Karole Armitage's twist on scientific theories bends the mind

March 5, 2012 12:01 am
  • Armitage Gone! Dance performed "Three Theories" at the Byham Theater for Pittsburgh Dance Council's.
    Armitage Gone! Dance performed "Three Theories" at the Byham Theater for Pittsburgh Dance Council's.
  • Masayo Yamaguchi, left, and Marlon Taylor-Wiles, of Armitage Gone! Dance troupe.
    Masayo Yamaguchi, left, and Marlon Taylor-Wiles, of Armitage Gone! Dance troupe.
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There was an extraordinarily different sense of balances to be perceived in the Pittsburgh Dance Council's presentation of Armitage Gone! Dance at the Byham Theater on Saturday -- physical, mental, intellectual, but maybe not emotional.

Yes, many things were in play during Karole Armitage's "Three Theories," inspired by Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe," a best-seller despite the fact that it relayed Einstein's general theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory.

A mouthful (or mindful), you might say, but just one cog in the mechanisms of Ms. Armitage's brain.

One could point to her George Balanchine/Russian training in ballet. She was one of the first to take his off-center partnering and pliable extensions to more radical angles, along with William Forsythe. But then she danced with Merce Cunningham for five years and the torso work, chance and spatial considerations play into her style.

So a disciplined balletic line was tempered by the shape of modern dance and affected by the casual attitudes of today's society.

Then it was all folded into a vocabulary developed specifically for "Three Theories." It all started with Ms. Armitage's interpretation of the Big Bang. The Byham was stripped to its red brick back wall and the dancers to simple two-piece black leotards and shorts. Rhys Chatham's excerpt from "Two Gongs" sounded like waves kissing the shore.

A strip of lights blinked seemingly at random, casting a shadow over the dancers, then blinded us with a synchronized blaze of light.

Far from sterile, though, it was replaced by a sinuous Indian raga in the second session, Relativity. As the notes were bent, so were the bodies. At times the movement took on the form of a personalized choreographic scribble, perhaps without a defined direction at first, but still intriguing nonetheless. Grabbing a foot. Fingers that curled in on themselves. Seemingly simple, but increasingly varied and ultimately mesmerizing.


First Published 2012-03-04 23:21:28

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