When the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater hired Janera Solomon as executive director, in 2008, she arrived with a definite vision in mind. It was one in which the theater would serve as an incubator for new talent.
Today, Solomon's Next Stage artist-in-residence program affords participants free creative time in the theater along with production support, housing and a stipend for one week, culminating in a performance.
This weekend, the theater presents the work of its first two Next Stage artists. One is choreographer and Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham and his Abraham.in.Motion, who began work on The Radio Show during his January 2009 residency. The other is New York choreographer Sidra Bell, who is creating material for a new work that will premiere at the Kelly-Strayhorn next fall.
Since its work-in-progress showing a year ago, Abraham says, The Radio Show has undergone many changes. The multi-part, 60-minute work's through-line now involves reflections on Abraham's father's battle with Alzheimer's disease. But its underlying theme is the loss of Pittsburgh urban radio station WAMO, which ceased operations this past September.
Says Abraham: "With the recent turmoil surrounding the death of 16-year-old Darrion Albert in Chicago being discussed on radio stations around the world, I wondered how aware [Pittsburgh] radio listeners are of the goings-on in other urban communities in the country, now that its voice has been taken away. Without black radio, where is the audible voice of the black community?"
For the much sought-after Bell and her Sidra Bell Dance New York, meanwhile, the informal Jan. 29 work-in-progress showing is just one of several new works she has planned in 2010. There's also one for The Ailey School, and another that will premiere at her alma mater, upstate New York's Purchase College, the very next night.
A highlight of the Kelly-Strayhorn's newMoves dance festival last May, Bell's solo pieces "Conductivity" and "Overtures" showed her talent for creating purposeful, yet abstract, works of beauty.
In her Pittsburgh residency, Bell says she and six dancers will further explore how articulate a dancer's body can become. She will also work on new ideas for partnering.
Bell says she envisions an eclectic score mixing pop and classical music.
"I like music that is pretty formless," says Bell, by phone from New York. "I don't want it to dictate what my body is going to do, so I tend to go with music that is really open-sounding rather than a piece that has definite landmarks to it."
For those coming to see her company perform this week, Bell says the work-in-progress will "be in collage state." The company will fill out the 60-minute program with other works from its repertory.
Sidra Bell Dance New York performs 7:30 p.m. Fri., Jan. 29 ($5-15)
Abraham.in.Motion performs The Radio Show 9 p.m. Fri., Jan. 29, and 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 30 ($10-25)
Both Jan. 29 shows: $30. All performances: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Ave., East Liberty. 412-363-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org