Monday, August 17th, 2015 12:00 PM
A critical player in an effort to make the University of Akron a nationally recognized center for choreography has become another victim of the university's effort to cut costs.
DanceCleveland learned last week that it will have to spend thousands of dollars more than it ever has to use the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Center Oct. 4 for its season opener in Akron with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal.
The performance will more › go on as planned, said Executive Director Pam Young, but there could be as much as $22,000 in unanticipated costs for an organization with a $700,000 annual budget.
The increase includes a $17,000 rental package that includes stagehands and some rented lights; $3,000 in Akron-based marketing expenses previously handled by E.J. Thomas staff; and $1,800 for DanceCleveland to hire a production manager. Young also expects additional expenses, including renting a hazer, or fog machine, for one of the dance numbers, hiring a fire marshal and renting a dance floor.
DanceCleveland will also have to pay a new 6 percent secondary fee on all ticket sales for the concert.
Because the higher costs come after DanceCleveland's annual budget was approved by its board, Young is looking to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and other donors for emergency funding.
"We see the potential of additional funding coming from the community to help us," Young said.
Local foundations already are heavily committed to DanceCleveland and the UA dance school.
The Akron Community Foundation in June said it would make $10,000 available for the October event.
In addition, Knight has promised $5 million to fund a choreography center at UA, to be run by a board made up of representatives of DanceCleveland, the university, the foundation and a former founding director of the only other university choreography center at Florida State University.
According to statements made at the time of the partnership announcement in May, use of E.J. Thomas is part of the deal, but whether that also is affected by university cutbacks could not be discerned Friday.
University Chief Financial Officer Nathan Mortimer, who has taken over responsibility for the performing arts center after management staff was laid off three weeks ago, could not be reached for comment Friday.
It was Mortimer who revealed to Young on Thursday that her organization will now be a renter and subject to fees, at least for the October dance event.
"It's just very difficult to have this sort of cost thrust on us, with so little time to be able to react and to be able to try to overcome it," Young said. "The hard part is we already have a budget; our fiscal year started July 1. To get hit with unexpected expenses, this is big for us. We're a little organization that does sort of big things."
Sharing costs in past
For a decade, DanceCleveland has been a co-presenter with E.J. Thomas and the University of Akron's dance program for its annual fall concert in Akron.
The UA dance department has provided financial assistance in the past, and will continue to do so.
"We've contributed up to $10,000 every year and we'll do it again," said Neil Sapienza, director of the School of Dance, Theatre and Arts Administration.
Artists' fees to bring Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal from Canada to Akron are $40,000 - $12,000 of which covers the company's residency with UA dance students Sept. 28-Oct. 2, which will be paid for by the dance department. The weeklong residency, which gives the students the opportunity to work with national and international dance artists, is in its ninth year.
By sharing costs in the past, E.J. has gotten major dance companies on its stage, DanceCleveland has benefited from the university's marketing power, and the dance department has gotten world-class residencies it couldn't otherwise have afforded.
Civic Theatre to assist
DanceCleveland and the University of Akron did not yet have a contract secured with E.J. Thomas Hall for this fall before UA dismissed all E.J. staff, part of a massive package of cuts to save the university $40 million. Contracts normally go out after July 1, Young said.
DanceCleveland already had sold 350 seats to subscribers for the fall performance by Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal.
Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, tickets for the Oct. 4 dance show may be purchased at the Civic Theatre box office, across from the theater in the Ohio Building at 175 S. Main St., or by calling the Civic box office, 330-253-2488.
For the rest of the story, Please visit: http://www.ohio.com/news/education/new-choreography-center-at-ua-hosts-its-first-two-pilot-residencies-1.616512
Monday, August 17th, 2015 12:00 PM
Beginning stages for the new National Center for Choreography are going forward at the University of Akron, as two choreographers recently completed pilot residencies at Guzzetta Hall.
Carrie Hanson and her Chicago-based company The Seldoms spent the week of July 20 working on developing the dance RockCitizen at UA and New York choreographer John Jasperse spent nearly two weeks in the beginning stages of setting Remains, his fifth commission by the more › Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Jasperse said doing the choreographic residency at UA, which wrapped up Thursday evening, gave him the luxury of 10 days of uninterrupted time as well as ample studio space.
