Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland and New York-based choreographer Camille A. Brown are one of four recipients of the 2014 Joyce Awards, given annually by the Joyce Foundation in Chicago to recognize artists of color who collaborate with nonprofit institutions.
Each winner receives a $50,000 grant for work designed to "strengthen cross-cultural understanding by bringing diverse audiences together."
Pam Young, executive director of DANCECleveland, said in a statement, "We are thrilled the Joyce Foundation selected more › our proposed project with Camille for this prestigious and generous award. We're looking forward to supporting Camille as she creates a new work that we will present as part of our 60th anniversary season in 2015."
With the Joyce Award money, Brown "will create a powerful dance and music composition" with the working title "Black Girl," according to DANCECleveland.
The piece "will depict the complexities of carving out a positive identity for African American females in urban American culture," the nonprofit organization said in a news release. "The multimedia creation will use literary works, including Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye,' as inspiration. Brown and her dancers will interview communities of African American women, both young and old, in Cleveland and other parts of the country. Their struggles and triumphs will be incorporated as spoken text during the performance."
DANCECleveland said the work combines "history and musicology with the fantastical approach of imagery in 'Alice in Wonderland,' " and will "shed light on feminism, patriarchy, stereotypes and beauty."
Other winners of Joyce Awards this year are composer Jessie Montgomery with the Sphinx Organization in Detroit; and in Minneapolis, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage with the Guthrie Theater and playwright Tracey Scott Wilson with the Pillsbury House Theatre.
"Throughout the Joyce Awards' 11 years, we have been so proud to support over 35 community-oriented arts projects to diversify and engage audiences and artists," said Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation, in a statement. "This year's endeavors bring strong voices to the table and showcase the incredible artistic talent of these four women, and we're excited to be part of the process."
SCOTT SUTTELL, Crain's Cleveland Business
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 12:00 PM
By Steve Sucato
When Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie founded New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet a decade ago, skepticism abounded over the troupe with a big-city budget and a small-town name. Since then, however, the company has created quite the buzz in the dance world for its to-die-for repertory by A-list choreographers and its talented roster of international dancers.
Saturday night at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre, it was Northeast Ohio's turn see what more › all the buzz was about, as DanceCleveland presented the troupe in three stylistically diverse ballets.
While Saturday's nasty winter weather put a slight damper on attendance, those who braved the elements were treated to a sampling of the crème de la crème of contemporary ballet technique, style and taste gracing world stages today.
The program opened with the ballet "Indigo Rose" (1998) by the Balanchine of contemporary ballet, Jiri Kylian.
A wire strung diagonally across the stage from ceiling to floor served as the backdrop to dancer Jon Bond as he ripped through a sequence of hectic dance moves that shimmied and shook.
Bond was soon joined by others in Kylian's choreography, set to an eclectic mix of music by composers including John Cage and Robert Ashley, as the ballet moved through smart, lively, gesture-filled and expertly crafted dance phrases that paused at times, allowing some of the dancers to cheekily mug at the audience as if saying, "How do you like me now?"
The ballet then switched gears, as two male/female couples engaged in sparsely lit, side-by-side pas de deuxs dense with lush, intricate partnering.
It concluded with another rapid-fire section where a white curtain was drawn across the background wire, making it look like a sail that bisected the stage. Dancers then performed in front of and behind the curtain, creating varying sized shadows on the curtain as they moved.
The ballet wound to halt when the dancers suddenly froze in place onstage and a video of some of them was projected on a screen above them, transitioning the audience's perspective on these beings as superhuman performers into a glimpse of them as ordinary people.
Next came five dancers, 10 duets and 20 minutes of pure dance gold in Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite's "Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue" (2008). The ballet gem, commissioned by Cedar Lake and set to beautifully haunting music from the sci-fi movie "Solaris" by Cliff Martinez, was atmospherically lit by a semicircle of freestanding white lights on stands the dancers wheeled about the stage at times.
