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Category Archive: Artists

  1. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Trevor Miles

    We interviewed Trevor Miles, Pittsburgh choreographer, Americorps Public Ally at Public Allies Pittsburgh, and a Community Engagement Fellow at KST. Trevor is a self-proclaimed fashionista, reality television lover, fast food junkie and author of the KST Changemakers blog. Read more about his journey here as this week’s Changemaker!

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    Trevor Miles performing “The Awakening Pt. 1” at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater 

     

    What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    I currently serve as an Americorps Public Ally at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, working as their Community Engagement Fellow. As a Public Ally, I’ve been teaming up with like-minded individuals for several months, developing a citywide clean-up day for the Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and other service projects like hosting community discussions. I’ve made so many fascinating connections through the Public Allies Pittsburgh program!

    I’m also currently the Artistic Director of TCDC | Trevor C. Dance Collective, my own youth performing arts group based here in Pittsburgh. Forming this group has been amazing because it allows me to take youth that typically wouldn’t have the opportunity to perform and mentor them, train them, and get them in front of audiences across the city. TCDC isn’t the first team like this that I’ve spearheaded. For seven years prior to TCDC’s creation, I worked with CHANCE (Creating Hope and Newfound Courage Everywhere) based in Clairton, PA. During my seven years with that team, we raised over $10,000 for charities like Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Friends of Danang… so many!

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    CHANCE at KST’s East Liberty Celebration with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

     

     

     

    The really fascinating thing about my work with CHANCE is that we raised money off of pure grassroots methods. We worked eight to ten months putting our shows together, and only charged $3 per ticket for the final event. We sold Sarris Pretzels during the school year to purchase t-shirts for our dance group. The students would be in class all day, then spend hours with me after school creating routines. We put in work. That taught us all discipline, and showed us how to work as a family.

    Operating an organization like CHANCE was a humbling experience for me because it taught me the importance of garnering community buy-in. Clairton is a ‘sports town’, and dance didn’t really exist there before CHANCE kicked that initiative off. I had to get people to believe in our mission so they would come to the shows. Not only that, CHANCE at KST’s Halloween Mayhem performing Zombiji had to get the youth to believe in the power of movement.

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    CHANCE was inclusive—I opened the team up for students K-12 so literally anyone who was interested in helping out could hit the stage, or volunteer as a stagehand or costume decorator. I didn’t want kids to shy away because of a lack of training/dance knowledge. I teach my students not to be afraid to perform because they don’t possess the ‘right’ body type. I look for heart in my dancers. I tell them, “Give me the energy I need, and I can work with you. Go on stage and hit. Give me life.”

    I didn’t have a massive marketing machine behind me when I coached CHANCE. There was no startup budget for us. We had to knock on doors. We had to use word-of-mouth. We faced hurdles because we were operating out of a school district, like scheduling issues, grades, transportation problems, you name it. We were simply a group of 30 students from a tiny town, battling the odds. However, we wanted to enhance art in our community and help charities, and we never gave up on our mission. I’ve been blessed to be able to teach hundreds of kids during this process. When I was 23, the NAACP Clairton Chapter recognized my efforts in Clairton, and they awarded me the 2013 NAACP Community Service Award. Getting to perform with my team in front of the different NAACP chapters in Pennsylvania at their Human Rights Banquet was definitely a milestone for me. I’m proud to say I was a driving force in making performing arts a staple in Clairton.

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    TCDC operates the same way; we are a small team of seven young artists ages 9-25 that infuse contemporary and hip-hop into our storytelling. Young people have stories to tell as well, and our voices are loud. TCDC is very artistic in our approach and anyone who knows me knows I bring the drama during a performance! I’m looking forward to continuing to tear up Pittsburgh stages with TCDC during our 2015-2016 season!

     

    What is one defining moment of your life?

    My defining moment was when I was 17 and I discovered dance as an old man (17 is often considered old to begin dancing). I was a senior in high school and thought, “Well, it’s now or never to see if I can do this”. I always wanted to be a gymnast or singer, figure skater, actor or performer in some way as a youngster, but I never had the money or resources. I started learning African and Modern, and after a few months of stumbling around and struggling to remember the choreography, I hit the stage in a showcase at my school. And I did it!

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    I remember challenging my instructor Ennad Murrell a lot. I thought the modern music we were dancing to was odd, and I didn’t care for some of her choreography. However, I am so appreciative of that  because now that I teach kids, I see their discomfort in trying something completely new—I’ve learned that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a teachable moment—the amount you can get a child to grow from trying and conquering something new like dance is invaluable. I’m glad Ennad pushed me.