"To have the dancers all day is a difficult thing in general" in New York, he said. "Here [in Akron] was really the first time the dancers came together" to start creating the new work.
At UA, dancemakers have at their disposal seven state-of-the-art rehearsal studios and the black box Sandefur Theatre at Guzzetta Hall. Jasperse also used the time to test ideas, including how to integrate video with the dance by projecting it on the floor, wall or freestanding space in Sandefur Theatre.
"A resource like this is the perfect place to grapple with those questions," he said.
Cuts don't pose problem
DanceCleveland Executive Director Pam Young said UA's recent announcement of $40 million in cutbacks has not jeopardized the new choreography center, which is funded by $5 million over five years by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The center has received its 501(c)3 status as a standalone nonprofit housed at UA.
Board members include DanceCleveland appointees Young and Jennifer Calienes, former founding director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University; and UA appointees President Scott Scarborough and Vice President for Advancement Lawrence Burns. The Knight Foundation will soon appoint the final board member.
The original plan - before the E.J. Thomas Hall staff was eliminated and future programming plans were limited to student and faculty performances as well as rental events - was to provide visiting choreographers with access to E.J. Thomas to explore technical aspects of their new works.
"What we will do as we move forward is, once we know what the needs are, we will work with [UA CFO] Nathan Mortimer, who is now sort of overseeing E.J., for a while, to make sure all those things can be delivered. We're as committed as we've ever been and we're sort of taking each need individually and making sure we have in place what is needed" for artists at E.J. Thomas, said Burns.
In the pilot residencies, neither choreographer was far enough along in the dance to need access to the E.J. stage, but both worked on some technical brainstorming at Sandefur.
Details of work
On Wednesday, Maggie Cloud, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer worked painstakingly with Jasperse on a short sequence of the dance where they created an interplay of leaning, pushing and shifting weight among the three, with Cloud serving as what Jasperse called a fulcrum.
Dancer Claire Westby had worked with the dancers during the first week of the Akron residency and Heather Lang, now dancing on Broadway in An American in Paris, will join in the later stages of the dancemaking.
Choreographer Jasperse, 51, who established John Jasperse Company in 1989 and later renamed it John Jasperse Projects, received the 2014 Doris Duke Award and two Bessie Awards for dance and performance.
What inspired his new work?
"It's very much about stuff that gets left over," as well as the connectivity that each of us has with others, he said of Remains. "What are all the ways in which my action ripples out from my experience?"
Hanson, whose dance probes the counterculture of the 1960s, made research trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame education department as well as the Kent State University May 4 memorial during her company's Akron stay.
"Even though it's [the residency] at the University of Akron, the entire field of research and opportunity to impact these artists comes from all across Northeast Ohio," Young said.
Read the rest of the story at: http://www.ohio.com/news/education/new-choreography-center-at-ua-hosts-its-first-two-pilot-residencies-1.616512
Kerry Clawson, The Akron Beacon Journal
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 12:00 PM
We went to see Parsons Dance perform at Cain Park on Sat 7/25, the National Day of Dance celebration. We missed the onstage show that local dancers - and dancing elephants! - put on but we were in plenty of time for the curtain speech in which Pam Young of DanceCleveland brought out David Parsons himself who spoke warmly to the audience.
"We're so happy to be here on the more › kick-off of the 60th anniversary season of DanceCleveland," he said.
"Parsons Dance is one of your favorite dance companies on those surveys you fill out," added Young. Indeed, Evans Amphitheater was nearly full.
The first dance on the program was Whirlaway. The music by Allen Toussaint, costumes by Keiko Voltaire and choreography by Parsons gave the piece a definite New Orleans ambience. We'd never realized how good Parsons Dance is at jazz dance. Their walks and struts would shine in a Mardi Gras parade.
After a pause, the concert continued with Hymn, a dance for two men choreographed by Trey McIntyre. Ian Spring and Omar Roman De Jesus, probably two of the best dancers in this company full of exceptional movers, acquitted themselves well to the syncopated score. Like McIntyre's other work, Hymn is balletic but in a quick and witty way that makes surprising use of rhythm.