Athletic and gymnastic partnering that twisted and turned produced breathtaking lifts and the graceful melding of bodies that spoke to one's soul. Limbs rose and fell as if pulled by imaginary strings – and meticulous, sometimes aggressive movement dotted the stage, briefly snapping one out of the ballet's lulling and mesmerizing lure.
Cedar Lake's dancers were at the top of their game in it, eliciting audible gasps from audience members thrilled by the unexpected turns in Pite's choreography. One of the ballet's most lasting images was that of Navarra Novy-Williams moving in slow motion horizontally across the stage with one arm outstretched behind her as Matthew Rich ran frantically in place trying to reach for her hand.
The program ended with Greek choreographer Adonis Foniadakis' 2013 ballet for the company, "Horizons." Inspired by the frantic pace of New York City, the ballet was set to a powerful and rousing score by Julien Tarride that interlaced music with the soothing dialogue of relaxation-tape narrators.
Foniadakis' movement language for the dancers, however, was anything but relaxing and worked as the antithesis of the music's hypnotic message of calm and reflection. His choreography was fitful and had the dancers looking as if in the throes of seizures, whipping their heads and limbs violently about and seeming to be without skeletal control.
After the initial shock of the movement's abandon, the piece settled into familiar patterns of dancer groupings and unison dancing, all employing Foniadakis' rag-doll movement language.
The somewhat overworked ballet's most interesting part came when a dancer was pulled out standing atop a red carpet. The carpet then became the stage for a series of motion-blurring duets that ended with dancers Jin Young Won and Guillaume Quéau in a passionate intertwining of their bodies as water rained down, slowly soaking them.
Cedar Lake's world-class performance proved a perfect beginning to a new year of dance, continuing a recent string of DanceCleveland hits.
Sucato is a writer and critic and chairman emeritus of the Dance Critics Association.
Steve Sucato, The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 12:00 PM
What's unusual about this contemporary ballet company, the reason you should go out of your way to see them, is DEEP, DEEP pockets full of (evil?) Wal-Mart money.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet was founded by billionaire Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie. Her money/generous support has allowed this company to hire not only excellent dancers, but excellent contemporary choreographers from Europe. For Cleveland audiences, ourselves included, contemporary choreography from Europe is a more › rare sight, like a glimpse of the dark side of the moon.
And surprise! These contemporary European choreographers are not only cool, hip, and au courant. They are also entertaining and accessible as you'll see for yourself with links we provide to YouTube clips. Video is not live performance but we're going to see Cedar Lake live with high hopes for a good show.
Cedar Lake's two performances in Cleveland will feature three dances from its eclectic repertoire.
"Indigo Rose" is a software package, a purple tomato exceptionally high in anthocyanins, and a dance originally choreographed by Jiri Kylian for Nederlands Dans Theater in 1998 and first performed by Cedar Lake in 2013.
Cleveland dance audiences have seen some of Kylian's choreography over the years, but we expect the Cedar Lake dancers to put a particularly clean balletic finish on many of Kylian's movements, showing feet fully pointed and the knees stretched straight. See video of Cedar Lake dancers performing Indigo Rose here and here. Do you like the undulant, white backdrop as much as we do?
Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, was created for Cedar Lake by Crystal Pite, a Canadian citizen who danced for many years with Ballett Frankfurt under the direction of American-born William Forsythe, sometimes known as the Antichrist of ballet. Pite and Forsythe were 2 of the many, many North American dancers and choreographers who elected to work in Europe, an article in itself.
If there's anyone who understands and successfully applies Forsythe's ideas about dance, it's Pite. She figured prominently in Forsythe's CD-ROM, Improvisation Technologies, and is considered an important exponent of his theories of choreography. But perhaps the best advice for watching Forsythe or Pite is Anna Kisselgoff's, "Forget the theories and watch the movement."
