Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland isn't just another city to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. It's the place that inspired its founders.
Were it not for the experience and advice of the former Cleveland San Jose Ballet, in fact, the trailblazing troupe kicking off the DanceCleveland season Sunday might not even exist.
"I'm grateful we had people paving the way for us," said Jean-Philippe Malaty, the company's executive director. "The example of Cleveland Ballet more › gave us courage. Now it's integral to who we are."
Indeed, ASF didn't invent the concept of a two-city company. Long before Malaty and partner Tom Mossbrucker founded their company in Aspen in 1996, the Joffrey Ballet and Cleveland's former jewel were operating in two far-flung locales.
Neither did they set out to become the longest enduring. No, their original aim was not to demonstrate the benefits and potential of long-distance collaboration but rather to showcase cutting-edge choreography from Europe.
And yet here they are, in 2014, still standing as an national case study.
"I think we're getting the record," Malaty said. "We've had to be creative and find a way to sustain ourselves. We have a sense of permanence."
Much of that success Malaty attributes to Dennis Nahat, Cleveland's former artistic director. On an early trip to Cleveland to meet with the company, he said Nahat was "generous" with tips that proved invaluable.
First, Malaty said, Nahat told him to choose locations with similar tastes in dance, and whose profiles nationally are comparable. Otherwise one will come to feel like a "stepchild," Malaty said. Hence the partnership with Santa Fe, a fellow city small in size but mighty in terms of culture.
No less pivotal: choose cities within driving distance of each other, to keep down costs. "That made a big difference," Malaty explained, "especially in the early years. We didn't have to incur big expenses."
When it came to choreography, of course, Malaty and crew needed no advice. That they were already doing – and continue to do – exactly right, by showcasing work by some of biggest names in contemporary ballet.
Their program here, itself a co-presentation with the University of Akron, is a case in point. On tap are works by three high-level choreographers, whose work is rooted in classical ballet but also pushes the art in new directions.
"Over Glow," by Jorma Elo, is a 2011 setting of Mendelssohn and Beethoven, and Jiri Kylian's "Return to a Strange Land" is founded on Janacek. Norbert De La Cruz III, meanwhile, goes in several directions in his 2012 "Square None," taking off from music by such diverse composers as Handel, Sakamoto and Aphex Twin.
In the beginning, ASF was something of an experiment, a quest whose outcome was uncertain. Now it's something of a legend, a source of inspiration rather than a group in need of it.
"It's definitely high maintenance, and I'm not sure what we've done could be duplicated," Malaty said. "But we know we're actually going to be around for more than the next season."
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 12:00 PM
Dance and Brass: Autumnal Offerings from the Region's Many Dance Companies and the Renowned Cleveland Orchestra
This past summer, Verb Ballets performed a series of duets in Tremont's Lincoln Park, filled with intricate choreography that likely enchanted even those with nary a recognized interest in the art. That's a noted trend among organizations highlighted here: bringing what might be perceived as niche artistic interests into the Northeast Ohio entertainment mainstream.
The rest of Verb Ballets' season includes several fall appearances (Twinsburg High School on Sept. 26, Green more › High School on Oct. 18) and leads to a robust winter that kicks off with a slot at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Showcase in January.
DanceCleveland starts its season Oct. 5 with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at Akron's EJ Thomas Hall. This is the sort of thing DanceCleveland does best: showcase top-notch companies from around the world. The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company arrives in early November.
Dancing Wheels, a local company that features some dancers with disabilities, will perform Oct. 15 at Trinity Cathedral. The event is part of Trinity's "Brownbag Lunch Series," which is open to the public.
On Oct. 20, the national tour of So You Think You Can Dance (#SYTYCD) rolls into Playhouse Square. The show's 11th season finalists will perform the season's most popular routines -- plus a few new and original numbers.
Case Western Reserve University's department of dance will showcase Horizons from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8. The show features noted works from Mark Morris and Pascal Rioult.
Likewise, the Cleveland Orchestra is looking toward a busy season at Severance Hall in the coming months.
Here's the one that longtime supporters and rookies alike should be able to get behind: Franz Welser-Most conducts Beethoven's Sixth Symphony ("Pastoral"), Oct. 4 and 5. The performances will be grouped with selections from Ravel.
Renowned pianist Lang Lang, who spends most of his time traveling the globe, will bring his takes on Chopin and Strauss to Cleveland Oct. 9 through 12.
Beginning in late November, the Cleveland Orchestra will take to Playhouse Square and join Chicago's Joffrey Ballet for the annual Nutcracker performances. For most children -- families in general, really -- these shows afford the most accessible entry point for orchestral music in Cleveland.
It's probably worth a reminder that the Cleveland Orchestra is an internationally lauded institution. And Cleveland gets a front-row seat to the music.
Friday, September 19th, 2014 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- We aren't the only ones who see Cleveland as a dance destination. Artists around the state, nation and world see us that way, too, as evidenced by the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference coming to Northeast Ohio in January and Cleveland's recent hosting of the OhioDance Fall Festival.
