photography by Cassie K Rusnak
Founder / Co-Artistic Director / Mover
Pearlann Porter is an improvisational performing artist, visual-conductor, physical-poet and experimental filmmaker, Pearlann is a passionate instigator of new ideas in dance and an investigator of physical expression. Her medium is the improvisational postmodern-jazz movement method THE ELLIPSIS CONDITION™. Her canvases are Pittsburgh and Paris.
Pearlann is the Founding Artistic Director of The Pillow Project, and the Founding Director of The Space Upstairs, where she is a full-time Resident Artist and the regular host/creator of the long-running SECOND SATURDAYS jazz-happenings. She holds a BFA in Dance from Point Park University where she has been on dance faculty for 20+ years. She has held artist residencies and/or created original work for The Dance Alloy, August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock University, Dance Conservatory of Pittsburgh, Point Park University, LABCO Dance, and TEDxGrandviewAve. Pearlann was named one of Dance Magazine's 25 To Watch in 2010, Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Best in Dance (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014), Pittsburgh Magazine's Best of the 'Burgh (2013, 2018), and has been six-times nominated for the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Award.
Pearlann currently lives in Pittsburgh and is (still) writing a book on physical-jazz and her postjazz methodology with her partner/collaborator John Lambert.
photography by Pearlann Porter
Co-Artistic Director / Carpenter / Poet
John Lambert is a practicing poet of over thirty years, previously of New Orleans and rooted now in Pittsburgh to collaborate with musicians, composers, dancers, mixed-media artists and writers to promote the sensibility of sharing ideas between the disciplines. As a classically trained, professional violinist, his methodology seeks a partnering of the lessons learned from music and other mediums with the opportunities inherent in dance.
He is a current resident artist at the Space Upstairs, acting as poet, writer, musician, master carpenter and student of THE ELLIPSIS CONDITION™ improvisational philosophy. At The Space, John is also the regular host of the monthly writer's group, THE POETRY ATELIER, and advocates insights be shared between art forms and provokes thought by replenishing prompts on walls in chalk.
He is partnered with Pearlann Porter in the creation, orchestration and funding of new works to engage audiences and performers, and to compile a formal document for publication on this new improvisational method. By choosing to live the postmodern-jazz as a verb, he advocates that we need never be separate from our craft, in or out of any studio.
photography by Cassie K Rusnak
Resident Technical Director / Luminography
Mike Cooper is the resident technical designer and videographer for The Space Upstairs, and has worked alongside director Pearlann Porter for over fifteen years, including The Pillow Project's Twenty Eighty-Four, Paper Memory and Backlit in a Whole New D. In this role he also developed Luminography, an original projection methodology that creates sensational and psychedelic imagery from nothing but a live video feed, no computers or filters necessary. Outside of the Space, he has worked with local artists and musicians such as slowdanger and Kaylin Horgan, as well as the Andy Warhol Museum and Carnegie Science Center.
photography by Abby Gleason
Resident Artist / Music Consultant
PJ is a full-time percussionist whose residency at the Space Upstairs since 2007 has seen him take the shape of musician, dancer, teacher and composer. His elastic rhythms and beat-scapes can be heard at nearly every Space Upstairs event either in the flesh or over the speakers at a monthly happening. PJ's profession as full-time dance accompanist has been a grindstone for his innate athleticism, sensitivity in storytelling the moment and untethered tone brimming with nods to cardiac arrhythmia, extended technique and his percussion study in Ghana. PJ's original compositions for The Pillow Project's Twenty Eighty-Four and Paper Memory launched a new chapter in scoring dance of which he has composed, performed, recorded and edited 9 within 9 years.
PJ is a trail-blazer, literally and figuratively, with a truly unique concoction of experience and influence. Like his free-jazz mentor, Milford Graves, PJ does not often settle into the background. PJ's recent performances might incorporate acoustic percussion, TerraPan (aka hang drum), minimalist piano, vocalization, digital sampling and looping, toy instruments, found percussion, meditation bells and bowls, and harmonica. With PJ, you never know.
