Combining Genres, Creating Ballets Ovrearts Teams with Musicians, Dancers, Choreographers for Show

Article excerpt

The arts scene in Pittsburgh is lush with dancers, painters, dramatists, musicians, spoken-word artists and more.

"It is such a ripe and rich place for its size," says composer Blake Ragghianti.

But what's largely untapped, he feels, is an attempt to elevate these art forms -- or create new works -- by mixing genres.

"What I didn't see, there were no genuine efforts to cross boundaries and to really collaborate, not just artistically, but to share information and resources," he says.

The observation prompted him and fellow musician and friend Luke Mayernik to be catalysts for collaboration and to found in spring 2011 OvreArts, a nonprofit sinfonia and chamber singer group and the resident ensemble of Heinz Memorial Chapel. It is supported in part by the Small Arts Initiative from the Heinz Endowments.

This weekend, OvreArts, along with guest musicians and dancers and choreographers from Texture Contemporary Ballet and The Pillow Project, will premiere original ballets "The Alkonost" and "Infinity" at Pittsburgh CAPA, Downtown.

Creating a ballet appealed to Mr. Ragghianti and Mr. Mayernik even before there was an OvreArts to perform it.

"We never really had an opportunity to get a larger percentage of our music out there" and felt composing a score for a new ballet would be a way to accomplish that, Mr. Ragghianti says.

He had been making a living in music by stringing together gigs at clubs and events and teaching around town, eventually taking a hiatus from the lifestyle to move to Florida, where he earned his captain's license. But his craving for composing was rekindled when he met conservative media personality Glenn Beck while working on a private yacht in Connecticut. When Mr. Beck learned about his music background, he asked him to compose the theme music for his touring stage show "The Christmas Sweater," and later his 2010 Christmas musical.

Once back in Pittsburgh and back to music, the ballets started to take shape.

"We began to gather this little circle of support," he says, by sharing their ideas with other local artists. The city's close-knit creative community helped put him in touch with potential collaborators, such as former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer and Texture Contemporary Ballet founder Alan Obuzor. …


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