But the real proof of Cleveland's dance strengths lies in the paragraphs below, in these listings of what more › the region's many companies are up to this and next year.
Clearly, it's a great deal. DanceCleveland, for instance, the area's top presenter, has an eclectic season in store, including its first presentation of hip-hop dance; and Verb Ballets, a greenhouse of new and contemporary works, brings to life three variations of Martha Graham's iconic "Lamentation."
Much more in that vein, meanwhile, can be seen from Cleveland's GroundWorks Dance Theater, Inlet Dance Theatre and Dancing Wheels. And that's to say nothing of the region's top dance schools, including Case Western Reserve University, Oberlin College and Cleveland State University, or of Playhouse Square, the venue this year for two high-level ballet events: "The Ashley Bouder Project" and Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Just don't be a bystander. When it comes to dance in Northeast Ohio, we of all people should be the best informed.
Case Western Reserve University Department of Dance: A two-weekend run of "Horizons," featuring works by Mark Morris and Pascal Rioult and new pieces by Gary Galbraith, Karen Potter and Shannon Sterne, kicks off the year Oct. 31-Nov. 8. Students Hannah Barna and Amanda Clark present their MFA thesis concert titled "Illuminated" March 26-29. A group composed of students, faculty and members of the Cleveland dance community offer two rounds of the Mather Dance Collective (MaDaCol) Nov. 20-22 and April 16-18. Information at dance.case.edu, 216-368-5246.
DanceCleveland: An exceptionally eclectic year at Cleveland's premier dance presenter gets underway Oct. 5 with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron. A parade of internationally and stylistically diverse troupes follows, including Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (Nov. 8 and 9); Pilobolus (Jan. 31); Compagnie Kafig (March 7); and Wendy Whelan: Restless Creature (April 25). Information at dancecleveland.org, 216-991-9000.
Dancing Wheels: Busy year-round, Cleveland's unique company of dancers with and without disabilities next hits the public stage Oct. 15 with a noontime performance at Trinity Cathedral. The year also ends on a high note, with the world premiere of "Babes in Toyland" at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts (Dec. 4-6). Information at dancingwheels.org, 216-432-0306.
GroundWorks Dance Theater: Another enterprising year under David Shimotakahara commences Oct. 24 and 25 with performances in partnership with Cleveland State University at Playhouse Square. On the program: works by Ronen Koresh, Gina Gibney and Johannes Wieland. The fall season also includes a creative residency with choreographer Robert Moses. Information at groundworksdance.org, 216-751-0088.
Inlet Dance Theatre: Bill Wade's welcoming group of new and experienced dancers kicks into high gear Jan. 18 with a concert at the Church of the Saviour in Cleveland Heights. The company also will be featured at DanceWorks 2015 at Cleveland Public Theatre April 23-25 and present another free program next July at Cain Park. Information at inletdance.org.
MorrisonDance: Invigorated by a grant from the Rauschenberg Foundation, Sarah Morrison's modern-dance troupe concludes a monthlong series titled "The City is Our Playground" with a presentation of improvised choreography Sept. 21 at the Tremont Arts and Cultural Festival. Information at morrisondance.com, 216-281-9558.
Ohio Dance Theatre: Oberlin and Cleveland remain the two places to catch this vibrant professional company led by choreographer Denise Gula. Start out with "Ballet Uncorked" Oct. 24, Feb. 6 and April 24 in Oberlin, and continue with an appearance on DanceWorks 2015 April 9-11 at Cleveland Public Theatre. Information at ohiodancetheatre.org, 440-774-6077.
Playhouse Square: The national tour of "So You Think You Can Dance" launches the dance season Oct. 20. After that comes "The Ashley Bouder Project," a presentation by Ballet in Cleveland (Oct. 25); the Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" with the Cleveland Orchestra (Nov. 26-30); "Stomp" (Jan. 16-18); Shen Yun (Feb. 10 and 11); the Cleveland State University Spring Dance Concert (March 26-28); and "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" (May 2). Information at playhousesquare.org, 216-241-6000.
Verb Ballets: A high point in Verb's 2014-15 season comes up Feb. 20 and 21, when the contemporary dance company honors Martha Graham by hosting three variations on the choreographer's "Lamentation," on the occasion of the iconic work's 85th birthday. Also this season: The company appears on the International Association of Blacks in Dance Showcase in Cleveland Jan. 23-35; at Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights (Jan. 30); and on DanceWorks 2015 at Cleveland Public Theatre (April 16-18). Information at verbabllets.org, 216-397-3757.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Friday, August 1st, 2014 12:00 PM
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Comes to Akron October 5 To Open DANCECleveland's Season at The University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall One Matinee Performance Only at 3 p.m.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, a dynamic contemporary ballet company, will open DANCECleveland's new season at the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall with one performance only – a matinee on Sunday October 5 at 3 p.m.
Co-presented with The University of Akron's Dance Program and E.J. Thomas Hall, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is hailed for its bold vision, accomplished choreographers and virtuoso dancers. For 18 years, the company has served more › as a prestigious arts innovator and a showcase for choreographic invention.