    When I got on stage, executed my moves and noticed the audience’s reaction… there was something very addictive about that. I think that’s a huge reason why I love performing today. I enjoy knowing the stories I tell on stage resonate with people, and that I can give them my energy and they return with their energy. We create this space of happiness and celebration. Dance brings humanity together, and it’s pretty freaking amazing to pioneer that.

     

    What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

    TCDCFind your passion and run with it. I’ve found youth who make an impact on their communities by selling cupcakes. Making jewelry. Cheerleading. Being a part of the science club. And of course dancing! Find that thing in the world that gives you life, and let it explode within you. Live, breathe, eat, and sleep your passion. That’s how you change the world around you. You have to love what you do.

     

    What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you). 

    Because I’m extra, I have five songs on my playlist: It’s All Good by Ciara, Warriors by Dawn Richards, Work by Ciara, Let’s Go by Icona Pop and 1 Thing by Amerie… in that order!

    Honestly, I have a million choices. I enjoy music that moves me. If a song is on and I start thinking of choreography, I put it on my playlist. I let it happen very organically. EDM, folk, jazz, symphonic—I don’t care, as long as I can dance to it!

    TCDC | Trevor C. Dance Collective is currently developing two stage performances, Dreaming and RENEGADE for their 2015–2016 season. To keep up with the team, visit them on Facebook.

     

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  2. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Chris Hnat

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers. We interviewed Chris Hnat, drummer for Soundwaves Steelband, KST’s resident steel pan ensemble.

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    What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    What I do for the community changes to suit what is needed at the moment, and that changes from time to time. It all has to do with the medium I use, which are the steelpans created by Phil Solomon. I help create an environment for people to learn all the necessary tools to understand music and how it benefits our lives. It helps us in learning how things work and how they are put together. At the moment, one thing I’m attempting to do is help nudge music, so it may evolve into a newer shape… creating many new opportunities for others to come, and be able to have this tool available to them so they may even progress higher as people, and perhaps have happy, healthier lives.

    What was one defining moment of your life?

    A defining moment in my life happened when the recession hit in 2008. Previous to that I had worked along side Phil Solomon for 12 years, as his assistant, building steelpans. We developed school programs, instruments for professionals across the world. Huge waves of positive changes happened from the environments Phil Solomon created. I witnessed many changes with my own two eyes. Knowing I wanted to be involved with steel pans—it wasn’t until we lost our work due to budget cuts and I was out of work—which is when I really decided that I was in this to help make changes in the world. Since then, I have had to make changes deep within myself and search for the understandings that will allow me to make the most effective changes that I can.

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    What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemanker in their community?

    Seek deep understanding of yourself, others and your surroundings. Get to know where everything is really at in this present moment. Observe.

    What is a song on your playlist that motivates you?

    A song that motivates me is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. As I learn more about the history of that piece of music, it drives me to want to understand and learn all the fine, deep understandings that the great composers have used to relay what they wanted to say through the music.

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  3. Fast Facts: Kenia Ashby

    KST welcomes Brazilian singer Kenia Ashby on May 16 as she celebrates famed singer Sergio Mendes. Learn more about Kenia before you see her live this Saturday.

    – Kenia was born in Nova Iguaçu, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro

    – She studied the piano and learned how to play the guitar by ear at a young age

    – Kenia broke out into music in NYC during the 1980’s and 1990’s with pop-accented Brazilian jazz

    – Kenia has been featured in jazz festivals all across the northeastern US, including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware
    – She has even performed internationally in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mexico City, Warsaw, Poland

    – Her sound is described as a unique blend of pop, bossa nova, and jazz—deep, sultry and richly diverse

    “Kenia is a Brazilian original, building a bridge to the next generation of Brazilian music fans… her voice can suspend time, and it can lead you to think about nothing at all, even if just for a few minuts, and in this day that’s nothing short of miraculous.” –  ~Scott Adams, Radio Personality at IHeartMedia Inc.

    Kenia’s website features her bio, videos and more. Doors for A Celebration of Sergio Mendes open at 7 PM, and the event features Brazilian appetizers and a cash bar. Click here here for more information on this great evening of music, food, and friends.

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  4. Pittsburgh Changemaker: Yanlai Wu

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers. We interviewed Yanlai Wu, founder of the Yanlai Dance Academy.


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    Yanlai Dance Academy. Photos Courtesy of Yanlai Dance and JuliaBelechak.Wordpress.Com

    What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

    As the first Chinese dance academy in the Pittsburgh area, I feel a deep obligation to provide a cultural outlet for the Chinese American community in the region and also a great desire to introduce the beauty and intricacies of Chinese culture and dance to everyone in Pittsburgh. China and the US are important leaders in the world and I believe it is important for Chinese people to understand the West and Americans to understand the East. The Yanlai Dance Academy is trying to act as a bridge between those two communities.

