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New director sizing up Pittsburgh Dance Council

Saturday, June 30, 2001

By Jane Vranish, Post-Gazette Dance and Music Critic

In the wake of executive director Gray Montague's sudden departure from the Pittsburgh Dance Council, the board acted swiftly to hire Paul Organisak, a Pittsburgh native and former associate director of development at the contemporary dance presenting organization.

Organisak was already in town this week "house-hunting and exploring," he said. As of yesterday he was trying to get "a sense of where we are" by looking over the finances and strategic plan before taking over the reins July 16. He will meet with the staff Monday before returning to Boston on July 5.

There, Organisak will wrap up his duties as executive director of the now-defunct Dance Umbrella, New England's largest dance presenter and a powerhouse on the national scene.

"What a loss," Organisak comments. "The problems were so deeply rooted." In 1999, prior to his arrival in July, the Dance Umbrella went public about its impending bankruptcy, and the resulting public outpouring allowed it to delay what proved to be the inevitable.

A native of Carrick, Organisak brings with him "a deep love of Pittsburgh." He attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in music history and musicology. "I thought I was going to teach music history and research Mahler," he says. But a graduate course in arts management opened new doors for his wide-ranging interests.

He returned to Pittsburgh as assistant director of development at Civic Light Opera. When the position of development director opened at the Dance Council in 1988, Organisak took the step. "He was so organized," recalls former Dance Council executive director Carolelinda Dickey. "Paul had high ethical standards and a real thoroughness, along with an ambition that was admirable. But I most appreciated his love of contemporary work. He really wants to help the artists to realize their vision."

Organisak would go on to direct the American College Dance Festival in 1991. "I'm proud that, when I left, it was financially sound and a nationally recognized organization."

His primary objective at the Dance Council, "after finding out where the coffee machine is," will be to build financial stability in a difficult economic climate.

Using his "60-40" approach to the business and artistic aspects, Organisak will do a market analysis in order to reposition the Dance Council within the arts community.

That might mean forming new alliances on a national level and locally with groups such as Dance Alloy.

"I expect to hit the ground running," Organisak says. "I want to find what's next in dance presenting."

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