Music meets movement at PearlArts Studios

Herman and Staycee Pearl are proof that sound and dance go hand in hand 

by Amanda Reed
September 9, 2020

According to Staycee and Herman Pearl, who helm PearlArts Studios, how they met is kind of a funny story.

The pair had mutual friends in New York City. Herman called one of the friends, who was seeing Staycee at the time. Staycee picked up.

“We realized that we had spoken on the phone before we ever met,” Herman says.

A hub for music & movement in Point Breeze

PearlArts Studios is the creative space for the STAYCEE PEARL dance project and Soy Sos — Herman Pearl’s artistic moniker — to develop multimedia dance-centered works. Located in the Mine Factory Building in Point Breeze, PearlArts also serves the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond with artistic opportunities such as movement residencies, creative collaborations and dance education.

PearlArts Studios offers:

  • Residencies for dancers
  • Audio recording studio
  • Youth programming
  • Dance classes

The duo first collaborated when Staycee — then just a fan of Herman’s band, Solo Mestizo — began dating Herman.

“I would dance at their concerts or we’d put together programs where I hired dancers to dance with me and we’d do full dance [and] sound things,” she says. “And then there were times when I would do an installation or I planned on doing a one-woman show a few years ago, and I had Herman engineer and develop my sound for that.”

Eventually, people started commissioning the duo for work. In 2010, they were offered a dance residency at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty, where they were the resident dance company for three years.

“I guess 2010 is when we officially became a thing,” Staycee says, referring to when PearlArts was formed.

In 2012, they moved into their current space, where they began providing artist residencies for movement and sound while continuing their collaboration.

“That just opened up a whole other can of worms,” Staycee says. “We wanted to see opportunities for young people that we didn’t have as there’s a certain level of mentorship that you don’t get at a college when you’re dancing.”

Youth programming and dance classes

During COVID-19, the couple has focused their artistic energy into online programming and socially distant dancing. They did an online fundraiser for the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in July, have led virtual and outdoor rehearsals with their dancers and have prerecorded classes that were posted online.

According to Herman, movement and sound are incredibly connected, between timing and an actual performance itself.

“Most musicians don’t care whether a song is three minutes and 17 seconds or three minutes and 22 seconds, but in dance, sometimes it matters,” Herman says. “It might be something as simple as Staycee needing a song to be shortened for that reason or cuss words to be taken out of the song for a performance for kids. Or it could be that we’re building something from the ground up together, and then she’s picking up on what I made, and then building something from that.”

And, even before Herman met Staycee, he was interested in the intersection between movement and sound by working with other choreographers.

“In a way, I was training to be with her,” he says.

Some couples don’t mix business with pleasure. But for Herman and Staycee, it’s how PearlArts Studios came to be.

“I feel like this whole PearlArts thing is the most organic birthing and development of anything in my life,” Staycee says. “It just felt like the most natural thing for us as artists and people who get along really well to do and the best way for us to use our individual talents.”

📸 Header photo credit: Kitoko Chargois.

Amanda Reed is a Pittsburgh-based journalist who mostly makes dumb jokes on Twitter @reedkat_ . Her work has appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh City Paper, the Riveter Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and the Pittsburgh Current. She proudly owns multiple faux fur coats and really loves opossums.

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