Dance Beat: Jessica, Jewels, James

December 5, 2016



DANCE JAM! Pittsburgh artist manager Jessica Marino (JAMpress management) is joining with Green Street Studios of Cambridge, Massachusetts to form Tracks to provide multiple showcase opportunities for dancers. Jessica and friends hope to “foster a creative environment where artists and presenters can meet, network and build meaningful relationships” with a goal of increasing performances, residencies, masterclasses and collaborations. Pittsburgh artists include Maree ReMalia & HyunJung Lee, Staycee Pearl Dance Project, Teena Marie Custer, Shana Simmons Dance, Brady Sanders and Jamie Erin Murphy. Already on tap are Gibney Dance Choreographic Studios in Cambridge, PearlArts Studios in Pittsburgh and Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange in Allentown, PA.

JEWELS. This looks like the ballet equivalent of Hamilton. Bolshoi Ballet! New York City Ballet! jewels_1421185cParis Opera Ballet! All together in one glorious run of George Balanchine’s Jewels. Wonder what the tickets will go for? Click on Jewels for more information.


JAMES. James Gilmer, formerly a student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, now residing and dancing at Columbus Ballet (soloist!) went to Kennedy Center as part of the company’s Nutcracker production. In this video clip from the company, you can spot him in two places, the first one a pirouette about 10 seconds in.


On Stage: Staycee Pearl at Play

June 1, 2015

11Staycee Pearl Playground

It seemed like a perfect summer evening as Staycee Pearl dance project seemingly set off the summer season with Playground.

The parking lot setting outside the SPdp studio was festive with poster boards, like large pages from coloring books with connecting strings of lights to define the dance area.

Before things started, audience members were instructed to carry their folding chairs to the opposite side of the area — no problem. Herman Pearl (DJ Soy Sos that night), set up his equipment in a corner of the 201 North Braddock Avenue location and a couple of vendors filled out the periphery.

The message was loud and clear — be informal and enjoy even though this particular project had been in the works for two years.

The dancers wore deliberately child-friendly attire, but sophisticated, too, with flirty baby doll dresses — black — for the women and denim shorts and black tees for the men.

As the title indicates, Playground was built on childhood, beginning with “play” of all sorts. That twirly, arms spread, face-to-the-sky position was probably something that everyone has done at one point in their lives.

Staycee neatly transferred that joy and freedom to the dancers and the dance.

Set to Soy Sos’ always impeccable sound landscape,  they were still able to express their own individuality, which allowed the interactive games, including hide and seek (of course) and child-like movements to lend a welcome spirit to the more adult-like vocabulary.

Best of all was Staycee’s use of multiple fronts, movement that “plays” at different angles at the same time and is hard to conceive, and some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.



On Stage: More Pearls of Dance

March 1, 2013

Staycee Pearl jump

Staycee Pearl dance project can be jumping for joy. Symbolic of Pittsburgh’s current dance boom, where choreographers are collectively reaching a new level of thought and maturity, Staycee and husband Herman delved into the topic of post-blackness during a trio of intriguing salons and a final performance. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

On Stage: Meet OCTAVIA

December 2, 2011

The notion of vampires has been around since prehistoric times and is a global phenomenon. But they took on a sophisticated allure and popularity, first in John Polidon ‘s 1819 novella, The Vampyre, and later eclipsed by Bram Stoker’s memorable Dracula in 1897.

Richard Matheson took it into the scientific realm with 1954’s I Am Legend. And now, all the way into the 21st century, vampires show no sign of abating. Think of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles or Stephanie Meyer’sTwilight series.

But all of that was lumped mostly into the category of horror fiction. Then along came Octavia Butler. Who, you say? Only the MacArthur Foundation winner of what is usually called the “genius” grant in 1995.

Octavia constructed a whole other world where vampires were only a part of a fantastical landscape. Fascinated by the richness of the characters for more than 20 years, choreographer Staycee Pearl decided to bring her own version to the stage.

Called simply OCTAVIA, it pays homage to this African-American woman who imaginatively defined her own path before she died in 2006.

Early on Staycee could identify with some of the characters, such as Anaywu, a shapeshifter who could heal herself. “Octavia is able to connect to the real world, real-life situations,” explains Staycee.

But there was so much to absorb. Vampires and humans. Extra-terrestrials and humans. Parasitic and/or symbiotic relationships. Staycee concluded that “there’s some kind of exchange, there’s always some kind of growth or transaction” that came out of the various connections.

Although Octavia is admittedly “a tough read for some people” and hardly a household name, Staycee felt that she could construct, along with husband Herman Pearl, a compelling piece, even for those not familiar with Octavia’s work.

The husband-and-wife team had a goal in expecting the viewer to get something out if without knowing the story. They have verbal transitions and interludes that “speak to the story, that speak to some of the ideas.”

So expect a journey into what Staycee also terms “magical realism.” Hopefully the results will be genuinely out of this world.

Meet OCTAVIA at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. Tickets available at the door.