Renée is a multi-disciplinary artist from the homeland of Dakota and Anishinaabe people known as Minnesota. Renée danced nationally and internationally with Ananya Dance Theatre from 2010-2020 and premiered her first 90-min composition for the company’s 2019 production Sutrajāl. As recipient of the 2018 McKnight Fellowship in Dance, she trained in Sicilian folk traditions with tamburello players Pasqualino Cacciola and Alessandra Belloni, and singers Simona DiGregorio and Julia Patinella. Her fellowship culminated in the film Magni Come Ragni (Hands Like Spiders), which premiered at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis. It is an official selection for Frozen River Film Festival 2022 and is curated in Film North’s Cinema Lounge.
In 2020, Renée co-directed, scored and produced 16-min experimental dance film CLOSE with her performance duo, Hiponymous. Their second film BACK UP is due to release May 2022. As founding member and sound-designer for break-dance-based BRKFST Dance Company since 2014, Renée joined their first international tour to Dublin, Ireland in March 2022.
As a 2021 American Composer’s Forum Create awardee, Renée will develop Terra Bubo, an evening-length water-percussion event with PJ Roduta, premiering August 2023 at The Space Upstairs. 2022 will be her first year as frequent musical guest at SECOND SATURDAYS. As a recent transplant, Renée is thrilled to find a creative home in Pittsburgh and with the communities enriched by The Space Upstairs.
Taylor Knight & Anna Thompson are co-founding artistic directors of slowdanger, a multidisciplinary performance organism based in Pittsburgh, PA. slowdanger uses a systematic approach to movement, integrative technology, found material, electronic instrumentation, vocalization, physiological centering, and ontological examination to produce their performance work, which utilizes ritual practice to delve into circular life patterning including effort, transformation, and death. Through the process of making each piece, slowdanger works with a heightened understanding of energy, synergy, action, gender, time, and storytelling. The more they engage in this collaborative work, the more they recognize the manifestation of their work as a non-binary entity that is one body amassed of multiple bodies in space.
Their work has been presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, Springboard Danse Montreal, Carnegie Museum of Art, Place Des Arts, Université du Québec à Montréal, Usine C, Dance Place, The Andy Warhol Museum, theCURRENTSESSIONS, BAAD!, Triskelion Arts, New Hazlett Theater, Kelly Strayhorn Theater and more. They have facilitated workshops at Carnegie Museum of Art, Gibney, Peridance, Painted Bride Arts Center, BAX, Slippery Rock University, Middlebury College, Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University and more. slowdanger was one of Dance Magazine’s 2018 “25 to Watch”, 2019 Performers in Residence at Carnegie Museum of Art and 2022-2023 resident artists at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland. Their work has been supported by The Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, The Heinz Endowments & Pittsburgh Foundation Investing in Professional Artists Award, The Opportunity Fund, PNC Charitable Trusts, Pittsburgh Foundations A W Mellon Fund and The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Special Presenters Initiative with Dance Place.
photography by Cassie Kay Rusnak
Kaylin Horgan began her dance training with Tammy Snyder at the young age of 2. She continued her dance education with facility at The Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts, and attended Point Park University, graduating with a BA in jazz dance.
As a founding member of Pearlann Porter’s Pillow Project, she traveled to Paris, London, Amsterdam and Dublin; performing with world renowned jazz musicians such as Moe Seager, Sabir Mateen, Rasul Siddik and Patrick Sadoc.
In 2010, she became a founding member and the Artistic Assistant of August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, directed by Greer Reed. During her 6 seasons with AWCDE, she worked with choreographers such as Kyle Abraham, Robert Battle, Sidra Bell, Camille A. Brown, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Crystal Frazier, Christopher Huggins and Terence Greene.
She currently dances with AntonioBrownDance (NYC), is a member of Raelle Hodges’s Elephant Room (NYC), Wylliams Henry Contemporary Dance Company (Kansas City, MO) and is a modern dance faculty member at Pittsburgh CAPA High School (Pittsburgh) .
photography by Pearlann Porter
Theo is a movement and improvisational artist and a movement artist. He has been a company member of The Pillow Project since 2020 and has been featured in the full length-works (in person) and UNDERSTARS with the company, as well as being a regular improvisationalist at Second Saturdays. Most recently, Theo presented their original solo multimedia work "I, um, well..." at PearlArt's Charrette series at The Kelly Strayhorn's Alloy Studios and is currently developing their first feature-length work. They most recently studied at Point Park University's Conservatory of Performing Arts with a concentration in Modern Dance, where he also performed in works choreographed by Jason McDole, Pearlann Porter, Penny Saunders, Jessica Lang, and Bob Fosse.