Again, check out the video here and here to see why we say that Ten Duets is an eye-full of fast, fluid contact partnering. In the video, we see the Cedar Lake dancers give every line that balletic finish. Join us in putting on night-vision-goggles-just-in-case while watching Ten Duets in the Ohio Theater; Forsythe is infamous for messing around with lighting and Pite has followed in her mentor's footsteps here, surrounding her dancers with lighting instruments that go off and on in no discernible pattern.
In Horizons by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis we see less ballet finish but plenty of contemporary drive. See video of Horizons here. We're impressed by the speed with which the dancers can coordinate arm circles in one plane with full body turns in another. This is exciting, skillful dancing, not flailing.
When we first heard about Cedar Lake, the little dance company with deep pockets, we flashed back to the train wreck known as Harkness Ballet which was just winding down when Vic arrived in NYC in 1974. "Money can buy anything," Rebecca Harkness had famously said, but all the big name dancers and choreographers she hired did not buy her a dance company worth watching and Harkness Ballet folded in ignominy despite tens of millions of her dollars down the tubes.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet provides a happier narrative, evidence that money well spent can produce dance well worth watching. We at CoolCleveland.com believe in supporting local enterprises, but we also believe in billionaires giving back with enterprises like Cedar Lake. Catherine de Medici, Philip Morris, the Ford Foundation, the Soviet Union; we might not like how they got their money or what else they do with it but sometimes, just sometimes, they finance some good or even great art.
Audiences are cautioned that there will be partial nudity in the Saturday evening performance, but not in the matinee.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performs at the Ohio Theatre in PlayhouseSquare at 8pm Sat 1/25 and 3pm Sun 1/26/2014 presented by DANCECleveland. Tickets, starting at $20, can be purchased at the PlayhouseSquare ticket office, 216-241-6000 or online at http://dancecleveland.org.
Catch free pre-performance talks in the theatre 45 minutes before each of the performances. A post-performance moderated Q&A session with members of the company will immediately follow each show.
Several master classes will be conducted by company members prior to the performances. A teen contemporary ballet master class for ages 12-18 will be held on Fri 1/24 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the green rehearsal hall at PlayhouseSquare. It will be conducted by Cedar Lake dancer Billy Bell, known to many for his appearances on television's So You Think You Can Dance program.
On Sat 1/25 from 11am – 12:30pm a contemporary pre-professional / professional level master class will be held at Cleveland State University's studios in the Middough Building on the fifth floor. Participants are required to register in advance by emailing email@example.com or by calling 216-991-9000.
Victor Lucas and Elsa Johnson
RELATED COMPANY: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 12:00 PM
It's all too easy in dance to specialize, to dwell on one form at the expense of all others.
But at Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, dabbling in other arenas isn't just permitted. It's encouraged as a means of gaining talent, experience and perspective.
Hence the many company biographies that include not only degrees from world-class dance schools but also appearances on hit TV programs and work alongside the likes of Beyoncé.
"Most people more › feel like they have to do one or the other," said Cedar Lake dancer Ebony Williams, noting the divide between commercial and artistic pursuits. "But it's possible to do both, in a little bit of a potluck."
Williams is living proof of that claim. An eight-year member of Cedar Lake, the cutting-edge, New York-based troupe heading to PlayhouseSquare this week on the DanceCleveland series, she's also one of Beyoncé's "single ladies" and a dancer with pop stars Rihanna, Ciara and Fergie.
But while her days are long and calendar packed, Williams said she loves the contrast. That's why she joined Cedar Lake, in fact, a company that prides itself on choreographic diversity: to be several dancers in one.
She saw eclectic programs like the one headed here – featuring works by Jiri Kylian, Crystal Pite and Andonis Foniadakis – and chose Cedar Lake without reservation over the more famous Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and Cirque du Soleil.
"I go from classical [ballet] to modern [dance], and the next minute I'm with Beyoncé," Williams said. "It challenges me to be schizophrenic, to think on my feet. It helps me grow. I'm known to a wider audience, and I'm not just dancing for dancers."
