Friday, October 25th, 2013 12:00 PM
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded $750,000 to 14 Akron arts groups to help bring innovative programs to the city aimed at engaging expanded audiences through a variety of disciplines.
With the grant support, the foundation, based in Miami, continues its efforts to weave the arts into Akron residents' everyday lives. Akron arts projects range from a performance of a Midsummer Night's Dream to addressing racial issues more › through theater.
Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts for the Knight Foundation, said it's exciting to fund efforts in Akron that engage more people in the arts.
"One of the things we're excited about in Akron when it comes to the arts is that we're seeing a lot of green shoots," he said, referring to new arts initiatives. "You've got a new, independent cinema for the city, you've got the guys from Neos [Dance Theater], which is pretty much an emerging dance company in the community, and we have this new idea from GroundWorks" DanceTheater - a community video project called "It's Your Move."
"You start to see this kind of organic bubbling in Akron and we get excited about that, because it shows that there are things happening in the community at the grassroots level," Scholl said. "We want to look for and provide fuel for that organic momentum."
The grants complement the foundation's $1 million investment in the Akron Art Museum in the last year to create new exhibitions and engage the public.
A grant to the Akron Film + Pixel organization is aimed at lovers of independent films who have had to go to Cleveland venues like the Cedar Lee and Cinematheque to see such fare. The group plans to open a theater - albeit one seating no more than 75 people - in downtown Akron in the first half of 2014 to show first-run independent and foreign movies. The deal for the theater is not yet complete.
The group could not have done it without a Knight grant, said Kurtiss Hare, communications operator and film programmer. "We would absolutely need this kind of help." They plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in November to raise more money to improve the moviegoing experience.
Youth arts education is the focus with some of the newest grants, including a composition workshop with banjo player Bela Fleck and string quartet Brooklyn Rider, professional dance residencies, and arts training for young Cascade Village residents.
The recipients are:
• Akron Film + Pixel, $120,000: To launch the city's first digital art house cinema, transforming an existing building into a small venue called The Nightlight, featuring daily independent and foreign films.
• Tuesday Musical Association, $40,000: To offer local students a composition workshop with Fleck and Brooklyn Rider in November.
"This gift not only supports a world-class main stage concert, but funds rich education programs," executive director Jarrod Hartzler said. He added that Fleck will work with Akron Public Schools students, and with Brooklyn Rider he will do a workshop with students from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music and the University of Akron.
• City of Akron, $60,000: For the free summer cultural programs that attract more than 220,000 people each year to Lock 3. The grant also supports the 40-year tradition of free ballet through the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, and the Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience for 65 high school arts apprentices.
• Keepers of the Art, $15,000: To raise social consciousness through "true school" hip-hop music and culture by expanding the group's annual showcase weekend. Plans include taping a Teen Forum TV program, where teens and guests talk about issues such as popular culture, education and mental health.
• GroundWorks DanceTheater, $15,000: To launch "It's Your Move," a video project that features GroundWorks dancers and community members demonstrating a dance move and inviting viewers to respond with their own. GroundWorks will take the project around Northeast Ohio to collect moves from a variety of people.
• Greater Akron Musical Association, $90,000: To bring the community together around a performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring the Akron Symphony Shakespeare Players, Ballet Excel Ohio (formerly the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet), the Summit Children's Choir and actors from the Akron area. The association also will work with libraries and schools to organize a community reading project.
Paul Jarrett, executive director of the Akron Symphony/Greater Akron Musical Association, said, "We are thrilled once again to partner with the Knight Foundation to bring the work of Shakespeare and Mendelssohn to life through the collective talents of so many wonderful regional artists … This will be a landmark event for the whole community."
Arts in Cascade Village
• Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshops, $100,000: To provide training in performing arts for the youngest residents of Cascade Village, where a Knight-funded effort is working to improve life skills and build relationships among community members.
"Because of the generosity of the Knight Foundation, the YEPAW Institute has the privilege of sharing the joy of the arts with the children of Cascade Village, right in their neighborhood," said founder and director Leslie Parker Barnes. "Some of the students sat to play a piano for the first time. Others created a 6-by-4-foot banner celebrating their love for the village by identifying favorite Akron landmarks and then painting those images on canvas. Students from throughout the community joined the Cascade Village residents in master classes of dance, percussion and voice."
Some of the students even participated in YEPAW's encore presentation of The Wiz in April. Barnes added, "The YEPAW Institute at Cascade Village has been an amazing experience, one that will not soon be forgotten."
• Cleveland International Film Festival, $75,000: To present the festival's "Day and Knight in Akron" in March 2014. It will be paired with a community discussion and mini-festival for high school students, with selections linked to school curriculums.
