hold the audience’s attention right before intermission.

 

"Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Expression through movement was the message, and that was never clearer than right after intermission, when only the silhouettes of the dancers were available to the audience.

Performing "The Magic of Us"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

 

Choreography by Lea Fosbenner/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Seth Laidlaw in "The Magic of Us"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“The Magic of Us,” music by Bim and The Section Quartet, choreography by Fosbenner, showcased the talents of Salter, Fronczekk, Alexander, Fosbenner and Laidlaw. This was another heavily technical modern number.

Choreography for "Sweeping Insensitivity" by Alexander/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

"Sweeping Insensitivity" One/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

"Sweeping Insensitivity" Two/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

The dancing was silhouetted again when Fosbenner, Alexander, Climo, Laidlaw, Freger, Fuller, Stokowski, Fronczekk and Livingston gracefully brushed the stage to choreography by Alexander and music by Imogen Heap, Never Shout Never, and Mumford and Sons, “Sweeping Insensitivity.”

Sparkman's hip-hop number "Dizzy"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Hip-hop was brought in by Sparkman and her class, including Comunale, Kusher, Carbaugh, Coleman, Cunningham, McGinty, Miller,  Mulkins, Dara Stockdell ,Trill, Audra Joseph and Lisa Master. Music was”Dizzy” by Day 26. Hip-hop is hard to feel, especially if you are a ballet-trained dancer, and it was evident that some of the dancers in this number where trying to break free from technique so they could express themselves through unstructured movement.

Batons spinning to the sky to "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" Choreography by Yohe/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” by Shania Twain was used by the baton class, including Yohe, Veschio, Herr, Mellor, Patty Camarda, Alexis Ellis, Jenna Lowrey, Carley Risley and Brittany Yu. Yohe choreographed this piece, and batons flew high, with some batonists twirling more than one.

Salter's number "Rock Your Soul" with the intermediate class/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Salter had her number “Rock Your Soul” by Elisa do just that with the intermediate class. These girls are learning fast; their technique is growing, but it was their movement and emotional connection with the audience that really made the piece draw you in.

These girls just want to "Settle Down"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Chorepgraphy by Fuller/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Settle Down,” music by Kimbra and choreography by Fuller, was my favorite piece of the evening. It was modern, sexy and quirky, and incorporated dancers with incredible technique and theatrics: Fuller, Salter, Cerimele, Livingston and Freger. The girls took on the idea of the old-fashioned wife and quickly flipped it on its head, whipping their aprons off and dancing with pizzazz.

These dancers "Gotcha"!/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

“Gotcha” was a trio choreographed by Messino, with music by Liza Minelli. Messino, Comunale and O’Rorke were sassy and sizzling in this number slightly reminiscent of “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago.”

Dancers move and groove through the audience during their finale. Choreography by Sparkman/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

No one saw what was coming when the dancers came out to take their final bows – and then rush the audience to music by Fun Ft. Janelle Monae (Alvin Risk Remix) and choreography by Sparkman. Dancers took the floor and aisles as they danced their hearts out one last time before the curtain came down and another season with Exhalations Dance Theatre came to a close.

Bravo, Exhalations!/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

11 Questions: Angel Corella, Artistic Director/Barcelona Ballet and Principal Dancer, American Ballet Theatre

by Julie Gervais

Angel Corella

Dancepanorama had the exciting opportunity to interview Angel Corella while his company, Barcelona Ballet, was spending an extra week in Detroit following their performances at the Detroit Opera House. Listen below as he discusses his transition to full-time Director, his Company’s work, and his outlook on ballet and its place in our contemporary culture.

dp: This a very special time for you. You have made an announcement that you will retire from American Ballet Theatre as Principal Dancer, this June. Was it a tough decision?

Will you continue to appear with your company?

Your Company has just recently made a new home in Barcelona. What is the significance of this move?

Teaching Class

You just mentioned, and have spoken before about, your desire for the company not to be known as ‘Angel Corella’s Company’. What do you want the Company to be known for?

And, all of this rapid growth despite the fact that you launched the company just as the world was falling to its knees in financial crisis, and there are still many unresolved global finance problems. Did you ever question whether it would be better to wait until the economy improved?

