Tag Archives: Janera Solomon

Pittsburgh’s Kelly Strayhorn Theater to Host 2018 National Performance Network / Visual Artists Network Conference


kst

Photo courtesy of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

By Duane Binion

(PITTSBURGH, PA, January 29, 2018) The Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) and National Performance Network (NPN), are pleased to announce the 2018 National Performance Network / Visual Artists Network’s Annual Conference will take place in Pittsburgh, PA, December 2018. NPN/VAN’s Annual Conference is a dynamic international forum for artists, arts leaders, activists, organizers, funders, and creative stakeholders to develop a more artist-centered, just, and sustainable performing and visual arts universe.

For over 10 years KST has been committed to serving our community as an inclusive safe space for all, offering a place where everyone’s voices are heard, and responding to community needs,” says Executive Director of Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Janera Solomon. “Now is the perfect time to showcase Pittsburgh based artist. We have a unique voice, and culture, we are proud to welcome our NPN colleagues to experience our city.

Over four days, KST and NPN/VAN will partner to gather more than 400  artists, arts funders, and leadership from arts organizations across the nation to consider current issues, share solutions, examine local, national and international policies that shape the cultural environment, and expand industry and institutional know-how.

In addition to gathering arts leaders from across the country, the Annual Conference also provides opportunities to share the work of local, national, and international artists that include ArtBursts (pop-up performances throughout the Conference), Idea Forums, In the Works, and “Live & On Stage “performance showcases.

The Annual Conference also directly addresses artist equity issues by providing subsidies to NPN/VAN, as well as Pittsburgh artists, selected to mirror the diversity of the NPN/VAN community.

The NPN network includes more than 100 arts organizations in the U.S., Latin America, and Asia. They are committed to investing in artists whose voices and visions illuminate and shape the world around us, and to taking risks in support of artistic expression. Since its inception, NPN/VAN has reached 3.5 million audience members and supported 4,700 artist projects employing more than 21,000 artists. NPN has provided $26 million in direct support to artists and presenters, and leveraged another $44 million, resulting in $70 million in support for artists and arts organizations.

KST and NPN/VAN share a mission to create an arts sector rooted in justice. The conference is designed to foster deeper collaboration among presenters, greater mobility for artists and a stronger collective voice for the arts. Its programs demonstrate the network’s commitment to spaces for expression that are free of racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, misogyny, classism, or other bias. It is a rare platform where artists and presenters come together as equal peer participants toward greater field-wide goals.

The Annual Conference is held in a different city in the United States each year, and is hosted by local Partners in collaboration with the NPN/VAN National Office. Past meetings have been held in the following cities.

Attendance is open to everyone interested in participating. Local artists wanting to learn more about how you might be involved in sharing ideas, performing, teaching, and/or as a member of the Community Host Committee should email duane@kelly-strayhorn.org for more information.

ABOUT NATIONAL PERFORMANCE NETWORK
The National Performance Network and Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) believes artists and arts organizations are essential for creating a just and sustainable world, and we believe communities deserve broad access to art and culture that reflect their own experiences and inform about the experiences of others.

We seek to provide risk-taking performing and visual artists with the resources needed to develop and tour new work, to ensure arts leaders have the skills and opportunities to be change-makers in the arts presenting field, and to influence cultural policy for more just and artist-centered practices.

ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER
Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) uses the arts as a catalyst for community revitalization and plays a key role in the transformation of East Liberty and nearby neighborhoods. In its 16th year as an organization and 10th season of original programming, KST continues to demonstrate its commitment to Pittsburgh artists and audiences, supporting the presentation of risk-taking new work by emerging artists and arts organizations.

KST is also building community through art with the newly formed East Liberty Community Arts Fund, supporting ambitious temporary art projects. The first two projects – Deavron Dailey’s The Arms of East Liberty and Bob Ziller’s 15 Minutes – are now on display at 5906 Penn Ave. in East Liberty.

KST operates two professionally equipped venues along the Penn Avenue arts corridor. The historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater (formerly the Regent Theatre, 1914) is a 350-seat multi-arts venue and the last survivor of East Liberty’s nine original theaters. Noted Pittsburghers and KST namesakes Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn are among the 80 area artists honored in the theater’s Gallery of Stars. Just blocks away, KST’s Alloy Studios play host to intimate performance events and provide creative space for artist residencies, Alloy School dance classes, and performance rehearsals, as well as community art and music programs.