New in downtown
• Downtown Akron Partnership, $20,000: To launch Downtown Live and Local, a series of events in the Downtown Special Improvement District, bringing new and established artists together in unusual spaces for social experiences in music, film, performance and visual art.
• DanceCleveland, $25,000: To provide Akron students the chance to work with professional dancers through two residencies, including one by Philadelphia's BalletX earlier this month. Another will take place in the spring.
• Neos Dance Theater, $25,000: To help the company build its repertoire through new works.
• Weathervane Community Playhouse, $45,000: To use the arts to address race issues by presenting two plays new to Akron (David Mamet's Race and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park), commissioning a third, and pairing them with community discussions.
"If you look at our production history over the last 20 years you will see a demonstrated commitment to programming that speaks directly to the African-American community, as well as a broad spectrum of people who live in the Akron area," said John Hedges, executive director. "With the support of the Knight Foundation, we look forward to increasing our connection with a diverse population and expanding the inclusiveness of Weathervane Playhouse."
• Community Hall Foundation, $100,000: To produce 110 events over the next two years at the Akron Civic Theatre, including the All-City Musical featuring high school students, the Jazz@The Civic series, family-friendly events and more.
"While we love hosting nationally touring shows like Steve Winwood and B.B. King, we are thrilled the Knight Foundation has chosen to support our commitment to local and regional attractions," said executive director Howard Parr. "The foundation's support opens the doors of the theater to hundreds of talented artists and the thousands of people who will come and see them."
• Alchemy, $20,000: To use mythology and art-making to help urban male youth think creatively and analytically about their lives. Over two years, Alchemy will host workshops on mask-making, talisman creation and painting, culminating in a final project.
The Knight Foundation has invested $150 million in Akron since 1950, including $46 million since 2008.
Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels contributed to this report. Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.
Kerry Clawson- The Akron Beacon Journal
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland Brings Legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company To Playhouse Square Nov. 9 for One Performance
"One of the most exciting, innovative and delightful dance companies in the entire world"
New York Times
DANCECleveland Brings Legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company
To Playhouse Square Nov. 9 for One Performance
CLEVELAND (Oct. 14, 2013) – Paul Taylor Dance Company, headed by one of history's most celebrated modern dance makers, will be presented by DANCECleveland at PlayhouseSquare's intimate Ohio Theatre on Saturday, November 9 at 8 more › p.m.
Tickets starting at $25 can be purchased at the PlayhouseSquare ticket office, 216-241-6000 or online at www.dancecleveland.org
The engagement will also include a free pre-performance talk starting at 7:15 p.m. in the theatre and a post-performance moderated Q&A session with members of the company immediately following the show. A professional-level master class will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Cleveland State University's Middough Building, 5th floor. For class reservations, call DANCECleveland at 216-991-9000.
Repertory for the evening program will span 35 years of Paul Taylor's extraordinary creativity. From the sweeping euphoria of Esplanade (1975) and the lyrical musicality of Mercuric Tidings (1982), to the whimsy of Gossamer Gallants (2011), audiences will be treated to a spectrum of Taylor's inventive movement language and choreographic genius.
Taylor's creative life spans nearly 60 years and 139 works to date. The Washington Post, calling Taylor "one of the most astute social observers in any art form," praises his "knack for taking the dominant dance form of an era and . . . twisting it into a commentary on people and their lives."
The iconic Taylor, the last living member of the pantheon that created America's indigenous art of modern dance, attended The Juilliard School then danced for seven seasons with the Martha Graham Dance Company while choreographing for his own troupe. In his own dances, he has covered a breathtaking range of topics, but recurring themes include life and death; the natural world and man's place within it; love and sexuality in all gender combinations; and iconic moments in American history.
Paul Taylor Dance Company has traveled the globe many times over, performing in 540 cities in 64 countries, representing the United States at arts festivals in more than 40 countries, and touring extensively under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State. While continuing to garner international acclaim, the company performs more than half of each touring season in cities throughout the United States.
For more information about Paul Taylor Dance Company, visit: www.ptdc.org
About Dance Cleveland
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters nationally 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.
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM PAM BARR AT 216-932-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding for this presentation is generously provided by:
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Cleveland Foundation, George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation, George Gund Foundation, John P. Murphy Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council.
Thursday, October 17th, 2013 12:00 PM
National Blue Ribbon Panel to convene Oct. 29 to explore potential of new national center for choreography in Akron
CLEVELAND (Oct. 14, 2013) –DANCECleveland and The University of Akron (UA) will host a blue ribbon panel of nationally recognized dance leaders on October 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Guzzetta Recital Hall, 139 E. Buchtel Ave., Akron. The event is free and open to the public.
