by Kristine Sorensen 
Photographs courtesy: Vipul Sangoi 

July 2001

Pittsburgh dance stretched to new limits when "Dust" settled on Dance Alloy at the Byham Theater for its 25th anniversary Saturday.  

The collaboration with the Pittsburgh-based company and Arangham Dance Theater from Madras, India created a unique blend of American modern and traditional Indian dancing in the piece "Dust."  

Mysticism swept over the stage as Anusha Subramanyam's slow, deliberate movement transfixed the audience. Her unwavering focus revealed an internal power not seen in the American dancers - a difference more of style than technique.  

Dance Alloy's Mark Taylor worked with Anita Ratnam of India to bring the two cultures together, using an original composition by Alice Shields. Together, they created an excellent balance and smooth transitions between traditional movement and abstractions from that.  

The mood switched back and forth from solemn to playful with the image of dust sprinkled throughout the piece. Taylor based the piece on a Joan of Arc-like figure in Buddhist history, but there was no storyline. Instead, it was the strength of Subramanyam's pace diagonally across the stage that signified the strength and vulnerability of women.  

The dancers' different cultural styles became apparent when the four danced together - two American and two Indian. The Indian dancers held their torsos tall and straight in a regal manner, whereas the Americans tended to begin all movement of extremities from their torso. The Indian dancers' quick flickers of the wrists and ankles was more staccato than those of the Americans. And the Indians seemed to focus internally, whereas the Americans danced more aware of each other and the space around them. This is less a criticism than an observation - one that was interesting to see.  

The mix of American and Indian cultures carried through in the costumes - a blend of loose-fitting pants and shirts with rope-tied vests in Indian fabric. The music, however, stuck too close to tradition and often was piercing to the point of distracting from the dance. The high-pitched sound was even painful at times.  

Still, "Dust" took a refreshing approach to modern dance with an artistic approach to an ancient art.  

Courtesy: Pittsburgh Tribune, May 7, 2001 

- Kristine Sorensen is a reporter for WTAE-TV. She has a bachelor's degree in dance from the College of William and Mary and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Sorensen has danced in companies for 10 years and continues to study dance in Pittsburgh.