A big welcome to one of our new guest bloggers, Charlene Foggie Barnett, who we’ve featured in past articles for her participation in the August Wilson Center’s production of The Women of the Hill. Charlene, an enthusiastic and dedicated arts supporter, attended Alonzo King LINES Ballet when they performed in front of a packed house on both January 15 & 16. The following is her perspective of the evening.
I’m always fascinated about how situations are connected in the experiences of living. For the past decade, I’ve given my daughter–an 18-year-old dancer–a yearly wall calendar of ballet, modern or contemporary dancers. For the past several years, I’ve selected a calendar
whose monthly images are static shots, of the formidable dancers in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Company. As we entered the August Wilson Center on Saturday evening, my daughter said to me, “you do know that this is the company whose calendars you’ve been giving me.” I replied, “I hadn’t realized that, but I felt so compelled to see this show when I saw it advertised on the Center’s Web site.”
And it was a real treat. The performance opened with the piece Signs and Wonders, as an undulating cast of strong male dancers took the stage by force. The traditional African music appropriately accompanied the piece in intricate, pulsating rhythms. This was an impressive introduction to the company’s dynamic mentoring (by Alonzo King), coupled with superb technique.
The standouts for me were a very tall young man, whose limbs seemingly stretched across the expanse of the stage, and a shorter, stockier male dancer, who alternated between displays of strength and graceful prowess. As the enticing ladies in the company later joined them en pointe, each one demonstrated their elegantly woven fortitude. The women bore the ballet in twists and contortions that are not often
performed with such ease and grace. It looked effortless, and yet, I knew “effort” was a major point of the piece. After a short intermission, the company performed “Refraction.” This piece, albeit very different from the first, was more melodic and swayed me into a comfortable trance, yet it’s complexities, such as the intricate daisy chain near the conclusion, persistently enticed the audience. Lighting played a unique part, and the music, by Jason Moran, was so enjoyable that I searched for it in iTunes. The relational stance between dancers, seemed to individually “pop,” while still being veiled by their unending cohesion, as a whole.
As anticipated, the event was spectacular, and my daughter and her friends enjoyed every minute of it. As usual, the audience included many of those connected to dance in Pittsburgh - Dance Council
members, teachers and dancers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Creative And Performing Arts High School and Dance Alloy to name a few. But the theater was filled to capacity, with a variety of enthusiastic patrons of the arts. I sat in the very last row of the balcony, behind a large group of youngsters, ranging from ages 7 to 12, whose interest never wavered from what they observed on stage. That’s probably because, as I can attest (having been seated all over the theater), there is not a bad seat in the August Wilson Center house.
Immediately following the performance, several of the dancers treated audience members who chose to stay, with a question and answer “Artist Talk” session. Nature had been calling me, so I rushed off to the facilities, but those who attended told me it was a great opportunity to get to know more about Alonzo King’s vision and the company members. Afterward, as I chatted with friends in the lobby, the tallest male
dancer from LINES was leaving the theater. As fate would have it, a (young male) dancer friend of our family, who attends CAPA and PBT, was introduced to the LINES dancer and enjoyed a moment of encouraging conversation.
You’ve got to appreciate the August Wilson Center - not just for the great shows they bring to Pittsburgh, but for the hospitable manner in which these acts are presented. Also, at the end of a performance, I never feel pressured to abruptly leave, as I often do in other theatres, but rather enjoy browsing the well-stocked gift shop, and sharing a brief moment of conversation with friends. Thanks once again, AWC, for a lovely evening of entertainment and connection!
- August Wilson Center Patron, Charlene Foggie Barnett
EDITOR’S NOTE: Coming up next– February 6, 8 pm–Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), a classically trained composer, performer, violinist and band-leader noted for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form.