Eclectic dance created by several African-American choreographers is the main fare for the fifth season of Kelly Strayhorn Presents.
“This season we’ve got lots of dance on tap; eight dance performances—seven dances and one showing of a new residency. It’s the most we’ve ever had,” said Janera Solomon, Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s executive director. “We have three world premiers and five Pittsburgh premiers. It’s exciting.”
The season opened with choreographer Camille Brown’s work, “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” a 60-minute performance that examines African-American comedy from “Slavery to Chris Rock.” It brings to light issues of tolerance and the representation of Blacks in the media. With a cast of 11 actors, dancers and musicians, Brown celebrated the humor and perseverance of the African-American performer by combining contemporary and history.
Collaborating on the project with Brown were: live musician and composer Scott Patterson; dramaturgy’s Talvin Wilks and Kamilah Forbes; set designer Phillip Trevino; lighting designer Burke Wilmore; lighting; animator Isabela Dos Santos; musicians and composers Brandon McCure, Jonathan Melville Pratt and Michael Kinsey.
Brown’s company has performed internationally and nationally alone and with the Ailey Dance Theater and has won numerous awards including the Princess Award Winning Choreographer. Brown is also an Alvin Ailey Choreographic Fellow.
“Camille A. Brown combines her modern female perspective with theatricality, high-powered moves and musical virtuosity,” Solomon said. “This is a great way for the Kelly Strayhorn Theater to open its fifth season. The Kelly Strayhorn is pleased to be able to continue the tradition of hosting a pre-show mixer on both evenings and a post-show discussion on Friday evening.”
Inspired by Beyonce’s 2008 mega hit “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and the intense emotional management demand placed upon flight attendants, choreographer and dancer Jumantatu Poe and his IdiosynCrazy Productions troupe will be presenting “Private Places” on Dec. 14-15.
“It’s going to be an interesting piece. It’s really stylized movement like a drill team cheerleading mixed with voguing,” Solomon said. “It’s very rhythmic but showy and the idea came from how him being on a plane and he noticed how people interact in small spaces. People need to know that there is nudity in the piece.”
Based in Philadelphia, Poe was named a 2012 Pew Fellow in the Arts for his significant contributions to the arts community.
STAYCEE PEARL Dance will be returning to the Kelly Strayhorn stage in February to present her take on what it means to be Black with her piece entitled “On Being…”
“Right now people are talking about a post society and what it means to be Black so Stacyee’s work is very timely,” Solomon said.
STAYCEE PEAL dance project will create a work free of racial identifiers. Sound designer, engineer and DJ Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl collaborates on the project.
Nora Chipaumire will also be coming back to the Kelly Strayhorn stage with her first character-driven work.
“Miriam” tells the story of what it means to be a modern-day African woman and Blackness,” Solomon said.”She takes a lot of inspiration from Miriam Mekeba an African activist of the 1970’s.”
The deeply personal dance-theater performance looks closely at the tensions women face between public expectations and private desires; between selflessness and ambition; and between the perfection and sacrifice of the feminine ideal.”Miriam” is being co-presented with the Andy Warhol Museum as part of its Off the Wall series.
“Miriam” will run April 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
In addition to the dance pieces, annual favorites are still a part of this fifth season including the Suite Life celebration of Billy Strayhorn’s life and legacy. It will include an evening of big band sounds and spoken word tributes during the event, which will take place Nov. 24 a 8 p.m. a free pre-performance reception begins at 7 p.m.
The My People Film Series, a three-part series highlighting the lives and experiences of queer people of color with award-winning films, performances and discussions. Although the films focus primarily on queer people of color, My People seeks to affirm under served and underrepresented groups and help identify strong, active and vibrant communities. The series will run Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, 13, and 20.
Zombies, puppets and a on-stage costume parade will overtake the Kelly Strayhorn Theater Oct. 27. The best of women in music will be featured once again during the Sunstar Music Festival from March 6-9. The four-night event will include concerts, parties, talks and more.
The family series will be the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January. The theater is also recruiting a new crop of students to participate in the Soundwaves Steel Band project.
“With this season we wanted to make sure that we continued to bring an eclectic mix of artists. East Liberty is a diverse neighborhood and it’s important for us to reflect that. We want to encourage our audience to stretch a bit and we add music and DJ’s and have mixers. We want people to enjoy the whole experience of this theater. If people are working to spice up their lives, Kelly Strayhorn Theater is the place to go,” she said.
For more information on the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s new season visit www.kelly-stryhorn.org or call 412-363-3000.
The Kelly Strayhorn Theater continues to play a key role in the transformation of Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. The intimate, 349-seat multiple-use space demonstrates its commitment to Pittsburgh artists and audiences. It was named for noted Pittsburgh stars Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn. The building, opened in 1919, is the former Regent Square Theatre, which served the East End as a movie house for eight decades.