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Festival unites works by 11 choreographers

| Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Putting moves together isn't an art limited to choreographers. Administrators need that vision, too.

When the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's dynamic executive director, Janera Solomon, took up the reins in September 2008, she included money for artistic programming in her budget plan that was presented to foundations and sponsors.

Ideas planted in the fall will blossom this week at the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, which will be presented Thursday through Sunday at the Kelly-Strayhorn in East Liberty. The work of 11 choreographers -- most of them from Western Pennsylvania -- will be performed. Most are established creators; others are looking to create dance after performing other people's work.

Janera, 34, says she likes the festival as a format because "it lets you put lots of things together that might not normally go together." She consulted with people in the local community and drew upon her experience programming in Philadelphia to put together the new series.

The repertoire is all new or recent. For example, Michael Walsh of Dance Alloy Theater will perform an excerpt from "4-2 Men" by company artistic director Beth Corning that was premiered in early April.

Attack Theatre is revising part of its piece called "Trapped," which was first performed in the group's February 2008 show called "Preserve and Pursue." "We're trying to distill some of the relationships we explored in the original premiere," says producing artistic director Peter Kope.

"We will follow two characters more than four, with the psychoses of abused characters much more clearly defined. The story line is also highlighted. An enabler who looks the other way once too often is revealed to be more complicit in the abusive relationship," Kope says.

The festival will include a related innovation, the 2009 Emerging Choreographers award. The winners, all Pittsburgh residents, are Luke Murphy (independent), Michael Walsh (Dance Alloy Theater), Christopher Bandy (Dance Alloy) and Kaylin Horgan (Point Park University student). Each will contribute 10-minute pieces that will be presented as part of the four main programs.

"We want to create opportunities for them to show their work and also interact with more established choreographers," Solomon says. She hopes to continue working with them through the summer and make time and space in the theater available to them throughout the year.

De la Reza is enthusiastic about the new Kelly-Strayhorn dance festival and its scope. She says many cities have festival formats that bring artists together, and she views the new festival as reinventing the Choreographer's Continuum that was curated in the 1980s and '90s by Pittsburgh Dance Council.

"Presenting local choreographers on the same night not only gives audiences the opportunity to see diverse work, it also gives performers the chance to interact onstage and off. It creates an energy, the critical mass necessary if you want a vibrant arts scene," de la Reza says.

Additional Information:

newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival

When : 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Thursday : Peter LeBreton Merz, Point Park University dance faculty; Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope, Attack Theatre; Kate Watson Wallace, Anonymous Bodies, Philadelphia

Friday : Maria Caruso, Bodiography; Beth Corning, Dance Alloy Theater; Gwen Ritchie and Sidra Bell, New York City

Saturday : Kyle Abraham, New York City; Tania Isaac, Philadelphia; Makoto Hirano, Philadelphia; and Edisa Weeks, New York City

Sunday : YouthMoves, students from Dance Alloy Theater, Hope Academy, Urban League Charter School and others

Admission : $5-$25

Where : Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty

Details : 412-363-3000

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