It's pretty clear what Dance Alloy Theater gets from a merger with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater: The venerable but financially struggling group will continue to exist, if no longer as an independent outfit.
But what does the Kelly-Strayhorn get out of the deal? And, more importantly from the perspective of arts patrons, what does the merger mean for dance in Pittsburgh?
Answers to such questions came into a little clearer focus last night, as the groups formally announced the merger at a reception at the Kelly-Strayhorn, in East Liberty. (This blog first reported on the merger in late August: www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A99681.)
"We believe this is going to be a win-win for both organizations," Kelly-Strayhorn board chairman Fran Escalante told the 50 or so attendees, who included members of both boards and two of the five Alloy dancers whose seasonal contracts were not renewed as merger negotiations progressed this past summer.
Under executive director janera solomon, the Kelly-Strayhorn has been an growing presence on the local dance scene in recent years. Last night, Escalante, solomon and Dance Alloy board president Cabot Earle all said that the merger would strengthen dance in Pittsburgh.
Merger talks were initiated early this year by the Alloy. "They knew that they couldn't sustain themselves in the current situation," said Escalante. (He said, however, that the Alloy had no significant unpaid bills, and emphasized that the merger wasn't "a bailout.")
For the moment, the move leaves a big gap in the local arts calendar, where the Alloy has been a presence for 35 years, for much of that time as the region's premiere modern-dance company.
While some former Alloy dancers continue to perform through the Kelly-Strayhorn on a project-by-project basis, the group's usual fall and spring main-stage shows have been canceled. solomon said that the group is on "hiatus," and that the earliest there might be an Alloy show is next fall.
But whether the Alloy will return as a troupe with its own artistic identity remains to be seen. Solomon said while the Kelly-Strayhorn remains dedicated to dance, the Alloy's future as a performing entity is largely a matter of funding. "How much is this community willing to give to support dance activity?" she asked rhetorically.
The Kelly-Strayhorn, meanwhile, gains from the association with the Alloy's name and its community ties through its education programs.
The Alloy's community dance school for children and adults, for instance, continues to function, solomon said, with 70 students in nine classes this fall. And Alloy instructors continue to lead classes for 100 K-12 students in area schools.
The Kelly-Strayhorn also gains other resources. For one, Alloy board members were invited to join the Kelly-Strayhorn board. Some agreed, raising the total number of board members from 14 to 22, including Alloy board president Earle.
Not least, the Kelly-Strayhorn will take over the Alloy's leased two-story studio space, located just a few blocks down Penn Avenue, in Friendship. The studio provides an additional space for small-scale theatrical or dance performances. (It lacks a stage, but has a sprung floor suitable for dance.) And, says Escalante, it will free up the Kelly-Strayhorn stage, which is often occupied by rehearsals on nights when the theater could be staging or hosting performances. (The Kelly-Strayhorn had in fact previously rented the Alloy space for rehearsals.)
In recent years, the Kelly-Strayhorn has produced the increasingly popular NewMoves dance festival -- the fourth is scheduled for May -- and hosted residencies for visiting choreographers to create new work. Both initiatives have brought cutting-edge artists to town, and solomon says the theater's dance audience has grown.
The merger, she said, could allow, for instance, for more residencies for local and even international choreographers.
"We want more dance-making to happen in Pittsburgh, and we're going to do whatever we can to support that," said solomon.