New Moves Festival puts Pittsburgh dance scene on map

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Now in its fourth year, Kelly-Strayhorn’s New Moves Dance Festival strives to bring out the best and brightest in dance and introduce them to the burgeoning dance culture in Pittsburgh.

The annual contemporary dance festival features new dance pieces by emerging choreographers.

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NEW MOVES DANCE—Dancers Junatatu Poe, and Patricia Dominguez during part of their dance piece. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

“Each year we try a diverse mix of dance styles. The thing that was new this year was the symposium. We invited a group of people who could help us get some prospective on what’s happening nationally on the dance scene,” explained Janera Solomon, executive director of East Liberty’s Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

This year, 16 choreographers and 42 dancers converged on the theater over three days to showcase their work.

“We have choreographers from all over the place,” explained Staycee Pearl a local choreographer who helped Solomon with the festival.

Pearl also presented a piece in the show entitled “Study,” which is the study of phrases being put together. “Study” was part of a larger piece entitled “Being….,” which explores what it means to be Black.

“This festival brings the community together and it is an event that everyone needs to attend. This has grown into something great,” Pearl said.

This year’s choreographers included Jumatatu Poe whose work, “Plastic City” explores the diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation and other areas.

“We want to make the world a new place and we want people to reimagine it. We are trying to challenge the representation of ourselves. We want people to think about how we see ourselves. We’re constantly questioning and battling with identity,” said Poe who premiered part of “Plastic City” here in December.

Poe’s dance company, Idiosyncrazy Productions was started in 2008 and is located in Philadelphia.

“I’m excited to be a part of the festival,” Poe said.

Simone Sobers said the whole ambiance of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater is what drew her to participate in the Newmoves Dance Festival.

“The theater really is the heart of dance and theater in Pittsburgh,” said Sobers whose dance company, Simone Sobers Dance has been open in Manhattan since 2010. She presented “Lines Between” a piece that focused on the relationships between women at the festival.

“This piece talks about how women work together and how a sisterhood is formed, but you also want to be your own person. Here in New York, developing relationships with women is hard because people are so career-minded and we lose that,” Sobers said.

“Lines Between” is a stream of consciousness that builds between the three women on stage and the connections they build and the bonds that are broken.

“The piece is very movement driven,” Sobers said.

West African-born choreographer Olivier Tarpaga brought his unique experiences as a world traveler and the situations and events he encountered during his numerous travels to the stage in his piece called “Not Because You Are African,” which featured live musicians.

“It’s inspired because of my travels and places I went and what happened when I went to those places. Sometimes it can be a beautiful thing to be African and sometimes it’s not such a beautiful thing. I’m not trying to fit in everywhere. I just want to share with people who I am and about my country,” said Tarpaga who resides in Cincinnati. Tarpaga will be bringing his unique brand of dance back to the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater later this year.

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