Dance performances

Take in these 3 must-see outdoor dance performances before you dive into fall

By Karen Dacko

Outdoor venues reign supreme, as the animators and agitators of the Pittsburgh dance community broken until August. On tap, unique and site-specific offers from Gia T. Cacalano and Staycee Pearl, as well as a classic revitalized by Susan Jaffe.

Bloomfield Garden Club Salon Series, Union Project, 801 N. Negley Ave., Highland Park. Limited capacity. To buy tickets.

Gia T. Cacalano never rehearses a choreography, not even for two performances of the same show. However, that doesn’t mean that Pittsburgh’s leading representative of movement improvisation will just circle around and wave her arms when she takes the stage on August 14-15 as part of Bloomfield Garden ClubSalon series of.

“Structure and form are essential – improvisation without structure is a big mess,” Cacalano says, noting that somatic work, sensory awareness and improvisation impact his spontaneous movement choices. “Sometimes I have to take a break, or be gentle or be up and then down or in a corner – that builds momentum.”


Cacalano, who trained in ballet, modern dance, butoh and body therapy, embarked on preparations for “The Box” during the first months of the pandemic. While his solo is a meditation on self-imposed limitations and embraces themes of isolation, the title derives from the performance space at Union project – a cement slab with four pillars.

The creative process is “both overwhelming and liberating,” she says. “I am passionate about my work. I don’t think I’ll ever be done. There will always be something else.

During the outdoor event, which runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., also includes presentations by photographer Adrie Rose and ceramicist Janet Watkins, Cacalano will lead a 10-minute embodied practice on the lawn, incorporating sensory work and meditation. “Meditation is not just about staying still,” she says, adding that participants should wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes.

Photo courtesy of the Staycee Pearl & Soy Sos dance project.

Upside down Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Limited capacity. To free.

The Staycee Pearl & Soy Sos dance project is “back on track,” said co-director Staycee Pearl, whose national and international visibility was increasing before the pandemic. “To appear in front of a live audience is huge right now, ”she says. “It almost seems new.”

On August 21, the contemporary dance troupe performs from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Upside down series, its second appearance in the Multi-Level Sculpture Court this summer.

For this event, Pearl creates a 15 minute site specific version of “sol”. (2019) which “touches the highlights” of the original work as it celebrates soul music and a culture defined by “darkness – our stories, our music and our fashion,” she says. It repeats itself four times over the course of the afternoon with sound designer / co-director Soy Sos providing musical sets in between dance performances.


“‘ground.’ refers to the sun, ”says Pearl, and“ the radiance of the soul, ”but it is also the title of the practice of movement, the training system and the philosophy she developed to improve the interpreter-audience connection and which it applies when creating choreographies.

The performance work was inspired by the modern African club scene and childhood memories of the streets of Harlem. With a score designed by Soy Sos and colorful costumes, he aims to capture a pedestrian vibe and put the audience on their feet.

“We’re planning to include a dance party with a surprise MC,” says Pearl. “It’s a great way to end the summer.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.

Ballet Under the Stars at Hartwood Acres, 4070 Middle Road, Hampton Township, 7:30 p.m. Free.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater (PBT) Annual Ballet under the stars is coming back from a pandemic break as part of the Allegheny County Summer Concert Series, and artistic director Susan Jaffe is preparing her 30 dancers for the August 22 showcase at the Hartwood Acres Amphitheater.

Earlier this season, Jaffe mesmerized audiences with his choreography of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, ” but she now sprinkles the i’s and crosses the t’s on “Paquita,” a grand pas de deux centerpiece choreographed by Marius Petipa, which she performed frequently during her tenure with the American Ballet Theater.

“I love directing classical works,” says the former ballet superstar, who expresses an affinity for the stylized arm gestures of “Paquita” paired with pristine classical ballet technique. Rarely seen here, the ballet entered PBT’s repertoire in 1981.

“Paquita is a big challenge at all levels of the company,” says Jaffe, thanking repeaters Marianna Tcherkassky and Steven Annegarn for their help. “Well performed classical dance shows the company level and it is my mission to show PBT at this high caliber level.”

When developing repertoire programming strategies, Jaffe opts for depth, dimension and eclecticism while taking into account audience demographics. Hartwood conjures up images of “family,” “kids” and “picnic,” she says, noting that “Paquita,” with many tutus, should delight “little women”.

“The Quiet Dance” by Kyle Abraham, originally from Pittsburgh, is a reflection on his late father’s aphasia that gives depth, while the energetic “Three – 4, 6, 8” by Helen Pickett offers The excitement of a world premiere and August Bournonville’s Neapolitan game, “Napoli” (1842), makes a happy ending.

“I can’t wait to see the public experience ‘Napoli’,” she said.


Karen Dacko is a dance writer and critic whose work has been featured in Dance Magazine.


Allegheny County Summer Concert SeriesBloomfield Garden ClubCarnegie Museum of ArtHartwood AcresPittsburgh Ballet TheaterStaycee PearlUnion Project

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