Friday, January 23rd, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Two big steps by DanceCleveland have brought Northeast Ohio close to being a national wellspring for the art.
The recipient of some $210,000 in grants from two major foundations, the presenter is now actively pushing Northeast Ohio as a place to establish a national center for choreography.
Should the idea come to fruition, possibly as early as next year, the facility for developing new dance would be more › only the second of its kind in the country, after the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Among funders, said Pamela Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, "There's a real focus to be more involved in the creative process and support dance in the creative sense. We think there's a real need and appetite for this in the national ecosystem."
Whether she's right, and how far that appetite extends, will soon be clear.
Never one to wait around, DanceCleveland already has put the money it received – approximately $140,000 from the Knight Foundation and $70,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation – to good use by hiring Beachwood consultant Janus Small to conduct a feasibility study. The study, conducted in partnership with FSU faculty member Jennifer Calienes, is slated to be finished this summer.
"There's a wide variety of conclusions we could reach, anywhere from [recommending] our ideal solution to this not making sense for Northeast Ohio," Small said.
In addition, as part of the study, three or possibly four choreographers will visit the region and employ the sorts of resources a dedicated center would provide to create new works. The first, Camille A. Brown, already has gotten started.
That's not all. The study also builds on a solid foundation of feedback generated in the fall of 2013, when DanceCleveland brought a panel of national dance leaders, academics and choreographers to the city to formally consider the idea.
"We had some good conversations, and there was some strong interest," noted Young. "We had some really impressive people here, and they couldn't get over the possibilities."
"We think there's a real need and appetite for this in the national ecosystem."
Young, of course, and her staff, were the first ones to spot those possibilities. Regular presenters of world premieres, they hear about and witness firsthand the pangs of labor that often accompany the development of new dance.
Beyond that, they also connected the dots, detecting the potential in the region's many colleges, universities, theaters and studios. While the feasibility study is looking far and wide, all the way from Oberlin to Youngstown, one venue in particular, the School of Dance, Theatre and Arts Administration at the University of Akron, struck Young early on as a strong candidate.
Beyond initial ideas, she explained, choreographers need three things: research facilities, a studio and time in a theater. And yet most dance-makers rarely have access to all three, let alone in one location, as they could at Akron.
"We began to realize we have all three kinds of things here," Young said. "We began to wonder if we couldn't put together a place for dance to be made."
Even at this early point in her study, Small said she has "every reason to believe" the center will materialize in some form. Should that prediction come true, Young added, both the dance communities of Northeast Ohio and the nation at large will benefit greatly.
For Cleveland, she said, the facility would serve as another feather in the city's cultural cap, a second major boost alongside this week's International Association of Blacks in Dance conference. On the national level, meanwhile, the center would stand as a bold solution to one of the dance world's chronic problems.
"If it strengthens Northeast Ohio dance, it strengthens dance for everybody," Young explained. "It has the potential to be a catapulting opportunity, to make Northeast Ohio a major focal point in the national dance scene. The stars are aligning to make a huge impact."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 12:00 PM
The gravity-defying dance troupe Pilobolus, known for its breathtaking shape-shifting using the human body as the medium, will give a single Cleveland performance at the end of the month at the State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare.
The five-dance program will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 31, including On the Nature of Things, inspired by ancient sculptures and the classical baroque. It's performed by dancers balanced on a two-foot wide column rising above more › the stage, set to music by Michelle DiBucci and Ed Bilous. The Washington Post described the dancers as having both impressive musculature and a "magical floating quality" in this work.
Also on the bill is All Is Not Lost, created by Grammy award-winning OK Go, Pilobolus and Trish Sie, as the live companion to Pilobolus' video collaboration with OK Go. The company will share its dramatic flair and quirky humor in the The Inconsistent Peddler, with music by Perez Prado and Tom Petty. The work was created by four of Pilobolus' artistic leaders in collaboration with fiction writer Etgar Keret and filmmaker Shire Geffen.
In Sweet Purgatory, set to lush music by Dmitri Shostakovich, the dancers will appear suspended in time and space. Finally, Cleveland audiences will be the first to see a preview of an unnamed new 2015 Pilobolus work.
Tickets start at $20. Call 216-241-6000 or see www.dancecleveland.org.
Pilobolus, named after a barnyard fungus, was founded in 1971 by a group of Dartmouth College gymnastic students. The inventive, athletic troupe has been seen on commercials, music videos and in appearances on the Academy Awards, Oprah Winfrey's show, Conan O'Brien and NFL Network.
Akron Beacon Journal, Kerry Clawson
RELATED COMPANY: Pilobolus
Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 12:00 PM
How many dance companies do you know that take their name from a fungus – and at that, a particular volatile breed that can propel itself and stick on the surface of whatever it aims at? Perhaps that kind of funny connection occurred to the Dartmouth College dancers who began the group Pilobolus back in the 1970s, making them known for their unusual, kinesthetic approach to dance-making.
