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Kelly Strayhorn Theater presents 'Full Bloom' benefit, and summer series

Andre Koslowski in 'Wiegenlied'
Vanessa Briceno

The Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty was recently awarded a $1.05 million grant from the Heinz Endowment, signaling the growing popularity of the space. Executive Director, Janera Solomon, has done tremendous work over the years to introduce community members to the theater.

Next Saturday, the 6th annual “Full Bloom” fundraiser will bring even more awareness to the theater’s rich history and exciting future. The spring dance party helps to underwrite the East Liberty Live series, a summer-long program of performing arts shows.

The benefit’s theme this year is “take to the skies.” Joseph Hall, Producing Director of the theater, says the evening will have a “light and airy feel.” Decor will include birds, planes, hot air balloons, and anything else the creative staff can dream up.

For VIPs, the party begins at 7:00 p.m. Guests will enjoy an outdoor performance by dancer and singer, Vie Boheme. Hall says they wanted Boheme outside so that even passers-by could listen and watch.

Once through a beer garden in the foyer, guests will admire the artistry of aerialist, Kelsey Keller, in the lobby. In addition, Red Moose Presents, in collaboration with Continuum Dance Theater, will present scenes from their upcoming opera, “Cendrillon.”

From there, most of the action will take place in the main theater. The stage will be transformed into an expansive lounge with food, drinks and entertainment. A live and silent auction will also happen at that time. And the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse will guide guests through a five minute craft as a memento from the evening.

At 9:00, the official dance party will get started in the lobby. Hall says the rest of the evening will be mostly performance free. Anyone who has been to Full Bloom in the past knows that the dance party is a performance in and of itself.

As for the East Liberty Live series that the evening benefits, the theater will be hosting many diverse artists from June through August. Similar to their annual newMoves festival, the dancers they include often return to the theater the following season to premiere their finished work.

This year, Andre Koslowski of State College, PA will show “Wiegenlied,” a piece he began creating last year. He will be working with Leonie Stein, former head of the Y Institute at Bern University of the Arts.

Seasoned New York choreographer, Dean Moss, will present “johnbrown.” Moss will use five teenage production assistants who will also make a stage appearance. Interested teens, 14-19 years old, can inquire with the theater.

Gabrielle Revlock and Nicole Bindler, from Philadelphia, will be using a large cast of 25 Pittsburgh performers in their piece, “I made this for you.” The show is interactive, and in the past has included body builders, hula hoopers, senior citizens and a trombonist. Interested performers should contact Community Engagement Specialist, Desiree Lee, by calling 412-363-3000, or email

Marjani Forte, a New York choreographer, will be working with a social service organization while she is here. The themes in “being Here.../this time” include mental illness and poverty. Local dancer, Jasmine Hearn, will be in the show.

To close the summer of movement, Reed Dance will hold their summer intensive at the theater, culminating in a final performance. The showing will be family-friendly.

Of this year’s programming, Hall says, “These artists have clear ideas about what they want to comment on. People want to have these conversations. And that is the power of art; we can use it to strike up conversation and community.”

Check out the details of Full Bloom below, and the complete East Liberty Live schedule HERE.

Full Bloom Summer Dance Party

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 from 7:00 p.m.–Midnight

Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. in East Liberty

All Access VIP $125 (7:00-9:00 p.m.)

Dance Party $35 (9:00 p.m. - Midnight)

Purchase tickets HERE.

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