The panelists and audience will explore the potential of establishing a national center for choreography at The University of Akron where professional choreographers more › could create new work. Among the topics to be explored are the potential impact of a new center, the role of UA and its state-of-the-art dance facilities, and views of choreographers from around the country regarding the value of choreographic residencies to their work.
Currently there is only one such center in the United States: the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University School of Dance in Tallahassee. By comparison, France has 12 centers.
The Oct. 29 panel is part of a two-day initiative funded by The John D. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is a first step in a potential feasibility study and process to be conducted by DANCECleveland and The University of Akron.
Selected for their ability to provide a national view of dance in the United States, the panelists include Douglas Sonntag, director for dance at the National Endowment for the Arts; Jennifer Calienes, former director of MANCC; Neil Sapienza, associate dean of Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Akron; Jodee Nimerichter, executive director of The American Dance Festival (Durham, NC); Camille A. Brown, founder and artistic director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers (NYC); Alex Ketley, artistic director of The Foundry (San Francisco) and an independent choreographer; and Julia Rhoads, founder and artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions (Chicago).
"DANCECleveland is proud to have received funding from the Knight Foundation to lead this initiative," says Pam Young, executive director of DANCECleveland. "We believe there is a recognized need nationally for additional choreographic centers where artists can create new works, and northeast Ohio has abundant resources to take on such a project."
Young points to the vibrant dance scene in the region, the superb dance facilities at The University of Akron, and the collaboration history of dance presenting and residency activities between UA and DANCECleveland as assets to develop a national center in northeast Ohio.
"If this process we are undertaking confirms our vision, a new national choreographic center could change the dance profession nationally by giving choreographers around the country space and time to create work."
Following the panel meeting on October 29, DANCECleveland, with the assistance of Janus Small Associates, will launch a listening project to hear from a selected group of stakeholders about this new initiative in Akron.
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.
The Dance Program at The University of Akron, hailed by Dance Spirit magazine as one of the "most sought-after dance programs in the country," offers exceptional technical training in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, and tap - plus studies in choreography, dance history, teaching techniques, nutrition, and physical analysis. In addition to talented and caring faculty and an array of performance opportunities, other assets of the UA Dance Program are world-class facilities and frequent opportunities to work with stellar guest artists.
Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 12:00 PM
DanceCleveland hit a home run with its season opener of BalletX Saturday night at the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall. The contemporary ballet troupe from Philadelphia, in its Northeast Ohio debut, presented a memorable mixed repertory program of three engaging ballets performed adroitly by its versatile dancers.
The sold-out performance, co-sponsored by the university, led off with Amsterdam-based choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's "Still@Life" (2008), set to music by J.S. Bach more › and Wassenaer.
Inspired by still-life paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo, Ochoa's ballet opened on a tableau of a half-dozen male and female dancers costumed in black tops and skirts frozen in an action pose, with one female dancer gripping a green apple between her teeth. The tableau then dissolved, and the dancers set out on what would be a well-crafted journey filled with whimsy and great dancing.
Apples were tossed, rolled and passed among the dancers in playful choreography that had bodies twisting and turning as dancers' legs shot into high extensions and curled through elegant développés.
Ochoa's movement language for the ballet, characteristic of the familiar contemporary ballet language used by many of today's choreographers, had a freshness to its familiarity that was delightful.
Her choreography for the ballet was a mix of interesting dancer formations and clever movement phrases that, like the music it was danced to and the costumes, transitioned from dark to colorful as the ballet progressed. "Still@Life" proved full of life and was both entertaining and satisfying.
Next, former San Francisco Ballet dancer Alex Ketley's "Silt" (2009) adopted at its beginning an apathetic mood, as a male/female couple danced in silence, executing a sputtering succession of contorted body positions while four more dancers -- three seated in chairs -- looked on, appearing bored and disconnected.
As the ballet progressed, a music collage by Tar©JMB kicked in, creating a brooding atmosphere further enhanced by a dark lighting scheme from designer Drew Billiau. Ketley's complex choreography for the ballet's six dancers in this setting felt desolate and at times ceremonial. There was beauty in this, but it was often muted.
One of the ballet's finest moments occurred in a solo by dancer Richard Villaverde, performed to haunting piano music by Arvo Pärt. Looking emotionally tormented, Villaverde poured himself into a swirl of back-and-forth movement that was mesmerizing. That solo, along with a scant few other moments in the ballet, appeared as oases in an otherwise stark and forgettable landscape.