    What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

    After retiring as a professional dancer, I was living in Houston and teaching at a Chinese dance school there (one that has been featured on the television program America’s Got Talent). Two of my friends and former classmates at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy were principal dancers for the Pittsburgh Ballet. They told me that the Pittsburgh region did not have any Chinese dance schools and that I should come here and open one. I took the leap, moved, and opened my school in 2004. Shortly after that my friends left Pittsburgh and returned to China, but I still am happy that I made the move and made Pittsburgh my home.

    What advice do you have for youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

    At Yanlai Dance Academy, I emphasize the importance of hard work, a belief in oneself and perseverance to overcome adversity. I believe those are the cornerstones of a great dancer and an accomplished individual. I work with students from age three to adults. I’ve watched my students mature from giggly children to impressive, poised adults. I encourage the students to work hard to perfect the dances that I choreograph for them. I get them up on local stages at many festivals and events throughout the year to build their self esteem and confidence. And I encourage them. They all hit obstacles that they find difficult and—through patient coaching and practice—I help them conquer those problems and reach their goals.

    These cornerstones of dance—hard work, belief in oneself, and perseverance makes great dancers, but these attributes also make an individual a great leader who can make positive change to his/her community. We also instill in our students an appreciation and understanding of Chinese culture. Most of my students will never be professional dancers but the skills they learn and the worldly perspective that they get at Yanlai Dance Academy will help them become thoughtful and productive citizens of the world.

    BasicWhat is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you).

    I know that this answer will make me sound very boring, but I don’t even HAVE a playlist—let alone one song that drives me. I’m very busy right now mounting our May 9th performance of The Chinese Nutcracker at the Byham Theatre. Not only am I choreographing and teaching the dances to all of the students, I’m also selling ads for the programs, designing costumes and props, working with the Pittsburgh Art Institute to create video backgrounds, creating my lighting plan, overseeing marketing and ticket sales and occasionally sleeping. Ask me about my playlist again after May 9th and I promise that I will have a better answer for you.

     

     

    Yanlai Dance Academy is presenting The Chinese Nutcracker on Saturday May 9th at The Byham Theatre.

    The code Special2 (not case sensitive) gives $5 off each ticket (Adult becomes $25.75 and child becomes $15.75. Babies/todders in arms are admitted for free). Tickets are available here or at the Box Office. You can also check out Yanlai Dance Academy’s YouTube here.

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  5. newMoves Fast Facts: Joan Wagman

    This spring, KST presents the sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to presen short works each night. Read more about the newMoves participants here before you see their new works on stage, May 7–9.

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    Joan Wagman, Pittsburgh Choreographer

    • Joan was a dance professor at Chatham College, Youngstown State University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    • She has shown her work at Wood Street Galleries, the Byham Theater and the New Hazlett Theater
    • Joan has also done choroegraphy for plays, operas and musicals, including Romeo and Juliet, The Mikado and Parade
    • Joan Wagman’s newMoves piece is entitled Pinkification
    • Pinkification lightly touches on cancer, sexuality and inhumanities

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     Watch examples of Joan’s work on her vimeo, and order your newMoves festival passes here.

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  6. newMoves Fast Facts: Moriah Ella Mason

    This weekend, KST is presenting its sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to present a medley of four to five short works each night. Read more about the newMoves participants here before you see their new works on stage, May 7-9.

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    Interdisciplinary artist Moriah Ella Mason 

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    • Moriah graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2009 with a B.A. in Modern Dance and International Development
    • Her choreography has been presented at Future Tenant, the New Hazlett Theater, Vox Populi (Philadelphia Fringe Festival) and venues throughout Philadelphia, Tucson and Brooklyn
    • Moriah’s newMoves piece is named Diasporate.
    • Diasporate reflects on Jewish history, and will feature two dancers using embodied experiences of ritual, prayer and inclusion
    • Diasporate also explores whiteness, otherness and privilege in the United States
    • Point Park graduate Riva Strauss will also be featured in this piece

     

     

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    You can read an excerpt of Moriah’s work with RAW/Yes Brain Dance Theater, and order your newMoves festival passes now.

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  7. newMoves Fast Facts: Alexandra Bodnarchuk

    This spring, KST is presenting its sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to present a medley of four to five short works each night. Read more about the newMoves participants here before you see their new works on stage, May 7-9.

