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Ballerina daughter, musician dad to perform in N.Y. |
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Ballerina daughter, musician dad to perform in N.Y.

Mark Kanny
| Friday, September 16, 2016 5:45 p.m
Patti Kikta
Thomas Kikta and his daughter, Emily, in front of Lincoln Center in New York City

Most family memories are private experiences. But one Pittsburgh family is about to create an unforgettable moment on one of the world’s biggest stages at a high-profile event in one of the largest cities in the world.

Emily Kikta and her dad, Thomas, will perform together at the world premiere of “Ten in Seven,” a ballet for which he wrote the music, on Sept. 20 at the New York City Ballet’s 2016 Gala: Celebrating Five Years of Ballet and Fashion.

“We are really close, my dad and I. I choreographed his music before. Now it’s really cool to merge our worlds at my workplace in a very official way,” she says.

“It’s like a hyper bring-your-dad-to-work day,” he adds.

Emily Kikta, 23, has been a member of New York City Ballet since 2011. She grew up in Upper St. Clair and moved to New York City at 15 to study at the American School of Ballet, where she met Peter Walker, the choreographer of “Ten in Seven.” When she gave him some CDs of her dad’s music, he especially liked a piece called “Emily.” That tune is used in the fourth movement of the new score, but developed in a completely different way.

Walker has set Kikta’s music to dance several times and asked him to write a new piece for the gala.

Thomas Kikta, 54, is a classical guitarist and associate professor of music technology at Duquesne University. Meeting his wife, Patti, a dancer, at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem was his entree into creating music for dance.

Walker says when he listens to music, it tells him what movements have to happen. He, in turn, told Kikta what he wanted in the music, using words such as unstable and majestic.

Emily Kikta says she and the choreographer are “both very attracted to music that has a lot of beat, on trend with music right now but in a more subtle way — a little bit of electronic with the acoustic ideas so that it’s still beautiful but has a beat that keeps going and you can move to.”

The new music is a guitar-centric score with piano, trumpet and drums, which will be performed by Thomas Kikta leading the ensemble on platforms above the stage.

Thomas Kikta is struck by how detailed Walker’s choreography is. The composer says he broke up long lines with accents and pauses to give the edge and punctuation Walker wanted. “Every edge has a movement to it and tells the story.”

Kikta relied on odd rhythms to create the unstable feeling at the start of the piece. Most music is in four beats to the measure, but Kikta used measures of five, seven, nine, 11 and 13 beats.

“After a climactic push, the music breaks open and the sunshine comes out,” he says, “with a rhythmic stability that tells the audience we’ve arrived.”

Mark Kanny is the Tribune-Review classical music critic. Reach him at 412-320-7877 or

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