AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
By Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gia T. Presents: A detail from the promo for "Blink," a structured improvisation from five dancers and five musicians in response to a light/space work at Wood Street Galleries.
Pittsburgh is noted for its neighborly attitude, always eager to help strangers, always eager to please. This carries over into the arts, where, with a desire to satisfy audiences, local groups often fail to push buttons or break boundaries.
The performance result is good, art that satisfies like a sweet treat, but is it enough for the Pittsburgh arts scene as it continues to expand?
Gia Cacalano is not one who plays it safe. She has pursued the state of dance improvisation for years, often in private or small alternative spaces with little concern for huge audience numbers, and is one of a growing number of city artists looking within themselves.
But then, you have to look at her style of choice. Improvisers might be regarded as the flower children of dance, not particularly concerned with the bottom line, instead pursuing the art for art's sake.
Her free-form company, Gia T. Presents, offered a triple-barrelled approach to "BLINK," which inhabited the Wood Street Galleries last weekend. That meant structured improvisation (or instant composition, as they sometimes call it) from five dancers and five musicians in response to a current light/space improvisation, Norwegian artist HC Gilje's "blink." The work is part of "in transit," his overall Wood Street installation that occupies two floors.
More than 100 audience members squeezed in and around the exhibit on each of two nights. They found three light installations, with a circle in one corner that projected a ring of light onto the accompanying wall, and a square that lay on the floor near an adjacent wall.
Nearly half of the gallery space was taken up with "blink" itself, a large trapezoid stretching from the midpoint and climbing up the walls, then slowly unfolding its own changing landscape, including ribbons of undulating light or a river running through it.
The effect was magical as Allie Greene appeared in a silver bubble wrap costume with a mini-poof of a skirt and an Elizabethan-inspired cone of a collar. She seemed to float like an angel as she tentatively placed her feet on the trapezoid's stripes, almost like the keys of a piano.
Both awestruck by the light and robotic in response to the technology that made it happen, she slowly made her way around the trapezoid twice to a celestial haze of music, exploring the white stripe of a boundary around its edge, and then lay down on a silver box.
A quartet of humanoid dancers, Vincent Cacialano, Wendell Cooper, Jil Stifel and Ms. Cacalano, slowly entered. One by one, they bent backward and opened their arms akimbo, as if to embrace their own light source. But they would be more casual and social.
Not that there was an established thread. Certainly the performers had a specific vocabulary at their disposal and drew from that during the course of the performance. One could ascertain fragments about boundaries real and imagined as the performers walked the lit pathways as if on a tightrope, trying to maintain balance.
They could pause awkwardly, pigeon-toed, or curl their fingers like tendrils. But the viewer never knew where the energy source would come from. The audience could watch as the various art forms took dominance, which provided its own balancing act of contrasts and similarities.
When the light became more animated, the action might slow down. But when the music became more percussive, it inspired a blaze of movement from the men, filled with loping jumps and lashing twirls.
In retrospect it formed an overall arc, making it easier to detect all the textures and transparencies that this art combination had to offer. Sometimes it was enough just to relax and join in the interplay of the moment.
And when Ms. Greene took to the space at the end, she finally stopped and reached into the light. Finally it seemed as if she could feel it.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: email@example.com. She also blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
First published on April 3, 2012 at 12:00 am