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Evolve's new production is a way forward for dancers

| Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011

The most difficult step in a serious dancer's life may be the one from student to professional.

"There's got to be a better outlet than dance competitions," says Sarah Parker, who trained as a dancer and has extensive performing experience. She formed Evolve Productions in 2008 to provide a platform for emerging dancers and choreographers. It provides dance classes and presents public performances.

Evolve will celebrate its second anniversary of presenting dance concerts with a full-length program called "Emerge" on Friday at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side. The performers will include guests, several pre-professional dancers studying at Evolve and the production company's new resident ensemble, Continuum Dance Theater.

"We will be presenting the work of 15 choreographers," Parker says. "None are extremely long or installation pieces. They're under 10 minutes and all very diverse in their styles: modern and contemporary, hip-hop and African dance."

Some of the pieces were still being finished less than two weeks before the show. Choreographer Shana Simmons says her new 10-minute solo work will probably be called "Bits and Pieces." "I envision her dancing in sand. It's more of a somber piece about loss, or letting go." It will be performed to an original score by Andrew Griffin.

Simmons, who also teaches dance at Evolve, is a Gibsonia native who graduated from Point Park University before moving to London where she earned her master's degree in choreography at Laban, a college conservatory and center for dance.

"I do enjoy teaching and have taught at different stages: the National Dance Institute and the public school system in New York City, as well as at Point Park," she says. "Evolve is somewhere in the middle, as Sarah tries to structure her workshop."

Evolve's founder almost gave up on dance at an early age. When Parker was 4, she liked to run around in her mom's high heels, wearing her lipstick and, in general, be a ham. Her parents decided to get her into dance, since she obviously loved to perform.

But at the start of her second year of dance classes, the 5-year-old decided she didn't want to dance again because she found leotards and tights confining.

"My mom said she'd already paid for that class and that I could make my decision after it. That having been said, I loved it and kept coming back every day," she recalls. In high school, she attended academic classes until 10 a.m., then spent the rest of the day studying dance at DeSales University in Allentown.

Parker, 29, grew up in Bethlehem and moved to Pittsburgh after high school to study dance at Point Park. Her interests are varied and she earned degrees in dance and business and marketing. Her day job is with e-Staff Consulting Group in Penn Hills.

After college, Parker moved to New York City, where she had her first taste of the production world in several shows. She says she decided, "OK, one day I want to do this."

She operates Evolve without grants on a self-sustaining basis, and rents studio space for classes and rehearsals.

"I enjoy having a hand in making everything possible," Parker says.

Additional Information:


Presented by: Evolve Productions

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Admission: $18; $15 online in advance

Where: New Hazlett Theater, North Side

Details: Website

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