The program closed with BalletX co-artistic director Matthew Neenan's "The Last Glass" (2010). Utilizing the company's full complement of 10 dancers performing to a soundtrack by American indie-rock band Beirut, Neenan's ballet presented the audience with a scene out of a bus station or airport terminal.
As if splashing through puddles of emotion that covered the stage, the dancers kicked up anger, joy and sadness, which then clung to them, giving their characters an underlying motivation and exposing their imperfections.
They then carried out disparate personal stories that moved within the same space. The most revealing of these was a lone woman looking bereft, walking slowly across the stage with head in hand. Her story and sense of loss would become the focal point of the ballet.
"The Last Glass" was a cool ballet, blending Beirut's often-melancholy troubadour-esque tunes with a collection of quirky characters and dramatic mini storylines, along with really smart choreography from Neenan that smacked you in the face at every turn. Danced passionately by BalletX's dancers, the ballet was a fitting end to a superb evening of dance.
Steve Sucato is a writer and critic and chairman emeritus of the Dance Critics Association.
RELATED COMPANY: BalletX
Sunday, October 6th, 2013 12:00 PM
The experimental BalletX dance company performed three starkly different works in its Northeast Ohio debut Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall, with the most accessible dance being The Last Glass, a joyful celebration set to the passionate, rowdy, high-spirited music of American indie-rock band Beirut.
The sold-out crowd at the University of Akron leapt to its feet for a standing ovation after The Last Glass, which ended the performance on a wonderfully more › lusty note.
Choreographer Matthew Neenan, co-artistic director for BalletX of Philadelphia, has taken eight songs from Beirut's album The Flying Club Cup that together sound like the music is almost careering out of control with its street parade sound. The full company creates the impression of wild freedom in this hearty yet nevertheless meticulously executed dance, which Neenan created in 2010.
Chloe Felesina, dressed in tan pantaloons and top that look like underclothes, is the outsider in this celebration, a solitary sad figure who moves with her shoulders hunched and her arms up near her shoulders, as if comforting herself. She brightens up when she pairs with William Cannon, who rubs her cheeks to make her smile. In surprising shifts in movement, they do a graceful dolphin dive on the floor together, break-dance style. We can believe he is the man of her dreams.
He leaves, she is sad again, and when they reconnect, as she reaches to kiss him, he runs off with the group.
This dance, which portrays a wild lust for life, has the full company dancing as five couples. Among them are fighting couple Richard Villaverde and Jaime Lennon, she wearing a flounced white party dress, struggling against him by kicking her legs out during lifts and making fists.
At the other extreme, Zachary Kapeluck and Francesca Forcella are closely in tune as a couple as she dances prettily on pointe. The dancers throw themselves into this high-energy street parade that grows in momentum, aided by the sounds of full-blooded brass.
To the carnival-sounding tune Elephant Gun, dancers rotate as couples in a line from right to left and Cannon joins the line with an invisible partner. Felesina, center stage in front of the parade, is shut out of the group festivities, but we see from her secret smile that this may be by design.
Much more difficult to digest was Alex Ketley's 2009 Silt, which started out with more than a minute of complete silence as two dancers gesticulated fervently with their arms as four others sat in near darkness. This dark, slow, modern dance changed as soon as the music started, with dancers Lennon and Villaverde instantly responding to each other in a much more sensual manner.
The musical soundscape was bizarre in this piece, with classical vocals set to a techno beat and a third, faint recording superimposed on both.
Odd repetitive movements included a wave of the arm from the elbow, a step forward with one foot and a hitch of the skirt. One dancer looked as if she was climbing up another's leg, and Andrea Yorita executed a cool, flat-footed arabesque while hanging onto Jesse Sani's waist backward with both arms.
Silt is a challenge to watch, and that's what BalletX wants for its audiences. This company, which is devoted almost solely to new works created for BalletX, has given 35 world premieres in its seven years and is committed to presenting new, experimental work.
A frolicsome, much easier to digest piece was Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's 2008 Still@Life, which had eight dancers posing en masse and then slowly coming to life in homage to Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings. The fun-loving dance, set to the music of Bach and Wassenaer, had a beautiful symmetry as both males and females danced in black skirts and vests.
Little by little, new elements of color were added to the dance with a dancer's top, vest or skirt, and by the end, a riot of color had broken out. Still@Life had humor, too, as dancers slapped their thighs and threw green apples to each other, sometimes putting them in their mouths in this still life run amuck.
You can count on getting a vast variety of tastes in a BalletX program. On Saturday, Still@Life was entertaining but the brilliant The Last Glass will remain indelible in Akron audience members' memories.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com
RELATED COMPANY: BalletX