Cleveland and Akron dance audiences may remember when DanceCleveland and others brought Trey McIntyre Project to E.J. Thomas Hall in 2012. TMP was both like and unlike Parsons Dance. Moment to moment, the dancing in both companies is very, very good. McIntyre's choreography, however, often resonated with another aspect of the performance - the words of a song, a larger meaning. Parsons' compositions - a criticism, unfortunately - often seem like highlight reels, one great moment after another with no larger meaning.
So, if Parsons is going to perform repertoire by other choreographers, McIntyre is an excellent choice, not least because McIntyre has, since 2014, turned his attention to other art forms.
The next dance on the program, Train, evoked for us the hot and gritty feel of a summer street festival in the Bronx of the 1980s, complete with powerful West African-sounding percussion and solo dances that "break out" from the rhythm established by the ensemble. Here's a highlight reel, but because it so successfully captures an ambience, this dance adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Googling later we learned that choreographer Robert Battle, now the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, used to dance for Parsons.
In the next dance, Kind of Blue, Parsons has choreographed a dance for two couples to music from the famous Miles Davis album of the same name. Many at Cain Park apparently enjoyed this dance but for us, the dance and the music didn't go together.
Not everyone in Eisenhower's America listened to Kind of Blue but to many of us who did, it seemed that Davis had tapped a flow to another universe - a beauty and calm that were unexpected, wholly other from everything else in 1959 - and we returned to it again and again, as if to an oasis in a desert. So for persons of a certain age, choreographing to Kind of Blue is not a task to undertake lightly, perhaps not a task that a pop choreographer should undertake at all. The pretty dancing we saw on the stage on Saturday, including the twist during the musical refrains, struck us as a facile response to music which deserves to draw from a deeper choreographic well.
Parson's choreographed Nascimento to the highly danceable music of Brazilian singer/songwriter Milton Nascimento. It's impossible not to like. Just to give you an idea, here's video of a much earlier performance of Nascimento with Parsons himself dancing in the beginning. Whatever criticisms we may have of some of his choreography, he was an awesome dancer. Toward the end of Nascimento, red lighting, faster music, and more percussion brought in a couple of codas, and the concert ended with the audience on their feet cheering. There was a lot to like. Our criticisms are quibbles.
[Written by Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas]
RELATED COMPANY: Parsons Dance
Friday, July 31st, 2015 12:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio – Add modern dance to the Rubber City's list of exports.
The new home of only the second National Center for Choreography in the United States, Cleveland's neighbor to the south already is developing a small but significant cultural industry, welcoming artists from around the country and enabling them to realize their dreams.
One choreographer and her team already have visited and fine-tuned a new work at the University of more › Akron facility, and another is on the way. Still another served as a kind of test case, when the idea was still under consideration. Pretty soon, people are going to start using the term hotbed.
"Having this opportunity pushed us to get this thing created," said Carrie Hanson, artistic director of Chicago's The Seldoms, at end of a week-long residency during which she finalized a new piece called "RockCitizen."
"This puts us way ahead of the game. We are really prepped now."
The importance of the center – a project spearheaded by DanceCleveland and funded by a five-year, $5 million pledge from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is difficult to convey, given that it's essentially an abstraction.
Though housed in Guzzetta Hall at the University of Akron, the center – the second such facility after the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University – has no bricks-and-mortar building, dedicated office space or employees. A five-member board of directors remains to be established.
Even when it's fully up and running, the center, a standalone nonprofit, will basically amount to a network, a collection of diverse regional resources for choreographers to access as they conceive and create new dance.
For instance, while in Akron developing "RockCitizen," an evening-length work exploring the impact and legacy of 1960s counterculture (and the sequel to "Power Goes," below), Hanson took advantage of the center's connections to do research at both Kent State University and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Had she needed them, Hanson also could have tapped other campus facilities or any other institution in Northeast Ohio.
"It was really crucial in realizing the vision," Hanson explained.
The lack of a physical headquarters notwithstanding, the center is far from without allure. On the contrary, so bright, ample and high-tech are the facilities at Guzzetta Hall, few dancers or choreographers could resist them.
