By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival returns May 9-12 to the theater and its Alloy Studios in East Liberty for four days of panels, workshops, a mixer and performances.
Since its debut, newMoves has morphed from being a multi-day performance-centric event with a slew of local dance artists and guest artists from New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere, to now adopting a dance conference-style agenda and schedule. Changing goals and monetary considerations have led the festival in that direction over the past several years.
Headlining this year’s dance performance offerings at the festival will be Saint Paul-based Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT) in “Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds,” the fifth and final iteration of artistic director Ananya Chatterjea’s five-year series for the company, Work Women Do . The 85-minute multimedia work in 4-parts for 8 dancers will be performed at 8 p.m. on May 10 & 11 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.
Founded in 2004 by Chatterjea, Ananya Dance Theatre is a contemporary Indian dance company comprised of women artists of color who create works “at the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice.” The company performed at KST in 2017 in Chatterjea’s “Shyamali: Sprouting Words”.
Set to an original score composer Dameun Strange, also from Saint Paul, “Shaatranga” (meaning seven colors in Bengali) was inspired by and uses two primary metaphors, the historical import/export of Indigo and the ubiquitous presence blue jeans in global commerce to explore relationships among global south communities linked by Indian Ocean trade routes and to express “the blues” women workers of those communities have experienced throughout time.
“The work is about connection and how we connect to each other and understand those connections,” says Chatterjea by telephone from Minneapolis. We work with stories that are partly imagined, partly remembered and partly created.”
Rounding out newMoves performance offerings are two STUDIO SERIES showcases. Here’s a look at each:
STUDIO SERIES: PROGRAM A – Friday, May 10, 2:00 – 3:30pm, KST’s Alloy Studios, Downstairs
Festival veterans Nick M. Daniel’s DANA Movement Ensemble will perform an excerpt from Daniel’s futuristic apocalyptic-themed “Folkdances of a Nucleic Village” the company premiered in October. Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight’s slowdanger will perform an 8-minute section of their work “memory 6”. Danced to an original soundscape and live vocals by Thompson and Knight, the pair says, “At the center of ‘memory 6’s’ conceptual investigations, are two beings fusing to form a new being/entity.” Also back at the festival, this time as a solo artist, is Trevor C. Miles with the premiere of his new 8-minute solo “WAI”. Danced to music by Italian producer/DJ Cristiano Crisci (a.k.a. Clap! Clap!) and original recorded poetry by Miles, “WAI” continues the arc of damaged character “Gabedon” that Miles introduced in his 2018 work “XYLO2”. This new solo “explores his loss of identity,” says Miles. Rounding out Program A and making her newMoves debut will be dancer/choreographer Mita Ghosal in her 9-minute solo “High Level Summary”. Ghosal, who studied dance at UCLA, says the work’s movement language combines her training in dance and yoga. Set to music by Massive Attack and others with text by her, the solo is inspired by Ghosal’s “grappling with the concepts of truth and lies.”
STUDIO SERIES: PROGRAM B (2:00 – 3:30pm, KST’s Alloy Studios, Downstairs)
STAYCEE PEARL dance project presents a 10-minute excerpt from “untitled circles” (working title). The new work choreographed by Staycee Pearl and the dancers is performed to a custom soundtrack by Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl and says Mrs. Pearl, “celebrates the richness and joy of our culture.” Dancer/choreographer Kaylin Horgan returns to newMoves with her new 8-minute work-in-progress, “Today is a Sad Song, Let Us Be Glad”. The contemporary dance work for 4 dancers and a live musician says Horgan, “expresses some of the dancers’ most vulnerable moments through a joyous sound.” New to the festival is Frances Tirado from Leesburg, Virginia. Her latest work, “Italo Calvino,” danced to original music by composer Eli Kauffman, she says, contains a movement language that “is heavily gesture-based”. “I employ a lot of stillness and stage pictures that breathe in response to the music or spoken audio that is playing.” Fellow festival first-timers Maddison Manolis and Alison Vitale a.k.a. MVment, will present their new creation “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?” to music by German electronic musician Sascha Ring (stage name Apparat) and Iceland’s Úlfur. Performed by the duo, the 8 ½-minute contemporary dance duet in two parts says Manoils and Vitale, “focuses on an exploration of identity and self between two women.” Also on the Program B will be works by H. Gene Thompson and Ru Simmons and Cherish Morgan.
The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s 10th annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival runs Friday, May 9 – Sunday, May 12 at The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue and at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Tickets for the festival and its events are Pay What Makes You Happy! – All seats are general admission. For tickets and the full festival schedule visit: http://kelly-strayhorn.org/events/newmoves-contemporary-dance-festival-2019/)