In Akron, the company will perform a program of three recent ballets from its repertory. "Over Glow," created for the company by Jorman Elo in 2011 is set to music by Felix Mendelssohn and Ludwig van Beethoven. "Square None" from 2012 by choreographer Norbert De La Cruz III is danced to music by Alva Noto and Syuichi Sakamoto, Michelle Ross, George Frederic Handel and Aphex Twin. "Return to a Strange Land," an Aspen Santa Fe Ballet commissioned work by Norbert De La Cruz III which premiered in 2012, is set to music by Leos Janacek.
Tickets starting at only $20 are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 330-972-7570. Visit www.dancecleveland.org for more information.
Since its founding in 1996, the company has advanced to the vanguard of its field, forging a strong national reputation for its open, contemporary dance style and tradition of commissioning new works from established and emerging choreographers. Today Aspen Santa Fe continues to challenge the boundaries of classical ballet by exploring the innovative possibilities of dance in the 21st century.
The company tours extensively, performing at the American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, The Kennedy Center and the Joyce Theater, among others. Overseas tours include Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Guatemala, Israel, Italy and Russia.
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance in Akron will precede a week of educational programming by the company with students from The University of Akron's School of Dance and Dance Institute, as well as local community dance students. This programming continues to build on the momentum of DANCECleveland's seven-year relationship with the Akron community that helps build dance audiences and spur economic opportunities.
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters nationally that is dedicated solely to the presentation of modern and contemporary dance. The centerpiece of the organization's programming is its annual performance series. The performances are surrounded by an array of educational outreach events including artist-run master classes, residency programs, student matinees, pre-performance lectures and post-performance Q&A sessions, designed both to break artistic boundaries and provide community access to the dance aesthetic and dance luminaries that DANCECleveland brings to Northeast Ohio.
For more information about Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, visit:
For more information about DANCECleveland's presenting partners for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet visit: www.uaevents.com and click on E. J. Thomas Hall.
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM PAM BARR AT 216-932-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Generous support for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet provided by:
The Akron Community Foundation, The Margaret Morgan Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Sterling Jewelers
The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation, the Musson Foundation
Additional funding for DANCECleveland provided by:
The Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, The George Gund Foundation, The George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation, and John P. Murphy Foundation.
Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- DanceCleveland wasn't always rock-solid. Amidst its success, that fact is easy to forget.
But the Cleveland Arts Prize hasn't forgotten. The Cleveland Arts Prize knows who made the group what it is today: executive director Pamela Young.
Hence its choice this year to confer on Young the Martha Joseph Prize, its award for visionary and strategic arts leadership.
"I thought I was behind the scenes," said more › Young, reacting to the award, her first substantial prize of any kind. "I'm not a dancer. I couldn't believe mine was a successful narrative."
Successful it most certainly is, however. So, too, do the words "visionary" and "strategic" apply to Young with keen force.
Simply put, if Young hadn't been named director in March 2003, there might not be a DanceCleveland to honor. Neither would the group, a presenter of world-class modern dance, be one of the region's bright lights on the verge of celebrating its 60th anniversary.
"We had a good plan, and they stayed with us," recalled Young, referring to her board of directors. "If that hadn't happened, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
As Young suggests, DanceCleveland very nearly went under. Just prior to her appointment, her predecessor had departed suddenly, and the board, of which she was a member, was taking steps to shut down the organization.
Young, though, wasn't ready to throw in the towel. Experienced in the realm of arts nonprofits, having already helped several other groups retreat from the edge of extinction, she saw possibility, and stepped forward.
"They didn't see a way out," said Young. "But I had been with organizations in crisis, and it didn't scare me. I said, 'Let me see if we can't make some kind of road map.' "
A road map is exactly what she made. Over the following several seasons, Young righted the ship by taking an eight-month break from presenting and shifting the group away from a hand-to-mouth funding pattern. For the first several months, she drew no salary.
Today, Young is rightly proud of her track record: 10 years in the black, with surpluses. Also under her watch, DanceCleveland has diversified its board, expanded its audience, created an "opportunity" fund and fortified itself for economic downturns. One day she hopes to establish an honest-to-goodness endowment.
"We've made some strong decisions," she said. "We've pushed ourselves in new directions and made ourselves more poised for the innovative things coming to Northeast Ohio."
Not all of Young's accomplishments have been administrative. No, the most visible aspect of her work has been extending a legacy of presenting great modern dance, carefully pegging companies and works to venues and times, always scanning for talent.
Artistically, too, Young has kept an eye on the future, as she has financially. On her to-do list these days is investing in new dance through the work of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and working to make Northeast Ohio a national center for choreography.
"We're not in system where there's money for the creative side," said Young, noting that if Cleveland were to become a center for new dance, "It would put us in a pretty prominent place."
Not that it isn't in a prominent place already. Thanks to Young, Northeast Ohio is home to one of the oldest presenters of modern dance in the nation.
For nearly six decades, patrons have had only to attend DanceCleveland shows to encounter everything from the hottest up-and-comers to the biggest names in the field.
"We've had many great moments in the theater," said Young. "Sometimes it's really magical."
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer