Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Typically, in dance, the goal is the illusion of ease. No one wants to see a ballerina struggle.
Thus is Saturday's visit by ODC/Dance on the DanceCleveland series likely to turn heads. Instead of ease and fluidity, the company aims with "Boulders and Bones" to pay explicit homage to effort and complexity.
"There are many parts that are clearly not easy," said ODC (Oberlin Dance Collective) founder and artistic more › co-director Brenda Way, describing the work, an ode to the art of making art. "We're all about revealing the process."
No doubt she has plenty to reveal. When she founded ODC at Oberlin College, in 1971, she dedicated herself to collaboration and all the bumps, unpredictability and tension that come with it. Even today, 44 years later, at its home in San Francisco, her troupe still includes theater, visual art and writing.
Her brand of dance also remains distinct. Where older companies, especially in the 1970s, kept strict boundaries between genders, styles, and performers and audience, ODC has never observed such traditions.
"The arts environment and the political mood of the era, the combination was a base for a new way of looking at the world," Way recalled. "It all resonated and came together in a new way, and set a new idea for what dance could be."
No surprise, then, that "Boulders and Bones" is a collaborative effort. One of the company's most elaborate productions to date, the evening-length dance rests heavily on the work of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, photographer RJ Muna and composer Zoe Keating. Goldsworthy, in particular, conceived the work's central image: a large stone in a creek bed.
"It was a bit of a surprise when he said it would last forever," said Way of the stone, noting the artist's longtime preference for materials that erode or disappear, in homage to the fleeting nature of life. "It's so literal, and we are so not literal."
After a short film summarizing Goldsworthy's carving project, the dancers in "Boulders and Bones" will proceed to act out, through Way's highly physical choreography, the creative process. With each section, the dancers will explore one phase of the cycle artists go through when developing and realizing new work with others. Among those phases: contemplation, inspiration, building and silence.
Cellist Erin Wang, meanwhile, will rove through space on a moving platform, regaling the dancers with music that waxes and wanes like the moon and the tides. An early review described Keating's score as "percussive, rhythmic and elegiac."
"It's a simple idea, writ large," Way explained. "The meaning accumulates. You feel the chaos of a work site."
In the end, Way said, viewers should come away from "Boulders and Bones" not only with striking images burned into their brains, but also with a sense of the inertia and practical obstacles artists must overcome when creating.
Put another way: By letting Cleveland see it sweat, ODC will do the entire artistic world a favor, and maybe even inspire a few new souls to play along.
"I want to share that enjoyment of the creative process," Way said. "I want people to gain a reverence for it, to see that it's complicated and social."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
RELATED COMPANY: ODC/ Dance
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 12:00 PM
"There's nothing ordinary about San Francisco's ODC/Dance."
– Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle
"You can't really look away, and why would you want to?"
– Janice Berman, former editor, Dance Magazine
DANCECleveland Presents Breathtaking ODC/Dance at the Ohio Theatre on November 7
Former Oberlin company returns to its roots with heralded work "boulders and bones" featuring live music and stunning visuals
CLEVELAND (September 11, 2015) – Hailed by The New York Times for more › their "expressive and technically complex work," San Francisco-based ODC/Dance returns to its Ohio roots as part of DANCECleveland's 60th anniversary season on Saturday, November 7 at 8:00 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre, co-presented with Playhouse Square.
The evening features the company's heralded multi-layered work boulders and bones, with live music by acclaimed avant-cellist Zoë Keating and stunning visuals by photographer RJ Muna.
"ODC/Dance was born at Oberlin College as the Oberlin Dance Collective, so we're thrilled to bring them back to help celebrate our 60th anniversary season," says DANCECleveland Executive Director Pam Young.
Tickets, starting at $25, can be purchased at www.DANCECleveland.org, by calling 216-241-6000, or at the Playhouse Square ticket office at 1501 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.