A Fantastical Depiction of Swan Lake

You have the rare perspective of someone who has danced a rich variety of top-shelf repertoire, on big stages around the world. What trends do you see in ballet repertoire, and what differences do you see among countries and even regions, such as the American coasts vs. the heartland areas?

Speaking of audience development, it’s great that you have such a clear vision. Because everyone is looking for the answer to the question: how do you get people out of their living rooms and into the theatre?

You have dancers from all over the world, but the majority are from Spain. Is there a special quality – a Spanish energy – that you are excited to show to the world?

How have audiences been responding, as you’ve been touring around?

The television dance show explosion: do you feel like it’s a positive thing?

Finally, what else – because this question is what dancepanorama is all about too – what else can we do to get people more interested in dance?

 

(c) Rosalie O'Connor

Michigan Dance Project shares the Stories of “SoulMates” for the Last Time in Ypsilanti, MI

For many, the term “soul mate” maintains a very distinct, unique meaning. It can relate to true love or best friends, but either way the connotation is very personal to the individual who uses the term. The Michigan Dance Project, being a professional contemporary based company presents a high-energy, emotionally driven experience about the meaning of this term in the original dance production “SoulMates,choreographed by founder and director Kathy King and assistant creative director Travis Staton-Marrero, while being sponsored by C & B Machinery of Livonia and Huntington National Bank.

Photographer: Ken Hornak

 

What makes SoulMates so unique is that it combines contemporary and hip hop dance, while being accompanied by an exciting blend of music to take the audience on a journey in understanding the many concepts of a “soul mate.” The seven Michigan Dance Project company members and seven apprentices emote real life feelings through out the constantly shifting styles of movement while maintaining quirky nuances for a wholly developed show. “SoulMates is a fantastic opportunity for anyone to experience a unique night of entertainment while also supporting many local performing artists,” explains King. Though the story lines of the different pieces are not necessarily meant to continue into one another, they stand strong enough on their own as representation of situations that one may encounter in his or her life with any type of “soul mate.”

 

The Michigan Dance Project was founded in 2006 and is based out of Brighton, MI with the mission of providing professional training opportunities and greater career options for dancers statewide. To promote the professional experience, the company has toured to many different performance venues, but finds a returning comfort in the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, MI. This little black box theater will be the last host of the SoulMates production in the Michigan Dance Project’s performance season. “I live and work in the Washtenaw County community, which makes this performance very special to me,” says King.

 

SoulMates will be performed on Friday, May 18th and Saturday, May 19th at 8:00pm and Sunday, May 20th at 2:00pm. Tickets are $10 pre-sale and $12 at the door, with discounts available to groups of 10 or more. Since seating is limited, pre-purchased tickets are recommended and can be ordered through www.michigandanceproject.com, however tickets will be available at the door one hour prior to the show. Group orders should be directed to michigandanceproject@yahoo.com, along with any other questions or inquiries.

Written By: Megan Drabant

A Pittsburgh Pointe Mystery

By: Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Steel is what shaped the early culture of the Pittsburgh area. The Carrie Furnace is a piece of that heritage still standing. It has now also become a part of Pittsburgh’s art history.

Ron Baraff, Director of Museum Collections & Archives at Rivers of Steel, gives tours of the Carrie Furnace and can authorize use of the site. Oftentimes, he said in a telephone interview, people decided to visit the site on their own.

Mysterious pointe shoes at the Carrie Furnace - where did they come from?/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

While at the Carrie Furnace one day last spring, Baraff noticed a pair of pointe shoes hanging down by the now infamous deer sculpture, “Deer Head” which was made from material found at the Carrie Furnace. The shoes were a mystery to him.

“I was like what are these doing here?” Baraff explained. It is now assumed the shoes were left behind by a dancer who had done a video shoot on site.

But then came a second pair.

Maria Caruso, founder and director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, did a photo shoot at the Carrie Furnace for the dance production of “Eyes Wide Open.” The idea behind the production was to parallel science and movement. The show took the audience through four seasons, each season showing three photographs. The Carrie Furnace photos were used at the end of the piece.

 

Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios

 

Other photos of the dancers at the Carrie Furnace were used as PR for the performance, and showed, “the dancer come alive there [at the Carrie Furnace],” said Caruso in a telephone interview.

