August Wilson Center dancers to teach in Suriname

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The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble may be young, but its accomplishments are impressive.

Since Greer Reed received a fellowship to create the company in 2009, its crop of young dancers has been named to Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list, performed at the annual SummerStage festival in New York City's Central Park and orchestrated a black dance festival that brought standouts of the African-American dance tradition, such as Ailey II, to Pittsburgh.

Their latest recognition: an invitation to perform and teach dance to pre-teens through young adults in Suriname in northern South America. It will be the company's first time abroad.

"I think it definitely puts another pinpoint on the map for us," said dancer James Washington, a Point Park University jazz dance grad who has been with the company since its founding. Mr. Washington, along with four other troupe members, will represent the ensemble overseas Sunday through Saturday.

Peggy McKean, deputy chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy, saw the company perform a couple of times and extended to dancers the opportunity to take part in Camp Glow, a Peace Corps program that strives to instill interpersonal skills and self-esteem in youths through physical activities and performances.

"She had been following the company, watching them, and was really impressed," Ms. Reed said. "She thought this would be a great fit."

Going into communities and working with children is a regular part of the ensemble's schedule.

"Not only are we a repertory company, I think that their outreach skills are so incredible," Ms. Reed said. "I think this is another way, not just through dance, but through teaching ... for us to reach another community, another group of kids, another form of audience."

Each day, dancers will be teaching one or two workshops with about 50 participants in each. They also will perform. The freedom of speech and expression that movement allows will be a focus of the camp, Mr. Washington said.

"So many kids don't think dance is a career," he said. "I just always like to portray that and make sure the kids can see it's something you can grow up and do."


Sara Bauknecht:


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