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Dance conservatory hosts choreographers

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

Choreographers affiliated with Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the Julliard School and the Paris Opera Ballet Theater will come together for a performance featuring modern dance contemporary ballet at the university.

Point Park’s Conservatory Dance Company will open Contemporary Coreographers, its second show of the season, on Nov. 16

Former Alvin Ailey dancer Christopher Huggins came to Point Park to stage his piece, “Enemy Behind the Gates,” in which dancers explore dark themes through strong, technically driven movements. 

“’Enemy Behind the Gates’ is about not knowing the intentions of a person who you may or may not know,” junior dance major Lee Levine-Poch said in an email interview. “The piece has a dark mood to it since it deals with a heavy subject.”

Levine-Poch said Huggins was extremely detail oriented when staging the piece. His intense work ethic helped challenge the cast to achieve a high standard of performance quality. 

“Christopher would catch every single tiny error anyone made,” she said. “It was difficult to perform the piece to his high standards, but that challenge made the piece much more powerful.”

Senior dance major John Litzler explained that, despite his prestigious career, Huggins was extremely relatable and helpful to his young cast. 

“He had such a good career with Ailey,” he said in an interview Saturday, “he was so inspiring …it was cool to have him tell us that he was inspired by the work we were doing.”

Another choreographer who has a connection to the Ailey company, Robert Battle, is presenting his past work “Rush Hour.”  The piece is being staged by Point Park jazz professor Jason McDole, who performed for Battle in his former New York City dance company, Battleworks

According to Levine-Poch, “’Rush Hour’ is about what would happen if New York City was spun upside down.”

The dancers portray characters that must cope with their world being changed entirely. This piece also has a dark mood, with dancers moving through tight formations with sharp, percussive movements. The intricate choreography requires a lot of physical stamina.  

“It is the most strenuous piece I have ever done,” Levine-Poch said. “It requires so much stamina and focus to get through the piece without passing out.”

Faculty member and former Pittsburgh Ballet Theater dancer Ernie Tolentino is also staging another choreographer’s work, “Celcius,” which is a pas de deux by former Paris Opera Ballet dancer Patrick Frantz.

Junior dance major Oscar Carrillo is performing in the pas de deux, a strenuous 12-minute contemporary ballet piece that examines a relationship between a man and a woman. 

“The pas de deux is very subtle, but at the same time it requires a lot of technique,” Carrillo said in an interview Friday. “And it’s a 12 minute piece, just a duet, so it takes a lot of stamina.” 

Carrillo admires the “moments of stillness” within the piece’s choreography. 

“It gives time for the audience to just feel the emotions,” he said.

Another former Pittsburgh Ballet Theater dancer, Cooper Verona, choreographed his own work for the show. 

While the dancers were not explained the plot behind the piece, junior dance major John Litzler described the movement quality as “animalistic.”   

Litzler also enjoyed learning from such a young choreographer. 

In contrast to the rest of the works in the show, Julliard graduate and independent choreographer Jessica Lang’s “La Belle Danse” takes on a lighter tone. Jessica Lang dancer Claudia MacPherson traveled to Point Park to stage the performance. This is MacPherson’s first time staging the piece on any group of dancers, which made it a special experience for the cast.

Junior dance major Dennis Davis describes the choreography as folk-based. 

“There’s lots of circles and it’s very gestural, but there is a lot of ballet technique involved as well,” he said in an interview Friday. “It’s fun.” 

Davis enjoyed working with MacPherson because of her positive attitude.

“She is one of the nicest people I’ve met and have been able to work with,” he said. 

Contemporary Choreographers will be performed Nov. 16 to Nov.18, and Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

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