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Why Companies Are Increasingly Opting For Shared, Collaborative Programs

Kaleena Miller Dance. Photo by Dan Norman, Courtesy Cowles Center

In what seems to be a growing trend, regional companies are coming together to share stages and expand their audiences. These team-ups often go beyond split bills, with companies swapping choreographers and performing at least one joint work. While the logistics of co-presentations can be complicated—with more dancers to schedule, budgets to balance and creative visions to blend—the benefits can range from bigger box-office returns to lasting relationships for the artists.


In 2017, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem came together for a shared program at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. "We got great feedback from the audience and I knew it was a good thing," says Terrence Orr, artistic director of PBT. The joint production was such a success, they're at it again this spring.

At the Cowles Center in Minneapolis, an initiative called MERGE, begun in 2016, has been partnering up local dance companies to help their dedicated audiences grow beyond their comfort zones. "We present 12 dance companies a year, so we are able to look for opportunities where we might cross-pollinate, say finding tap dancers who work well with breakers," says Andrew Dolan, manager of advancement for the Cowles Center.

"Sure, the financials are complicated and require foundations and sponsors," says Orr, "but there are a thousand reasons to do it and they are all good." For the artists, these team-ups are an opportunity to experience new perspectives and creative processes in the studio. For Pittsburgh audiences, the DTH and PBT shared program was a chance to see more dancers of color onstage with their home company.

"We want to meet a dance patron where they are at and then introduce them to even more," says Dolan.

Collaborations to Keep an Eye Out for This Month

"Made in Chicago" 312 Series

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Robyn Mineko Williams' Cloudline

Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Auditorium Theatre

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Malpaso Dance Company share the stage in this series at the Auditorium Theatre. In addition to a collaborative work, Hubbard Street will perform a piece from Malpaso artistic director Osnel Delgado, and Malpaso will dance a premiere by Hubbard regular Robyn Mineko Williams. March 2–3.

In Collaboration

BRKFST Dance Company

Bill Cameron, Courtesy Cowles Center

BRKFST Dance Company, a troupe that works on the edges of break dancing, martial arts and contemporary dance, will take part in a collaborative evening at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis with tap company Kaleena Miller Dance. March 8–10.

Tour de Force

Allen Birnbach, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Colorado Ballet teams up with fellow Denver-based companies Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and Wonderbound in new works by Robinson and Wonderbound's Garrett Ammon created especially for this program. March 8–10, Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre + Dance Theatre of Harlem

Duane Rieder, Courtesy PBT

This mixed rep features signature works from both companies and a collaborative staging of Stanton Welch's Orange. March 15–24, August Wilson Center.

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