Pilobolus has since gone more › on to become world famous, appearing in the greater Akron area in past years, but coming again for a one-performance concert on January 31 for DanceCleveland, a Knight Arts grantee.
As organizers have rightly pointed out, Pilobolus is deeply rooted in experimentation, dance improvisation and self-exploration, using the human body as a medium of expression to create form and movement with breathtaking effect. In other appearances, members have noted that they work collaboratively to explore through complicated physical movement and strain the central notion that they are trying to work out through highly lithe and limber movement.
Generally, the response to their work is a slack-jawed reaction along the lines of "How did they do that?" or, more likely, "How did they ever come up with the unique dance expression that they perform on stage?"
The company will perform four works reflecting the incredible variety of its repertory. One piece, "On the Nature of Things," is inspired by ancient sculptures. To get at that idea, the work is performed by dancers balanced on a two-foot wide column rising above the stage. It is set to music by Michelle DiBucci and Ed Bilous but inspired by the classical Baroque genre. One critic praised this work by saying, "There is a Sistine Chapel aesthetic here, in the fleshiness, the impressive musculatures and the dancers' magical floating quality."
Another piece, "All Is Not Lost," has been created by Grammy Award-winning OK Go, Pilobolus and Trish Sie. The performance piece is the live companion to Pilobolus' video collaboration with OK Go. For the stage, the dancers have a video showing them off to the side, dancing atop a clear flat surface, under which a camera is catching the various shapes and configurations that the dancers can create right in front of the audience's eyes. It can be amazing to watch the process that these dancers go through – and see in automatic feedback the beauty they create. Playing with multiple perspectives, gravity and dimensionality, the piece, organizers say, changes how people look at dance through a kaleidoscopic view of human connection.
On a lighter side, the troupe's dramatic flair and quirky sense of humor comes into play in the "The Inconsistent Pedaler." With music by pop music legends Perez Prado and Tom Petty, the work was created by four of Pilobolus' artistic leaders in collaboration with fiction writer Etgar Keret and filmmaker Shire Geffen. A summary shows that there is indeed a stationary bicycle on stage around which a tiny family saga unfolds. As long as one person spins the bike's wheels, the family is in action; as soon as it slows down, they flag as well. There has to be something psychological here about how we spur each other along – or can take the wind out of each other's sails.
A fourth piece is "Sweet Purgatory." This work is set to lush music by Dmitri Shostakovich and features dancers miraculously suspended in time and space, showcasing the dancers' combination of kinetic and physical capabilities. And for an added benefit to area audiences, Pilobolus will preview the current version of an as yet untitled work that will be premiered at a later date.
DanceCleveland will present Pilobolus for a one-night only performance at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 31, in the State Theatre of Playhouse Square, 1519 Euclid Ave., Akron; 216-241-6000; www.dancecleveland.org. Tickets are $20.
Roger Durbin, Knight Arts
RELATED COMPANY: Pilobolus
Monday, November 10th, 2014 12:00 PM
The idea of circularity in life and our existing in circles of the individual, the couple, and society was the theme for Israeli choreographer Rami Be'er's 2012 dance work "If At All," performed last weekend by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in the Ohio Theatre at at PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland.
The underlying theme of circles, figurative and abstract, is a recurring one in some of Be'er's over 40 works for KCDC including more › 2002's "Screensaver," which the company performed in nearby Pittsburgh in 2005, the last time they visited the region.
Set to an eclectic mix of music from alt-rockers Nine Inch Nails to composer Max Richter, the 65-minute continuous work presented by DANCECleveland on Sunday began with a solo by dancer Olga Stetsyuk to the Bon Iver song "Woods." On a darkened stage backed by a small moon/sun-like projection on a rear stage curtain, Stetsyuk danced with lithesome athletic power in Be'er's signature full-body, full-throttle movement style. In a crouched stance she stretched side to side into back-bent and arched poses that screamed beauty and power.
Early practitioners of the contemporary dance genre that has recently taken over the dance world, KCDC, like several other Israel-based dance companies including Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company, are among the world's elite. Be'er's expertly-crafted and polished choreography for "If At All," and KCDC's adroit dancers' performance of it, was inspirational.
The abstract work continued as a flood of dancers ran onto the stage circling Stetsyuk. Seven male dancers in long black skirts broke from the throng and dropped into fetal positions in a horizontal line across the front of the stage and in front of Stetsyuk who continued her solo far behind them.
