Young Pittsburgh dance companies striving to succeed

Young Pittsburgh dance companies striving to succeed


Exhalations Dance Theatre

Katie Mann and Lea Fosbenner grew up loving and studying dance and didn’t want to let that part of their lives go once they went to college for something else. When they met at Duquesne University, there were no outlets there for them to continue dancing while earning their degrees, so Ms. Mann founded a campus dance group so student dancers could continue with their craft while in school.

Five years later and now college graduates — Ms. Mann is a pharmacist and Ms. Fosbenner works for PNC Bank — the pair has transformed their student group into a community company for young professionals in other career fields who have advanced dance backgrounds and still want to perform. For each show, they hold auditions for dancers and invite choreographers to submit resumes and videos of their work.

At its core, the company concentrates on contemporary, but Ms. Mann and artistic director Ms. Fosbenner “like to taste different areas of dance,” as Ms. Mann puts it. Choreographers have come to them from ballet, modern and even tap dance backgrounds.

The Millennium Dance Complex on the South Side has served as their hub for rehearsal space and seeking new talent — which Pittsburgh doesn’t seem to be short on these days.

“It seems like Pittsburgh in general is a little more interested in dance than it has been before,” Ms. Mann says. “In the last few years there’s been a huge shift from big companies like Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre getting [most of] the attention to the formation of these new contemporary companies.”

Exhalations is gearing up for its next showcase — an engagement at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater Sept. 19-20 — with auditions today at Millennium Dance Complex. Once a cast is selected, Ms. Mann and Ms. Fosbenner run the show (costuming, producing, backstage managing, etc.) with help from family. To take part in the performance, dancers pay a small due that helps shoulder some of the costs of running the company. In exchange, they’re provided with costumes, rehearsal space, video and photo shoot opportunities and — most of all — a chance to still do something that they love.

“We would love to be able to put on more performances, eventually have our own space and just grow to be bigger and better and be able to bring dance to adults who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to dance,” Ms. Mann says.

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