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LabCo preparing next incarnation under new artistic director

The stone lions on the corniced roof of the Iron and Glass Bank have a front-row view of LabCo’s third-floor South Side studio.

Through the bank of windows, the choreographic impulses of Gwen Ritchie take shape in the form of seven female dancers. They whirl, pivot and cluster, striking statuesque tableaus whose raised arms and bird-like hand positions suggest Hindu temple sculptures. Ritchie watches from the floor, bounding up to shut off the boom box and give suggestions.

“We’ve only been together for two-and-a-half weeks,” she says. “I’m trying to get them to feel like a corps. It’s going to take at least a year. But I like the direction it’s going.”

As LabCo’s new artistic director, Ritchie is doing most of the driving. A former Dance Alloy dancer, she was offered the job by former LabCo artistic director and co-founder Evelyn Palleja-Vissicchio. The two were classmates in the dance program at the State University of New York in Purchase.

In addition to flexing her choreographic muscles, Ritchie has assumed an ambassadorial role. She wants to attract more national choreographers, offer more classes at LabCo’s South Side headquarters and create a nurturing environment that would share resources with other independent dance companies. She’s also convened an informal Dance Network Gathering at LabCo for Oct. 12.

Friday’s performance, part of the Alloy’s ComMotion series, will give the audience the first look at LabCo’s new lineup: company members Adrienne Barr, Krista Harvey, Kelley Krepin-DeFade and Lisa Ferrugia, along with guest artist Amanda Schneider and apprentices Mauri Weakley and Meredyth Casey.

Ritchie will perform a solo work, “La Femme en Flammes (Woman in Flames),” inspired by a sculpture by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. The evening, which includes an audience talk-back, will serve as a tune-up for the a performance at Slippery Rock University on Oct. 25.

“We’ll take that feedback, go back into the studio and tweak it,” she says.

The company agreed to dance at Slippery Rock without pay.

“I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to ask them to do this for free,'” Ritchie says, “and they’re like, ‘Yes yes, yes!'”

“She’s extremely efficient and wonderful,” Krepin-DeFade says. “If she asked me to be in a blob and lie on the floor for five minutes, I’d ask, ‘Where’s focus?'”

LabCo’s annual fund-raiser is set for Feb. 7 at Spinning Plates Artists Lofts Gallery. Ritchie also has commissioned new work from New York choreographer Lisa Race for the spring performance March 26 and 27 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

Dance connections


Somewhere out there is a guy or girl who wants to audition for a dance company but isn’t sure how. Or a choreographer looking to get his or her work performed.

The Dance Network Gathering is an opportunity for these and other dancers and choreographers to meet, chat, compare notes and make connections.

The gathering is at noon Oct. 12 at LabCo headquarters, on the third floor of Yoga Sadhana Studios, 1113 E. Carson St., South Side.

LabCo artistic director Gwen Ritchie wants to unite the remote tribes of the local dance community — at least for an afternoon.

“We want all the choreographers and dancers to come together and meet and talk and hash out what the problems are in the dance community — space problems, ways to create more professional opportunities, share resources and see what the need is for professional classes. Part of LabCo’s mission is to try to keep young artists and dancers in the community. One way I think we can do that is by filling a hole there with professional classes and training.”

Details: [email protected] .

– William Loeffler


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