The men then moved upright to hunch over individual footlights executing a unison pattern of bobbing heads and pounding fists as one at a time each dancer rose to perform a wild solo. The solos had the dancers flinging their bodies about the stage, flailing their arms, some staggering, some convulsing and falling to the floor while their compatriots continued their unison pattern at the front of the stage.
The multi-talented Be'er, who not only choreographed the work but provided lighting, sound and costume design for the production, created atmospheric moods and a cinematic soundscape in which feelings of conflict and turmoil, love and nurturing invaded the space, one after the other, dissipated for a time, only to circle back and repeat once again.
One such repeated image was of dancer Renana Randy bursting onto the stage being held back by a group of male dancers like a captured animal. She aggressively tried to break free from the men holding her arms and torso, her long black hair whipping the air around them. Just as jarring: as she and the men tore onto the stage, they faded away, to be replaced by another scene conveying a very different kind of emotion and beauty.
As the work poured through a litany of fabulous solos, duets, trios and groups dances whose images occurred and then reoccurred, Be'er's choreography drove home that theme of circularity in work's structure and intent. Infused into the soundtrack were voice-overs speaking of "multiplicity" and the idea "that we are many people, not just one," and a woman stating: "Just because a person looks nice on the outside doesn't mean they are nice on the inside." All hinting that the circles in life intersect in some way.
Perhaps the most moving scenes in the intense work involved the dancers performing to sounds of gunfire, explosions and people screaming, conjuring up images of the military conflicts plaguing the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, along with a tender duet danced by Randy and dancer Niv Elbaz to a remix of Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds' "Viđ vorum smá". The music's haunting melody and eerie childlike computer generated voice repeating the phrase "As our last lost chance," cut through the theater space, adding to the overwhelming sense that in "If At All," we were witnessing something truly special.
The work closed with a marvelously patterned group dance that, like the music it was set to, built in intensity. The stirring unison choreography came to an abrupt end as the dancers, on the music's final note, all froze in a pose staring out into the audience eliciting a standing ovation from the audience.
Steve Sucato, Cleveland.com
RELATED COMPANY: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company
Thursday, November 6th, 2014 12:00 PM
In theatrical terms, a chain of events is an important device or vehicle by which artists or even dancers can tell a story.
That in a nutshell is what internationally acclaimed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company Artistic Director Rami Be'er explores with his "If at All" work, which Israel's most prominent dance troupe will perform Nov. 8 and 9 at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre.
"We have performed this worldwide across Europe and Asia, India more › and South Korea," said Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company International Director Yoni Avital, calling from Israel.
"It's been very well received. There's some beauty in this piece, and the set design is relatively basic or naked with more minimalist costumes.
"But the basic element deals with the relationship of the individual's relationship with his or her community and society."
Presented by DANCECleveland, the innovative Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is known for its emotionally charged productions boasting sophisticated choreography and stunning dancers.
The company's history begins with Auschwitz survivor Yehudit Arnon, who in the late '40s moved to Israel to establish the Mateh Asher Dance Studio. It wasn't until the '70s that she created the performing ensemble that continues to tour today in various incarnations.
"During the Second World War, Christmas 1944, the German officers demanded Arnon perform," Avital said. "They heard about this woman who was dancing in the barracks. They asked her to perform at their Christmas party. She refused and risked her life.
"Her punishment was to be outside in the freezing snow, where she'd die. That evening she decided if she were to survive that she would devote her life to dance and education."
That education continues with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's visit to Northeast Ohio. During its performance, the company will hold auditions for its international dance study program called Dance Journeys.
"Every semester we host almost 40 dancers from around the world," Avital said. "And in Cleveland we'll be holding auditions. If the dancers pass the audition, it'll allow them to participate as a student in our international dance program."
Something else that makes the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company stand out is its use of music that is outside of the norm. In addition to music by H. Gudnadottir, Olafur Arnalds and Ophir Leibovitch, audiences will hear songs from Volcano Choir, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.
"Be'er comes from a family of musicians, and he's a musician himself," Avital said. "He's a cellist, and he's a complete artist in that not only does he create the choreography but he also is very much involved in the lighting, set design, the costumes and especially the music. He's always sampling music from everywhere in all genres, and that of course becomes samples and the musical soundtrack of his pieces."
It's this use of different, eclectic music that truly epitomizes the spirit of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.
"A big part of the company's success is that it really appeals to the general crowd and not only audiences that are savvy in contemporary dance," Avital said. "It's a complete performance of premiere choreography, music, lighting, stage design and concert design."
What: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 3 p.m. Nov. 9.
Where: Ohio Theatre, Euclid Ave., Cleveland.
Tickets: $25 to $55.
Info: 216-241-6000, 866-546-1353 or www.PlayhouseSquare.org.
John Benson, The News Herald
RELATED COMPANY: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company