Next Stage Residency Program introduces new generation of choreographers

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CREATIVE DANCE—Dancers of the T. Lang Untitled Work.

 

Choreographers T. Lang and Megan Mazarick used humor, music and big, powerful dance moves to bring their work-in-progress, “Mother/Mutha,” and “Calvary, Calvary” to the Alloy Theater stage for the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Next Stage Residency Program.
 “Mother/Mutha” reveals the pain that African-American women went through as they were forced against their wills to breed slaves.
“I want to enlighten people,” said Lang, owner of T. Lang Dance, an 11-person ensemble created in 2006 and assistant professor of dance at Spelman College in Atlanta. “For this work, I researched literature of the courageous Harriet Jacobs, the sinister Willie Lynch and the images of the audacious Kara Walker to reveal the unspoken pain and fortitude brought about by atrocious acts in the pursuit of capitalism and power. While we are aware of the objectification of African-American women, it is rarely examined more honestly and vividly than through the lens of dance.”
Lang was excited and happy to bring “Mother/Mutha” to the Pittsburgh stage.
“It had only been shown in Atlanta and the community received it very well. It sold out during the three-night run we had,” Lang said.
That deep exploration of such a taboo topic is one reason why Kelly Strayhorn Executive Director Janera Solomon and her panel selected Lang as one of this year’s Next Stage Residency Choreographers.
“T. stood out with the energy of her work and the dancers were fresh and technically amazing,” Solomon said.
Mazarick’s humorous take on movement and text to juxtapose religion and American Western iconography with the themes of horses, guns, empty landscapes, loneliness and Christian symbolism is what made her a stand out as one of the Next Stage Residency candidates.
“Megan stood out because her sense of humor and because her dance element feels more like theater,” Solomon said. “She seems to have a real interest in storytelling and is inspired by theater.”
Now in its fifth year, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Next Stage Residency Program was created to encourage young choreographers and to support the creation of new works. The week-long residency includes a stipend, production support, and ends with a public showing and post-performance discussion, which allows the artist to get feedback from the audience.
“Both of these pieces are works-in-progress and I’d like the audience to enjoy being a part of the process and enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at how dance works,” Solomon said.
Interested choreographers were required to submit a one-page narrative explaining how they would use the Kelly Strayhorn residency and a video sample. Solomon said she received 25-30 applications this year.
Solomon said the theater hopes to be able to present the works in their completed form sometime in the future.
Lang is just happy to be a part of the movement.
“I’m honored and thrilled to be recognized by the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater,” Lang said. “The support they have to be brave enough to bring in bold and courageous work is amazing.”

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