KST Blog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Kelly Strayhorn Theater Presents Radioactive Practice, Genre-Bending Dance Work by Abby Z and the New Utility

EAST LIBERTY, PA—Kelly Strayhorn Theater is proud to present Abby Z and the New Utility’s Radioactive Practice at 8:00pm on Friday and Saturday, May 27–28, 2022, at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue.

Created by choreographer Abby Zbikowski, Radioactive Practice is a genre-bending work informed by movement traditions that span hip-hop, post-modern dance, contemporary African forms, tap, synchronized swimming, soccer, and the martial arts. The piece, developed in collaboration with Senegalese dance artist Momar Ndiaye, explores survival instincts and pushes the limits of the dancers’ physical capabilities in the context of contemporary living.

Zbikowski says she founded Abby Z and the New Utility in 2012 “to experiment with the potential and choreographic possibility of the body being pushed beyond its perceived limits.”

The company, characterized by its intense physicality and blend of dance and movement styles, has performed original works throughout the United States since its inception. In 2017, The New York Times praised dance piece Abandoned Playground for its “gutsiness and serious regard for rhythm.”

“I make contemporary dance works that pay homage to the effort of living, tactics of survival, and the aesthetics produced as a result, utilizing the physical aspects and psyche-emotional experience of my rigorous training background in African and Afro-diasporic forms, as well as playing sports and performing requisite acts of manual labor,” says Zbikowski. 

“As a white woman who has trained predominantly in contemporary African and African Diasporic forms, my goal is to create works that speak with dimension to multiple demographics simultaneously, as well as to broaden audiences that attend dance performances after experiencing firsthand the cultural divisions that exist along racial, cultural, and class lines in experimental concert dance.”

Radioactive Practice has its world premiere at New York Live Arts in NYC May 18–21, after which it will make its way to Pittsburgh. The piece will also be seen at Dance Place in Washington DC and with American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, this summer. In addition to Radioactive Practice performances in Pittsburgh, KST is thrilled to host two events that invite the dance community to meet with and learn from Zbikwoski. 

On Monday, May 23, Zbikowski and Ndiaye join Pittsburgh choreographer Staycee Pearl for Welcome Dinner & Conversation at 7:00pm at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue. Following dinner, the choreographers will facilitate an interactive discussion about dance in the 21st century, particularly across cultural lines.

On Wednesday, May 25, Zbikowski leads Reimagining Utility in the Body: A Class for Professional Dancers at 9:00am at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue, presented by PearlArts. The class explores contemporary dance practices in the context of Pittsburgh’s diverse community and blue collar history.

Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) was founded to foster bold and innovative artistry with a global perspective. KST’s 2021–22 season, Welcome Home, features events anchored in creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action to advance the liberation of Black and queer people. Through its history, KST has remained a central site for artistic expression and creative movement in Pittsburgh.

Tickets for Radioactive Practice on May 27–28 are available on a sliding scale, from $15 to 30 per attendee, and can be reserved at kst.imagebox.dev or purchased at the door.

Tickets for Welcome Dinner & Conversation: with Abby Zbikowski, Momar Ndiaye, and Staycee Pearl on May 23 are available on a sliding scale, from $15 to 30 per attendee, and can be reserved at kst.imagebox.dev or purchased at the door.

Tickets for Reimagining Utility in the Body: A Class for Professional Dancers on May 25 will be available soon.

For full season details, COVID policy updates, and tickets, go to kst.imagebox.dev.

Radioactive Practice is commissioned by ADF with support from the Doris Duke/SHS Foundations Award for New Works and The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. Additional commissioning funds provided by the Caroline Hearst Choreographer-In-Residence Program at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Dance Umbrella’s Four by Four program, United States Artists Fellowship, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

The creation of Radioactive Practice was supported in part by a commission from New York Live Arts’ Live Feed Residency program with additional support from the Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council with special thanks to Council Member Corey Johnson, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the Shubert Foundation.

Radioactive Practice is a National Performance Network/Visual Artist Network (NPN/VAN) Creation & Development Fund Project co- commissioned by New York Live Arts, Dance Place, American Dance Festival, Wexner Center for the Performing Arts and NPN/VAN. The Creation & Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: www.npnweb.org.

Radioactive Practice is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, made possible through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Abby Zbikowski created her company Abby Z and the New Utility in 2012. She is a 2020 United States Artists Fellow and received the 2017 Juried Bessie Award for her “unique and utterly authentic movement vocabulary in complex and demanding structures to create works of great energy, intensity, surprise, and danger.” In 2018 Dance Umbrella UK awarded her a “Choreographer of the Future” commission. She is an inaugural Caroline Hearst Choreographer-In-Residence at the Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University (2017–19), current artist in residence at New York Live Arts (2018–20), and has been in residence at Bates Dance Festival, American Dance Festival, and the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics. She is an assistant professor of Dance at the University of Illinois and on faculty at American Dance Festival. She has taught at the Academy of Culture in Riga, Latvia; at Festival Un Pas Vers L’Avant in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; and studied at Germaine Acogny’s L’École de Sables in Senegal. Zbikowski holds a BFA in dance from Temple University and an MFA from The Ohio State University. Zbikowski has performed with Charles O. Anderson/Dance Theater X, Momar Ndiaye, and the Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project. Her company has been presented nationally, performing at venues such as Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA, and the Fuse Box Festival in Austin, TX, among others.

Momar Ndiaye is an internationally recognized dance artist from Senegal who has taught and toured his work both in the States and abroad. He received his MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he taught contemporary and traditional African dance forms from Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Congo, etc., as well as video dance documentation. Ndiaye has worked with many well-known choreographers from Africa, Europe, Asia, and America through the program Aex. Corps initiated by the Association Premier Temp in Senegal. Since 2010, Momar has danced for internationally acclaimed choreographer Andreya Ouamba in the Dakar-based company Premier Temps and was selected as a Dance Web participant at Impuls Tanz Festival in Vienna, Austria, in 2012. He has been developing work with his own company, Cadanses, since 2004 and has created and toured several staged contemporary dance works. In 2015, Ndiaye’s evening length piece Toxu was a finalist laureate in the Danse L’Afrique Danse (Africa and Caribbean in Creation) Festival in St. Louis and Senegal and was toured to Europe as part of the Belluard Festival in Switzerland. In 2016, Momar was selected to participate in two intercultural projects, Shifting Realities, supported by Tanz Haus and Hellerau in Germany, and 1space, a collaboration between KVS Brussel, Exodus in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Alkantara Lisbon, Portugal.

Staycee Pearl is the co-artistic director of PearlArts and STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos, where she creates artful experiences through dance-centered multimedia works in collaboration with her husband and artistic collaborator, Herman Pearl. Staycee received her initial dance training at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. In 2009, STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos (SPdp&SS) debuted at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Since then the duo has produced several works including ..on being…, OCTAVIA, and FLOWERZ, and are currently working on their National Dance Project supported CIRCLES. Staycee is passionate about sharing resources and creating opportunities for the arts community by initiating project-generating programs including the Charrette Series, the In The Studio Series, and the PearlDiving Movement Residency.


Kelly Strayhorn Theater is a non-profit community performing arts center in East Liberty,  advancing live art through strategic vision and community collaboration with two venues running along Penn Avenue. KST’s Alloy Studios is a cultural hub in the heart of East  Liberty, and the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater is located in the thriving business district. More than 20 years after its founding, KST continues to use its broad reach to impact the contemporary arts and the community. KST’s mission is to be a home for creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action rooted in the liberation of Black and queer people. Welcome Home!