Created by Artistic Director Brenda Way in 1971, ODC/Dance made the jump from Ohio to San Francisco in 1976 and transformed into a groundbreaking contemporary dance company that now travels across the globe to critical acclaim. Way, who trained under legendary choreographer George Balanchine, creates smart, exuberant and fearless works that push the boundaries of dance. ODC/Dance has "become more sophisticated without losing its humanistic principles and questioning spirit," says Dance Magazine.
Inspired by British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, boulders and bones (2014) is set to a commissioned score by cellist Keating, who performs live on stage, with the bold choreography of Way and KT Nelson, touching on transformation in both art and nature. Muna's cinematic mise en scene, which uses time-lapse photography to trace the shifting light, changing landscape, and building process of Goldsworthy's installation, takes audiences through the chaos of the creative process to the clarity of realization. The San Francisco Chronicle hails boulders and bones as "breathtaking," "clever" and "thrillingly danced."
For more information on ODC/Dance and boulders and bones, visit:
www.odcdance.org and https://vimeo.com/92558693.
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM PAM BARR AT 216-932-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland and The University of Akron are strong and frequent collaborators. The two organizations–which will receive $5 million from Knight Foundation to fund the creation of the National Center for Choreography–teamed up to bring Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal to Akron, Ohio last week.
During a busy, weeklong residency at the university that culminated in a performance at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on campus, company members from Les Ballets more › Jazz worked with dance students on ballet technique in a series of master classes. I had the chance to watch one such session for upper-level students, led by Ballet Master Cyrille de la Barre. He guided students through warm-up and stretch exercises at the barre that are much like those that the professional dancers do during company classes. He also showed them some center work that included dance phrases that were reminiscent of the full company. The inclusion of hand-played drums in place of the piano at times helped convey the sense of rhythmic movement that de la Barre was going for.
Cyrille de la Barre, ballet master of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, instructing dance students from The University of Akron. Photo by Roger Durbin.
Aside from the academic context, the schedule included opportunities for company dancers to interact informally with students, such as during a meet-and-greet reception. Speaking with me via telephone prior to his visit, Louis Robitaille, artistic director of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, said that he and his dancers would also meet with students over lunch, just to chat. The artistic director said he also intended to talk to students about his job as head of a company and what he looks for in a dancer.
Besides sessions organized around dance students, the company held its own classes and rehearsals for the concert performance. They are at work on something new, a duet, and full rehearsals of the piece continued while on campus.
To conclude a week with such a robust schedule, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal had to perform. On Sunday, Oct. 4, the company presented three works: "Rouge" (2014), a commissioned work done to original music by brothers Sylvain and Dominique Grand and choreographed by Rodrigo Pederneiras; "Closer" (2006) by Benjamin Millepied, a short but lovely pas de deux that was gifted to Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal; and "Kosmos" (2015), a longer, 35-minute commissioned piece choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis.
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal performing "Closer" by Benjamin Millepied. Photo courtesy of DANCECleveland.
"Kosmos," Robitaille said, is a "killer," for it requires a lot of stamina from the dancers. You can view a video clip of parts of "Kosmos" here to see how much the dancers rely on big, expansive movements–an influence that Robitaille says stems from his own days as a dancer. Given the thematic hustle-and-bustle of urban existence that is at the center of the work, this is a performance that calls for speed as much as grandeur. In the vivid words of reviewer Steve Sucato writing for Cleveland's Plain Dealer newspaper, the pace is "sadistically fast." (Sucato's assessment of the overall performance was that it "elicited euphoria.")
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal has as a stated goal to "provoke emotions through contemporary dance." In response to a question about that, Robitaille commented that dance can be utterly expressive, for "dance has no language barrier." Even when a work is an abstract ballet–and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal has several in its repertoire–it still can produce emotional reactions, he added. Mission accomplished.
