Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Be Free

For ‘…on being…’, STAYCEE PEARL dance project’s latest show, the troupe assessed character and themes related to “post-blackness.”




Photo by Bill Shirley
 

Artist and choreographer Staycee Pearl loves Pittsburgh, the city she’s called home since 2000. The contrasting landscape of curvaceous hills and surrounding rivers appeals to her artistic sensibilities, while the thriving, tight-knit arts community inspires her creativity.

“Although I knew nothing about Pittsburgh when I arrived, I’ve built an artistic family — and met my husband — here,” says the Wilkinsburg resident. Pearl, a 2011-12 August Wilson Center Fellowship recipient, has exhibited her art at Space Gallery, Sweetwater Center for the Arts and the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture. And she currently directs STAYCEE PEARL dance project, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s resident five-member modern-dance troupe (established by Pearl in 2010).

The Connecticut native (and daughter of an artist) was born into an environment where having the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (of NYC) come to her home and dismantle her swing set was defined as “artistic collaboration.” Any adverse impression that made on the young Pearl was eradicated by one of her high-school dance classes, which propelled her toward Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, the Ailey Center and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her performing career took her to Atlanta and New York, where she began dabbling in choreography in the mid-1990s.

Pearl, who specializes in video and graphic design, finds the multidimensional dance process a sharp contrast to “just you and your paper and pencil.” Her dance collaborations, rooted in personal experiences and those of other artists, are inspired by literature, social issues, pop culture and world cultures. She is amassing a repertory aimed at entertaining audiences while sending them home “thinking.”



Her newest multimedia work, …on being…, created in cooperation with sound designer (and husband) Herman Pearl, is a 75-minute non-narrative movement and sound exploration of identity and “post-blackness.” She explains that art curator Thelma Golden of New York’s Studio Museum coined the term “post-black.” “Post-blackness” suggests that African-American artists may opt to represent motivations outside of black themes in their works, but ultimately cannot remove the black perspective.

“It’s a very personal issue,” says Pearl, who concentrated on African studies, as well as studio art, at the University of Pittsburgh following her tenure as artistic director of Xpressions Contemporary Dance Co., which specialized in African-American-themed works. “I’ve had people say they didn’t think my work represented African-American culture in any way. And there have been times when that offended me. My work may not be considered traditionally black; however, I know what my traditions are. It’s all part of the work I do.”

Last year, Pearl and company pored over literature, articles, blogs, poetry and music, including video performance artist Hennessy Youngman’s presentation, “How to be a Successful Black Artist,” to prep for this newest work. Inspiration also emerged from Pearl’s inventive plain-talk discussions, “Salon Series 101.” Each chat encourages public dialog and movement experimentation in her Wilkinsburg studio, plumbing the cast’s personal experiences and perspectives of various topics, like identity and race.



“Not all cast members are African-American,” says Pearl, who selects performers for personality, individuality and varied technical abilities. “It’s been interesting to acquire different perspectives.”

Priming them with athletic movement, she asks dancers to unearth characters submerged in their personalities and pushes them into new territories. For …on being…, she recruited dramaturg Adil Mansoor, assigned improvisational exercises and welcomed movement contributions. She was especially pleased when these independent elements cohesively merged with her choreography.

Dancer Jasmine Hearn enjoyed the learning process on several levels. “Staycee said to me, ‘You have great internal focus; now, project out, right in front of you.’ She listens to us — as any choreographer making such an intimate work should. It’s been great to share my opinion as a black woman — on the idea of ‘post-black,’ I believe we are not ‘there,’” says the native Texan who joined the troupe after working with Dance Alloy Theater and the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble.

“What is ‘post-black’? Who decides?” asks Pearl. “The more research we did, the less we knew. Staying on-task was challenging, as our conversations branched off in 100 directions.”

While …on being… addresses shifting cultural perspectives, the creative process brought Pearl personal insights: “I am who I am. I realize you’re not going to get along with everyone — that was a hard lesson. People will think what they want about your work. What you do is not for everyone, but everyone has an audience.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.

Brick by Brick: Legos Go High Art

Made entirely out of Legos, the sculptures on the display at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Scaife Exhibit Gallery range from the whimsical to the otherworldly.

Mike Chen, Dean of the Chinese Kitchen

The owner of Everyday Noodles looks to encourage more regionally specific Chinese food in Pittsburgh restaurants.

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

Comments

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

This Pittsburgh couple is using their engagement photos to raise awareness about one of their most passionate causes.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments