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Kelly-Strayhorn fosters diverse dance projects

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Several factors are feeding the revival of East Liberty, from budding boutiques and big-box stores to up-and-coming hotels and eateries. Anchoring the neighborhood's arts scene is the diverse, on-the-pulse programming presented at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

For the dance connoisseur, the venue's KST Presents series is kicking off the new year with a packed few months of pieces by Pittsburgh-based dancers and national and international performers.

Dance at Kelly-Strayhorn Theater
Where: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty and The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Next Stage Dance Residency with Mana Kawamura and Gia T. Cacalano*; 8 p.m. Feb. 7, Fresh Works with Alan Obuzor*; 8 p.m. Feb. 21-22, Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project in “Beautiful Struggle”; 8 p.m. March 7-8, Sidra Bell Dance New York in “garment”; 8 p.m. April 4-5, Sean Dorsey Dance in “The Secret History of Love.”
Tickets: or 412-363-3000.
Information: For a complete list of Kelly-Strayhorn music, theater and community events, visit Some performances include mature themes and aren’t suitable for children. Visit the website for full descriptions.
*Denotes performances held at The Alloy Studios.

The first dance offerings will feature fresh works from residency artists Gia T. Cacalano and Mana Kawamura (8 p.m. Saturday) and Alan Obuzor (8 p.m. Feb. 7) at the theater's Alloy Studios in Friendship.

"We love to focus on dance in the spring," executive director Janera Solomon says. "We're supporting artists as they're creating new works. Often folks are ready to present a new work in the spring."

Under Ms. Solomon's leadership, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater has etched out an identity in the dance world as a creative laboratory for burgeoning artists through its residency programs, which provide financial support, rehearsal space and marketing assistance.

"We support artists and their creativity and their exploration of new ideas. That means, regardless of what the specific work is about, we stay with an artist through the process, through the ups and through the downs," she says. "I think that reputation is starting to spread."

The latest Next Stage dance residency artists are Pittsburgh-based improv dancer Ms. Cacalano and Ms. Kawamura, whose roots are in New York and Japan. The program was established a few years ago and has fostered such dance notables as Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham, a 2013 MacArthur fellow, and contemporary modern choreographer Sidra Bell of New York.

Ms. Cacalano's work combines her signature improvisational style with choreographed movement and includes an ensemble of local professional dancers. The product of Ms. Kawamura's residency navigates human relationships.

The theater's newest residency opportunity is the Fresh Works program. Founded in the fall, it gives artists 80 hours of rehearsal time at The Alloy Studios to produce cross-genre collaborations. Mr. Obuzor, a former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer and artistic director/co-founder of Texture Contemporary Ballet company, teamed with vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield for his residency.

Later in February, past residency participants Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project will present "Beautiful Struggle," a highly physical dance theater work that delves into themes of racism and privilege through music, text and performance. In March, the Kelly-Strayhorn will welcome back Ms. Bell and her company to premiere "garment," a piece about bending and shifting identities developed during a residency at The Alloy Studios.

"Sidra's work tends to be really visual," Ms. Solomon says. "She creates other worlds. She creates scenes that the audience can be transformed by."

Wrapping up the spring dance lineup will be Sean Dorsey Dance of San Francisco with "The Secret History of Love." Inspired by real-life stories, the show reveals how members of the LGBT community overcame historical, societal and political obstacles to find love.

"We want to continue through our programming to bring a balance of artists and perspectives who are local, national and international to East Liberty," Ms. Solomon says. "We want to present experiences that feel relevant. That's subjective, but when someone looks at any given season, we want them to say, 'Yes, I see something in here for me.' "

Sara Bauknecht: or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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