Monday, October 5th, 2015 12:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio -- Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, dance's cool kids from up north with hairstyles to match, capped a week-long residency at the University of Akron with an exemplary triple-bill of contemporary ballet that elicited various states of euphoria.
Presented by DanceCleveland and school's dance program, the production Sunday at E.J. Thomas Hall opened with "Rouge," a 34-minute work from 2014 by Rodrigo Pederneiras, resident choreographer of the Brazilian more › dance theater troupe Grupo Corpo.
Set to an atmospheric original score by The Grand Brothers that conjured up images of indigenous tribes and rain forests, the choreography for "Rouge" employed a variation on the artist's signature movement language of foot stomps, hops and hip-sinking shuffles found in so many of Grupo Corpo's popular works like "21" and "Bach."
BJM's women costumed in Native American-style dresses adorned with Aztec-like symbols and its men in pants and armbands began to slowly move to the sounds of tribal chanting and nature sounds. Soon those sounds were replaced with the thundering of drums that sent the dancers cascading into a series of feet-shuffling and body-undulating movement phrases that were uniquely mesmerizing.
"Rouge's" best moment came in a sexually-charged duet between petite, red-haired dancer Celine Cassone and her partner Mark Francis Caserta. Lifted, pushed and pulled suggestively, Cassone was at once submissive and aggressive with Caserta, who oozed machismo in the rousing, animalistic duet.
The mood then shifted with Paris Opera director Benjamin Millepied's sublime "Closer" (2006). Set to composer Philip Glass' swirling "Mad Rush," the delicate 17-minute pas de deux performed by Cassone and Alexander Hille moved like a light breeze through a window, softly billowing curtain sheers on the way to kissing your face with soothing grace.
The adroitly danced pas de deux -- filled with cradled holds, fainting dips and supple back-bends -- drifted along with Glass's piano music and repeatedly built to crescendos, only to quiet and begin again.
The stirring program concluded with "Kosmos," a new work by rising star Andonis Foniadakis. The 35-minute work set to rumbling drum music by Julien Tarride was inspired by the frenetic bustle of daily life.
Performing at a sadistically fast pace, BJM's dancers blazed through fitful and relentless choreography dense with flailing arm movements, jumps, roundhouse kicks and falls. If the character Hilarion in classical ballet's "Giselle" were forced to dance to death in present time, it would surely look like this. The stamina-busting choreography was something to marvel at for its sheer creativity and exhilarating brilliance.
The final section of "Kosmos'" gave both the dancers and the audience a breather as the stage went momentarily dark only to be illuminated by a star field of white circles that covered it and the dancers. The troupe's dancers then slowly formed classical ballet group tableaus that could have represented the formation of constellations.
It had been a decade since BJM's last visit to Northeast Ohio. Let's hope it doesn't take another for this sensational globetrotting company to return.
The Plain Dealer, Steve Sucato
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal
Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 12:00 PM
The University of Akron dance program has an international flair this week as the company Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal takes over all of the school's dance classes and will have open rehearsals and master classes during a weeklong residency.
It will culminate in Sunday's 3 p.m. performance at E.J. Thomas Hall.
Artistic Director Louis Robitaille, speaking by phone from Montreal, Quebec, said his 15-member company is made up of dancers from more › Canada, the United States, France and Brazil. The ballet troupe, which intertwines modern and contemporary styles with jazz and hip hop, has not performed in Ohio during Robitaille's 17-year tenure.
"Dance does not have any language barriers. The art itself should be open to the world, to share, communicate," said Robitaille, who describes BJM as a fusion dance company rooted in classical ballet.
The Akron program will feature the pas de deux Closer by French choreographer Benjamin Millipied, husband of movie star Natalie Portman. Robitaille said the dance is very special because BJM dancer Celine Cassone, for whom the dance was originally created, is performing it again. She had originally done the dance as a special project with Millipied in 2006.