    Photo by David Kelly

    • Alexandra began training in jazz, ballet and tap at Benvin Dance Academy at the age of two.
    • She has also studied various ethnic dance styles, including Eastern European Folk Dance and Ghanian Dance.
    • Alexandra has presented work at the American Dance Festival, and the HATCH Presenting Series (NYC) and RAW Pittsburgh and RAW Minneapolis (June, 2015).
    • Alexandra premiered CONNOTATIONS: unknown in May 2014 at PearlArts Studios.
    • Her process is rooted in an exploration of visceral physicality through the lens of multiple techniques
    • She’s also interested in photography
    • Alexandra’s newMoves piece,…and countingexplores the values of numerical facts by which we define ourselves, as a means of assessing the past, present and future.

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    Photo By Lindsay Dill.

    Pick up your newMoves festival passes today and check out Alexandra’s newMoves piece this Thursday.

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  8. newMoves Fast Facts: Elizabeth Atwell

    This spring, KST is presenting its sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to present a medley of four to five short works each night. Read more about the newMoves participants here before you see their new works on stage, May 7-9.


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    Factory Street Studio Dancers

    • Factory Street Studios is based in Athens, Ohio
    • Artistic Director Elizabeth Atwell has studied at American Ballet Theater, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Ballet Met and other sites
    • Elizabeth also served as an AmeriCorps member in Appalachian Ohio, and she is registered with Yoga Alliance
    • Her choreography has been shown at the West Virginia Dance Festival and the Ohio Paw Festival


    Elizabeth Atwell, Choreographer

    • Her newMoves piece, Revolution, explores “What is dance? Movement? Someone dancing?”, and features four high school seniors.

    Purchase your festival passes now to see her performance at newMoves and be sure to check out Factory Street Studios.

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  9. newMoves Artist Spotlight: Maree ReMalia

    This spring, KST is presenting its sixth annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This festival brings young local and national choreographers to the stage to present a medley of four to five short works each night. Read more about Maree ReMalia here before you see their new works on stage, May 7-9.

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    Choreographer Maree ReMalia | merrygogo

     

    Briefly describe your role as a choreographer/dancer and your upcoming performance at newMoves?

    In my role as a choreographer, I am interested in the particulars of people, places, and things. As a starting point for the first iteration of the Circulation Project (work-in-progress), my collaborators and I were exploring ideas related to habit, re-activating neglected spaces, and bringing what is at the margins to the center. We developed a collective movement language that drew from our writing, discussions, and shared interests. My role is a lot about allowing, offering prompts for movement, and holding a space that invites a range of expressions, movement and otherwise, to emerge, then responding intuitively to shape and structure the material.

     

    What does it mean to you to be a choreographer in DC?

    I have been living in D.C. for less than a year and have been activated in new ways by the spectrum of value placed on community dance, dance in healthcare, and site-specific and concert dance. I am still finding my way into the community and learning more of the range in aesthetic that exists in the area.

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    What your thoughts on the current and future dance scene in Pittsburgh vs. DC?

    I am eager to see what transpires in the dance scenes in Pittsburgh and DC, both of which seem to be thriving and growing with support for both local and touring artists.

     

    What do you hope to get out of your performance at newMoves? What do you hope audiences will take from your work?

    Through our performance at newMoves, I look forward to building new relationships with artists I have not yet met and to reconnect with the Pittsburgh community, which has been very meaningful and present in my artistic and personal development. I hope audience members will be open to what comes up for them as they experience the work without the pressure of trying to solve it.

    Buy your newMoves festival passes now and don’t forget to register for Maree’s master class on Friday, May 8, 10 AM at the Alloy Studios. Registration is pay-what-you-can and seating is limited.

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  10. newMoves Fast Facts: slowdanger

    slowdanger is the pseudonym, nom de guerre, and stage moniker of Pittsburgh-based performance artists Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight. Anna and Taylor use their bodies as mediums, creating movement, sound, and visual images that express an energetic and sensual connection to body and spirit. Read about the duo before you see their new work on stage May 7 at the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival.

    • In addition to making dance, these Point Park alums produce music and released their debut album in March 2015
    • slowdanger’s work has been shown at the Pittsburgh Biennial and The Space Upstairs
    • Outside of Pittsburgh, slowdanger has performed at the Goose Route Dance Festival in Shepardstown, WV
    • Their work for newMoves, memory 3: swimmoon, reflects on the thought “I am what I remember, what I remember is what I am” and explores performance as “a reinterpretation of a memory in the present.”

    Read more about the newMoves Festival and purchase your festival passes today to catch slowdanger’s innovative performance.

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    Article by Trevor Miles 

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