No wonder Neil Sapienza, associate dean of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Akron, is so proud. Giving a tour of Guzzetta's seven studios, several complete with seating and video-conferencing, a therapy room, and on-site costume and set shops, he had good reason to label his school "one of the nicest academic dance facilities in the country."
And The Seldoms only used the studios to warm up. Because "RockCitizen" entails a complicated backdrop – a wall of bras, to be precise – and the group sought to simulate the space where they usually perform in Chicago, most of their real work took place in Sandefur Experimental Theatre, a black-box theater without a sprung floor but with ample lighting and rigging.
Combine these facilities, smack in the middle of a busy music and dance school, with a week of free time in which to create and rehearse, and you have all the conditions under which modern dance flourishes and new works leap into existence. Happily, as a privately funded, independent organization, the new center is likely to be unaffected by the recent closing of EJ Thomas Hall at the University of Akron.
"It's a real luxury," Sapienza said. "Uninterrupted time in a theater is almost unheard of."
Much about the center remains unknown. How often and how many artists will use it; whether the works they create will be performed in Northeast Ohio; who will direct it. All of these are questions yet to be answered. Although two choreographers, including Camille A. Brown, already have made use of the center, and a third, John Jasperse of New York, is en route, the project is still in "pilot" status.
But about its potential, there is no doubt. Host of an already noted dance program, Sapienza said the University of Akron is likely to see a rise in both the quantity and quality of applicants as students bid for regular, one-on-one work alongside real professionals.
"It's going to be an amazing resource," Sapienza said.
Northeast Ohio, meanwhile, will benefit on two fronts. Not only will local patrons and students relish the opportunity to view and possibly have a hand in the creation of new art, but the region as a whole also will gain prominence in the larger dance world.
It's no small matter, in other words, that the nation's second dance laboratory has been established outside New York, in a small Midwest city. All of a sudden, Hanson said, the heart of "flyover land" is a national dance destination.
"The fact that this shifts the focus a little bit is amazing," she said.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – We should all look so good at 60 as DanceCleveland did Saturday night at Cain Park.
Kicking off its diamond jubilee season a bit earlier than usual with a series of events in honor of National Dance Day, including a pre-concert dance sequence open to the public, the esteemed series evinced all the vitality and joie de vivre of a freshly minted startup.
And yet it also displayed more › great wisdom and good sense. In selecting Parsons Dance, one of its most popular guests, for the occasion, DanceCleveland virtually guaranteed, and indeed provided, a fun, rewarding experience on its first show at Cain Park in 10 years.
Fun, in fact, was how the night opened and closed. With the new "Whirlaway" and 1990's "Nascimento," two bright, spirited works by Parsons, the eight-member company welcomed and sent home its fans in a festive mood.
A crisp setting of New Orleans-style R&B, "Whirlaway" lived up to its name with flowing, rhythmically precise dance laced with twirls and spins of every sort. Attitude and energy were as abundant as the pastel colors in the costumes.
The backdrop to "Nascimento," meanwhile, was the lively music of Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. No less colorful than its predecessor, this early work delighted the eyes with unison or tightly symmetrical moves and a host of frolicsome, devil-may-care exchanges. A stately exploration of arm gestures in the middle provided thoughtful respite.
Shorter but weightier were two works by well-known choreographers other than Parsons: Trey McIntyre's "Hymn" and "Train" by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater director Robert Battle.
Stunning in its cool intricacy, the former entailed movement for dancers Ian Spring and Omar Roman De Jesus that was breathtakingly close but not exactly intimate. "Train," by contrast, was anything but cool, a wild, ritualistic tirade full of floor work set to fierce, relentless drumming. If that vehicle had a destination, it was ecstasy.
But if there was one piece in which music and dance melded perfectly, it was Parsons' "Kind of Blue." There, loose but highly intentional choreography for four black-clad dancers dovetailed seamlessly with Miles Davis' "So What?," and even conveyed some of the music's improvisational aura. Like DanceCleveland itself, the artists saw free space, and filled it beautifully.
Parsons Dance Audience Participation
in celebration of National Dance Day, the audience at Parsons Dance Saturday at Cain Park prepared and performed a routine in hopes of being televised on "So You Think You Can Dance."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
RELATED COMPANY: Parsons Dance