Drink it in: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre makes Chautauqua debut with three different ballet styles

Rich sofranko | Provided photo

Rich sofranko | Provided photo

At 8:15 p.m. tonight, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will end its summer season with three distinct pieces on the Amphitheater stage. This is the company’s first time performing at Chautauqua Institution.

Though the three works the company is performing tonight are not new, combining the three in the same show provides an innovative and eclectic mix of ballet; each dance is drastically different in period and style from the others.

The dancers will begin with “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes,” an energetic piece by Mark Morris set to 13 playful piano études by American composer Virgil Thomson. Many of Morris’ dances are “mainstays across the world,” according to PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. “Drink,” originally performed by the American Ballet Theatre in 1988, was performed by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for the first time in March 2013.

“We are trying to mount works that are important in the world, and that’s what Morris is,” Orr said.

Next in tonight’s performance will be Antony Tudor’s “Lilac Garden,” set in the socially and physically binding Edwardian era. Though the ballet is only 18 minutes long, it is still emotionally jarring and spellbinding in its storytelling. Alexandra Kochis, PBT principal dancer, takes on the role of Caroline, the story’s heroine stuck in the center of a love triangle.
Kochis praised Tudor’s choreography for its restraint and said that the steps reflect Caroline’s repressed emotions and heartbreak.

“Any person, no matter how experienced a dance watcher, is going to be able to follow the story,” Kochis said. “It’s a ballet you can dance a million times and always have a different experience.”

Alejandro Diaz, who plays Caroline’s lover, echoed Kochis’ sentiments, adding that the choreography’s emotion “comes from the heart and the chest area.”

“You can’t be expressive with your hands and your face,” Diaz said. “You really have to emote from the center of your body, which is difficult to do.”

The night will end with choreographer Dwight Rhoden’s “Step Touch.” The ballet is set to the doo-wop music of the early 1960s, such as “Under the Boardwalk,” “Up on the Roof” and “This Magic Moment.”

“The audience will love all the music and walk out singing it,” Orr said. “You’ve heard these songs, and they’re very contagious.”