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Indigo In Motion" brought together three very different choreographers with three very distinct missions. And while, over the course of their highly-acclaimed professional careers, each has melded many different kinds of music with their own styles of dance, they all faced new challenges designing the movements that fused Pittsburgh jazz with classical ballet.
Choreographer Kevin O'Day
"... on the Spot" by Kevin O'Day
O'Day was thrilled at the opportunity to work with two living jazz legends, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and bassist Ray Brown, who composed original pieces to fit his choreography. A classically trained and oriented musician, O'Day made his mark as a dancer with such companies as Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Twyla Tharp. Now, his own contemporary dance company, O'Day Dances, is in demand around the world.
"My challenge was to marry the physical possibilities and ranges of classical ballet-dancers on pointe-with the character of the music, and not have the dancers seem self-conscious or as a kitsch representation of the music," he said. "Each night was spontaneous, with the dancers responding to the musical solos, which kept everyone open and edgy. Although this was a challenge to the dancers, most of them intuitively understood and worked with the cadence of the music, because it's part of the fabric of our American culture."
Choreographer Lynn Taylor-Corbett
"More Than A Song"
A Tribute to Lena Horne by Lynn Taylor-Corbett
With one foot in theater and one in ballet, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, who previously worked with PBT in its 1995 homage to Pete Seeger, was enamored of Lena Horne's enormous talent and her place in history. Drawing on her talent as a storyteller, Taylor-Corbett approached her piece as a documentary in order to show how Horne evolved from a naive young performer to a star artist and activist. Taylor-Corbett not only researched Horne's life, she wrote the script of text and music that revealed the essence of her tale and her character. Taylor-Corbett then worked with Broadway star and Pittsburgh native Vivian Reed to "make the words comfortable in her mouth."
"I had to think of the total impact of Horne's life, not just of her work, and because this was just a short piece, I wanted to capture the seminal events," she explained. "I created the choreography to play to the strengths of the ballet dancers and selected songs that were in the spirit of the events we tried to portray."
Choreographer Dwight Rhoden
"StrayLifeLushHorn" by Dwight Rhoden
Dwight Rhoden, who performed as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, brought his reputation for combining modern, jazz, and street dance into his ballets to PBT. He used all of these approaches to shape a work that would recognize the scope and genius of Billy Strayhorn, the author of such enduring compositions as "Take the 'A' Train," "Chelsea's Bridge" and "Satin Doll," as well as honor the various live musicians and their instruments.
"The intricacies of the rhythms, the syncopation, and the emotional levels of Strayhorn's music created an amazing dynamic to work with," he explained. "The challenge for the dancers was to become loose and react spontaneously. They had the road map of the choreography to move them through the dance, yet the timing, nuance and inflection were decided in the moment, depending on how the music was played that evening. It sort of turned the theater into a night club type of environment where the audience was also factored into the equation, and the outcome was original, to some degree, every night."