Texture Contemporary Ballet: “This isn’t your grandmother’s ballet”

Features - Ballet (Bill Shirley)
Courtesy of Texture Contemporary Ballet | Texture Contemporary Ballet performs Works In Progress in 2012. The group will perform the project Saturday at the Pittsburgh Dance Center, located at 4765 Liberty Ave.

By: Katie Auwaerter | The Duquesne Duke

Ballet is more than The Nutcracker. Ballet is more than Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan. Ballet is moving into the modern world, and Texture Contemporary Ballet is out to prove just that.

Founded in 2011, the Texture Ballet takes classically trained dancers, who have worked with numerous companies from across the country, and creates innovative and fresh performances that present the art of ballet in a new way.

“This isn’t your grandmother’s ballet. It’s very high energy and very exciting. People tend to be afraid to see a ballet, but they come to see the show and they really enjoy it and come back again,” said associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman.

Samantha Barker, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, joined Texture in the summer of 2012. Barker said that the ballet allowed her to continue dancing while pursuing a degree at Duquesne.

“Texture is a smaller company, which is nice because you get the exposure and attention that you wouldn’t get in a larger company,” Barker said. “It is also a contemporary ballet company so I get to work outside of my comfort zone of classical ballet. All of their work is choreographed specifically for the company, so it is new and tailored for the dancers and their strengths.”

Texture also gives the opportunity for young and fresh choreographers to practice their skill through the sixth installment of their project, Works In Progress. Founded in 2008 by Nashville Ballet members Robert Poe, Mary Lohr and Andrea Vierra and Bartman, Works in Progress was brought to Pittsburgh by Bartman when Texture was getting started.

Texture Contemporary Ballet will be performing the sixth installment of Works in Progress on Nov. 23 at the Pittsburgh Dance Center. Their two performances will be at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and will last approximately an hour. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on their website, www.textureballet.org.

The sixth installment will feature choreography from project co-founders Vierra and Bartman, as well as Texture Contemporary Ballet founder Alan Obuzor. New choreographers to be featured include Christina Sahaida, Jennifer Grahnquist and Alexandra Tiso. Renee Danielle Smith, a member of the Murphy/Smith Dance Collective, will also be a featured choreographer. In addition, the performance will include choreography from the Hip Hop group, Controlled Chaos.

Having danced with Texture since 2012, Sahaida said that this was her first choreography experience outside of her studies at Butler University in Indianapolis.

“The process of working with Texture as not only a dancer, but as a choreographer has been wonderful, frightening, and exciting all at the same time,” Sahaida said. “At first, I was pretty terrified at the idea of choreographing on other dancers. It’s one thing to know how movement feels and looks in your own body, but completely different to try to convey what you physically want to another person to translate to their own bodies.”

Sahaida explained the learning and experience she gained from the project Works In Progress.

“I’ve learned to think about movement differently, because it takes a certain understanding of dance to be able to explain what you want to another person,” she said. “As a choreographer leading a group of dancers, you can’t be selfish. It doesn’t work that way. You have to make the choices that make the creation and the dancers look best as a whole.”

For those looking to get into the world of ballet, Bartman said that the Works In Progress performance is a great place to start the transition.

“As a choreography project, it’s a more relaxed atmosphere. There’s a big open space with a bar and food and dancers will be mingling around,” she said.