Major funding for KST Presents is provided by The Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Allegheny Regional Asset District.

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Cuban troupe Malpaso makes its Pittsburgh debut


Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

By Steve Sucato

The members of Havana’s Malpaso Dance Company were still decades from being born when, 54 years ago, the U.S. enacted a trade embargo with Cuba. But the effects of that embargo have overshadowed their lives and the lives of other Cuban artists ever since. But while the two nations, separated by 90 miles of water, have been politically at odds for more than half a century, their arts communities have been more tolerant. Even before the recent news that the Obama administration was in talks with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, artists from both countries — including Malpaso just last year — had managed to overcome bureaucratic barriers to create cultural exchanges.

Malpaso’s performances this weekend, for the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s World Stage Series, are part of those efforts.

The non-state-sponsored Malpaso was founded in 2012 by Fernando Sáez Carvajal, Dailedys Carrazana and former Danza Contemporanea de Cuba dancer Osnel Delgado. The 10-member contemporary-dance troupe’s name means “misstep” in English. The ironic name was inspired by naysayers who told Delgado it was a mistake to leave his popular former company to start his own. On the contrary, Malpaso shortly burst onto the world stage and attracted the attention of such international choreographers as Ronald K. Brown and Trey McIntyre.

Kelly-Strayhorn executive director Janera Solomon says that the company’s Pittsburgh debut arose from a casual conversation she had last summer at an event in Chicago with Martin Wechsler, director of programming at New York’s Joyce Theater. “The idea of bringing a contemporary-dance company from Cuba to Pittsburgh just seemed like an immediate yes,” says Solomon.
Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

The challenge, she says, was financial. “We are not the Joyce,” says Solomon. But even for the Joyce Theater, finding partners to help defray the cost of bringing in international artists is critical. Embargo laws have kept Cuban artists from touring here by prohibiting American presenters from paying fees to them, instead allowing them to pay only a small per diem and travel expenses. Ironically, those same laws helped the Kelly-Strayhorn afford to bring in Malpaso. The theater still needed additional help, however, from area donors and from the Joyce, which handled much of the logistical legwork.

Malpaso has been well received so far in the U.S. Reviewing the troupe’s May 2014 show at the Joyce, for instance, New York Times critic Siobahn Burke wrote: “They have the pristine technique but none of the rigidity that comes with [ballet] training. … They’re both humble and sparklingly present.”

Pittsburgh will host the U.S. premieres of the two works Malpaso will later perform in Washington, D.C., the Joyce and the Jacob’s Pillow Festival. The first work on the program will be the latest by Malpaso artistic director Delgado, entitled “Despedida” (“Farewell”). The 28-minute piece, says Malpaso executive director Carvajal via email, was inspired by the short poem of the same name by Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges. Malpaso’s dancers will perform a mix of contemporary ballet, modern dance and capoeira movement styles. Set to an original score by Grammy-winning Cuban-American musician Arturo O’Farrill, the poem speaks of intense longing, and having to say goodbye to a loved one. Carvajal writes the “personal circumstances of the choreographer and other members of the company” played into its creation.

The other premiere on the program is choreographer/filmmaker McIntyre’s 21-minute “Under Fire,” set to five songs by Boise, Idaho-based singer/songwriter Kelsey Swope, a.k.a. Grandma Kelsey.

The work, says McIntyre by phone from Durham, N.C., was inspired by the recent demise of his Boise-based Trey McIntyre Project. McIntyre burned stacks of old papers from the company in a bonfire in his backyard. He found that when he stirred the fire, it had burned only the outer edges of the papers and compacted them, “making them more perfect as a source of fuel,” says McIntyre.

Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

Malpaso Dance Company. Photo by Roberto Leon.

“I thought it was a really interesting metaphor for human life,” say McIntyre. “That in the process of trying to change our exteriors in some ways, it makes us more of who we are essentially in the ways that we are formed.”

For Malpaso and the Kelly-Strayhorn, the timing of this tour couldn’t have been better, with the recent and well-publicized thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuban governments.

“The opportunity of revisiting one of the main sources of the Cuban modern-dance and ballet tradition, and continuing a conversation that was interrupted between cultures that are deeply interconnected, is important,” writes Carvajal.

Forming artistic relationships and reaching out to new audiences is something artists and presenters from both countries hope will be a lot easier in the years to come.

Malpaso Dance Company performs 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 27, and 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 28., Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $10-25. 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org.

This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper  on February 25, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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