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Reed Dance to spotlight resilence

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When one door closes, choreographer Greer Reed creates -- and dances through -- another one.

When the Dance Alloy Theater company dissolved following a merger with the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Ms. Reed, who had been the troupe’s artistic director, switched her sights to the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, which she founded in 2009 as part of a fellowship. And when the company’s namesake, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, halted programming and financial support last year in the wake of bankruptcy, she kept her crop of young dancers together and gave them a new name, Reed Dance.

"Those were just small little potholes in this journey,“ Ms. Reed says. ”Mediocrity is not an option.“ 

Together they’ve spent the 2013-14 performance season publicizing their new identity and reminding the public of their mission: elevating aspiring artists and the artistry of dance. Reed Dance will close the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival’s dance offerings with free performances at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Trust Arts Education Center on Liberty Avenue in the Cultural District.

"We’re in a good position,” Ms. Reed says. “People are starting to make the connection” that Reed Dance is continuing the work of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble. The troupe remains a mix of dancers from Pittsburgh and beyond the region and occasionally features guest artists. They have spread the word with performances across Pittsburgh, including at the Kauffman Center in the Hill District, Union Project in East Liberty and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side. 

Dancers also are striving to maintain the national and international recognition they garnered under the August Wilson Center moniker with performances this summer in Bryant Park in New York City and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. 

"We’re just trying to continue to be seen,“ Ms. Reed says, ”just moving forward with the same fervor that we started with.“

At the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Reed Dance will join with guest artists and Pittsburgh CAPA students on ”Suite Stevie,“ a tribute to musician Stevie Wonder. Ms. Reed started the ”Suite“ series while at the August Wilson Center with ”Suite Bill,“ a choreographic salute to Bill Withers. There also have been ”Suite“ pieces for Bob Marley and Nina Simone.

Along the way Ms. Reed has stayed in touch with former colleagues and friends from her August Wilson Center days.

"I do get personal messages, and some come to shows,” she says. “They’re still curious to see what we’re doing.”

Memories of her late mother also help keep her resilient spirit sparked.

"She was definitely a driving force in keeping me going, just with a look or a ’You can do this,’“ Ms. Reed says. ”Even though she’s not here physically she’s still in my ear -- ’Keep going, Greer.’“

Sara Bauknecht: or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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