Caruso is a Pittsburgh native. Her family were coalminers. She described the Carrie Furnace as, “so well preserved. It really comes to life.” She liked the idea of shooting there and appreciated the richness of history contained at the site.

Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios

The first pair of pointe shoes was gone when they came back to the site, she said.

Before Caruso left the site she told Baraff that she had left a present for him. When he asked her what it was, she replied, “You’ll see.” It was the second pair.

“It took me a couple of days to realize they were there,” Baraff said.

When asked why she left the pointe shoes there, Caruso explained that at the Carrie Furnace, “You can find articles of the past. It’s so cool to see how the artist did the deer. Everyone who goes there has an opportunity to leave a mark.” The pointe shoes, and a pair of high heels she wore, were hers.

“It’s great to be a part of the Pittsburgh cultural language,” Caruso said.

Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios

Anyone interested in visiting the Carrie Furnace, part of the former U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works,  where, according to Rivers of Steel, “at one time, the furnaces and the steelworkers who labored in them produced more than 1,000 tons of iron a day,” should contact Rivers of Steel at (412)-464-4020 or info@riversofsteel.com.  Tourists will learn about the steel-making process, walk through the well-maintained furnace, and view the “Deer Head” and maybe even the point shoes.

Anyone interested in Bodiography, a contemporary ballet company that brings movements to life through pointe, should contact the studio at (412)-521-6094 or info@bodiographycbc.com.

Exhalations a Home for Dance at Duquesne University

By: Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

No dance? No problem.

When Katherine Alexander, 21, came to Duquesne University, there was no dance theatre, only a dance team. As she moves on to her fifth year in pharmacy school, that is no longer the case.

Alexander founded Exhalations Dance Theatre in 2010. She served as its president until this year and is now the treasurer of this unique dance group.

“When I got to Duquesne, there was no dance besides the dance team,” Alexander said. “I missed it so much, I needed to do something.” She wanted to create a dance theatre, “for people who danced in high school and wanted to keep dancing.”

It is also a place for people who want to discover dance. Beginners are welcome. So are boys.

Dancers rehearse for Exhalations' spring showcase: "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

Exhalations has become a huge movement on Duquesne’s campus. When Alexander held auditions for Exhalations in 2010, 70 people showed up. Now over 100 people show up to the auditions. “The first semester I was expecting 10 people, maybe 20,” Alexander said.  “It’s already so much bigger than I thought it would be…it kind of just grew around me.”

Perfecting a lift while rehearsing for "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

The theatre also welcomes all styles of dance, though modern is the main focus. The students have practiced acro, taught by Sam Potter, tap, taught by Carly Fuller, hip-hop, taught by Kayla Sparkman, ballroom and baton as well. The styles vary by semester, depending on who is available, “as long as we have someone willing to teach,” Alexander said.

Tap dancers in rehearsal for "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

And not everyone has to perform. Students are welcome to come in and warm up with the dancers and leave before the showcase choreography begins. The students are divided into beginner, instructed by Alexander, intermediate, instructed by Brandi Salter, advanced, instructed by Victoria Messino, and company classes, instructed by Lea Fosbenner, who is the current Exhalations president.

Choreographer Victoria Messino works with dancers on their movements for "Expressions"/ Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

The group performs fall and spring showcases and has also performed at the University of Pittsburgh as part of the Choreography Project. “I had a really rewarding experience after the first show,” Alexander said. “A girl’s mom thought her daughter would never dance again,” but the girl discovered Exhalations and was able to revive her dance life.

For their showcases the group has performed a modern version of “The Nutcracker,” which was a, “crazy version; nothing classic” Alexander said, for which the group developed much of the music; “Radio Hits,” which included “a lot of Adele,” Alexander said; and this spring, “Expressions.” The group also visited Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh in 2010 to perform for the kids.

When asked about the name Exhalations, Alexander said it was something she never thought about. “In my mind, it worked,” she said, explaining the exhale as something you give off, which, in the case of the dancer, is choreography.

Although she will be leaving Exhalations soon, Alexander hopes that the dance group will, “continue being open to different styles of dance…and dancers.”