"When I saw it [the original dance] I fell in love with the duet," said Robitaille, who asked permission from Millipied for BJM to perform the piece with American company member Alexander Hille for its 40th anniversary season four years ago. It has been included in BJM's repertoire ever since.
"This duet is still living through Celine so many years after the creation," Robitaille said.
Also on the program are two BJM commissions: Brazilian choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras' 2014 Rouge and Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis' 2015 Kosmos. The former was created as a tribute to the First Nation, including throat singing and sounds of waves, wind, wild geese and thunder. Inspiration came from both North American indigenous peoples and the complicated percussive rhythms of South America.
Pederneiras brought it all together with the choreography:
"He was greatly and is still greatly influenced by the aboriginal movement gestures … of South America," Robitaille said.
At the other extreme, Kosmos is a dance about "human beings trapped in this nonsense of productivity," the artistic director said. "What you feel in Kosmos is energy that is influenced by the rush hour of the large city."
Tickets to Sunday's performance start at $27. Call 330-253-2488 or see www.dancecleveland.org to order.
When Elizabeth Dugas was a child growing up dancing in Shaker Heights and Solon, she knew she wanted to become a professional dancer and work on Broadway. What she didn't divine then was that dancing in operas at New York's Metropolitan Opera would help her land her first national tour.
Dugas spoke by phone from New York recently right after rehearsals for Bullets Over Broadway, which will launch its national tour at Playhouse Square Tuesday through Oct. 18. (Call 216-241-6000 or see www.playhousesquare.com for details.) She's in the ensemble, portraying homely assistant Lorna, and understudies the role of ditsy Olive.
The 27-year-old began studying dance at age 2 at Jordan Center for Dance in Orange and was competing by second grade. The University of Michigan dance and communications graduate has lived and worked in New York City for five years, dancing the last three seasons at the Met.
Rigoletto was her first opera there, her breakthrough after showing up for an open call dance audition. Last season, she danced in The Merry Widow, which was Broadway great Susan Stroman's first opera.
"It was a dream come true," Dugas said of working with the celebrated director and choreographer.
It was serendipitous that as Dugas was working in Stroman's opera last April and May, she also was auditioning for the tour of Bullets, which Stroman originally directed and choreographed on Broadway. Based on the 1994 film by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath, the 1929 story follows playwright David Shayne, who's trying to get his first play produced on Broadway. The problem is that producer Julian Marx has gangster Nick Valenti bankrolling the show, and Valenti wants his untalented girlfriend Olive to star.
Dugas was a fan of the Broadway musical when she went to an open call with more than 300 women in April. Jeff Whiting directs the tour, but Stroman had final say on casting.
Dugas kept her Bullets callback quiet from Stroman as she was performing in her opera: "I didn't want her to feel a conflict of interest."
She landed a role as one of only eight ensemble women. In this musical comedy, which features a show within a show, the female ensemble is important in moving the story along.
"We tap. We do the Charleston. We do a lot of partnering," Dugas said.
In mid-September, the cast was poised to do a run-through for Stroman as well as another for some of the former Broadway ensemble members that weekend. Next, the non-Equity tour would leave for Utica, N.Y., for technical rehearsals. Dugas was looking forward to finally rehearsing in her beautiful showgirl costumes and was just getting used to her numerous shoe changes as a dancer.
Dugas won't start understudy rehearsals for Olive until she gets to Cleveland. So far she's been watching from the side, dancing in a corner and taking notes. She'll do an alto belt as the Olive understudy, getting the chance to put the private vocal training she's done in New York over the last couple years to good use.
The actress has loved the Olive role since she saw Helene Yorke do it on Broadway: "It's almost hard to play because she's ditsy but she know what she wants and she knows how to use what she's got to get what she wants."
Dugas will also have to convince the audience she's really a good actress/dancer playing a talentless one: "She [Olive] still has to be doing double turns and not falling on her face."
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.
The Akron Beacon Journal, Kerry Clawson
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal