|Erin Halloran dances in Step Touch.|
Choreographer: Dwight Rhoden
Music: Various composers of Doo Wop music of the 1940s and 1950s
Costumes: Christine Darch
Lighting: Michael Korsch
World Premiere: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, March 19, 2009
PBT Performance Date: March 2009
Program Notes (2009)
By Carol Meeder, former Director of Arts Education
The Doo Wop sound grew from rhythm and blues vocals of the 1940s and sealed its identity in the 50s and 60s with consonant vocal harmony, meaningless syllables sung repetitively as back up for a lead singer and a low bass that could hold a pedal tone forever. Don’t forget the choreography – “Step Touch”, step touch – and the elegant, yet flashy wardrobe. From street corners to recording studios, Doo Wop was an American sensation from 1956 until 1964.
“Step Touch” by Dwight Rhoden is a tribute to that era. “The music is timeless, and there’s been a resurgence of its popularity. The harmonies and melodies are beautiful; you get caught up in them. I hear the rhythmic nuances in today’s popular music.” In his choreography, Rhoden follows the message of the lyrics, but not in a literal sense. “It’s a more general sweep of feelings and mood that makes the listener want to move with a little bit of swing.” He pairs his own distinct movement vocabulary with the signature movements of the Doo Wop groups – simple patterns done in unison and that famous “Step Touch.”
Perhaps the most important outcome of all this musical and choreographic creativity is the entertainment factor. With Charlie Thomas’ Drifters and Pure Gold on stage, the picture is complete. Ultimately, these music groups are entertainers who create joy and escape for their listeners. Rhoden’s choreography and the artistry of PBT’s dancers add another dimension to that entertainment and the finishing touch to a very fun evening.