More widely known still may be Williams' Cedar Lake colleague, Billy Bell. Before joining the company in 2012, he rose to the top five and toured the country with the popular TV show "So You Think You Can Dance." He's also appeared in music videos and launched a collective for aspiring dancers.
Specialization isn't what got him so far. Rather, Bell said he had to be the ultimate chameleon, to be interested in all forms of dance and view every opportunity as a learning experience.
"I just approached all of it as movement," Bell said, recalling his days on TV. "I just kind of mimicked the choreographer."
It's a lesson he still applies at Cedar Lake, the company he sought out post-graduation after witnessing a performance at his Florida high school that opened his eyes to the artistic possibilities of dance.
What's more, it's a lesson he actively tries to teach others at the master-classes he leads when the company tours, and will present here Jan. 24 and 25. Being open-minded and dancing outside the box aren't just fun. They're practically required.
"You can always pick something up," Bell noted. "I find it inspiring. It gives you a different perspective. I think the two worlds really do complement each other."
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 12:00 PM
Temperatures have become milder but guests are still invited to "Drive the Cold Winter Away" in a program of ballads from Old England by Apollo's Fire, beginning Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Akron.
The program, to be held at 7:30 p.m. at 263 E. Mill St., will feature Grammy Award-winning lutenist Ronn McFarlane and soprano Meredith Hall. They will perform haunting laments of John Dowland and Henry Purcell, contrasting more › with hilarious ballads.
Apollo's Fire promises a cozy evening, followed by "fireside" chats with the musicians afterward over hot cider and coffee. The concert runs 90 minutes, and will be repeated Jan. 23-24 at Rockefeller's Restaurant in Cleveland Heights, St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Jan. 25 in Cleveland Heights and Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Rocky River on Jan. 26.
Tickets cost $21. Students may attend the Akron performance for free, thanks to the GAR Foundation. For more information, call 216-320-0012 or see www.apollosfire.org.
McFarlane will give a talk one hour before each concert, sponsored by Friends of Apollo's Fire.
Celebration of the Arts
Supporters of the Akron School for the Arts, the Akron Public Schools visual and performing arts program housed at Firestone High School, are invited to the fourth annual "A Celebration of the Arts" at 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Akron Civic Theatre. The event, hosted by Friends of the Akron School for the Arts, will include heavy hors d'oeuvres by chef Jeffrey Winer, desserts, cash bar, silent auction, 50/50 raffle, and performances and displays by students.
Billy Soule will emcee the event. Friends Board President George Bozeka said the fundraiser comes at an exciting time, as the Akron School for the Arts looks forward to having a separate wing when the new Firestone/Litchfield Community Learning Center opens in 2015/2016.
Proceeds provide scholarships for arts graduates, support visiting artists and master classes, and help purchase classroom equipment. Cost for the event is $50, $80 for couples. To RSVP, send checks, payable to Friends of the Akron School for the Arts, to Friends of the Akron School for the Arts c/o Sally Childs, 861 Hampton Ridge Drive, Akron, OH 44313. Call 330-865-6975 for more information.
Ballet in Cleveland
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will make its Cleveland debut Jan. 25-26 with two performances at the Ohio Theatre at PlayhouseSquare. The hot New York City-based company, which was founded 10 years ago, will perform Indigo Rose by Jiri Kylian, Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue by Canadian Crystal Pite and Horizons by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis. The performances will be presented by DANCECleveland.
Shows will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 25 and 3 p.m. Jan. 26. The evening show will contain partial nudity but the matinee will not. Tickets start at $20. Call 216-241-6000 or see www.dancecleveland.org.
Free pre-performance talks will be given at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 25 and 2:15 p.m. Jan. 26. Moderated question-and-answer sessions with the company also will follow each show.
Local dancers interested in master classes with company members may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 216-991-9000. There's a teen contemporary ballet master class from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at PlayhouseSquare, and a contemporary pre-professional/professional class from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at Cleveland State University's Middough Building. Company member Billy Bell of So You Think You Can Dance TV fame will lead the teen class.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.