Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland Announces 2017-18 Season Dance from All Angles Featuring Nine Renowned Dance Companies, Free Performances & American Dance Festival in Cleveland
DANCECleveland Announces 2017-18 Season
Dance from All Angles
Featuring Nine Renowned Dance Companies, Free Performances & American Dance Festival in Cleveland
Subscriptions on sale March 4 for the 2017-2018 DANCECleveland Season
CLEVELAND (February 22, 2017) –Northeast Ohio's premiere dance presenter, DANCECleveland, will launch its 2017-2018 season of Dance from All Angles beginning with two free "Thank You" performances featuring a new work co-commissioned by DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation in more › June and continuing its season with the first-ever American Dance Festival (ADF) in Cleveland, July 29- August 5. The Main Season is set to open October 1, 2017 in Akron and will continue with dance companies ranging from favorite modern dance classics to the Ohio debuts of world-acclaimed international companies. The season will give audiences a look at dance from all angles by expanding the vocabulary of dance techniques for them to experience, whether it is the expression of hip hop or the energy of Argentinian cowboys.
The season will begin with the rhythmic Cuban dance company, Malpaso, which opens the season with two free ticketed performances June 2 and 3 at 7:30 pm in the Ohio theatre at Playhouse Square as a thank you to the community. The performances will include a co-commissioned work by DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation and serve as part of the Cleveland Foundation's Creative Fusion: Cuba Project. Then, American Dance Festival comes to Cleveland for a fun-filled, week-long festival of dance with three performances including Pilobolus "Shadowland" in the State Theatre on August 29 to celebrate The National Dance Day, the hip-hop dancers of Raphael Xavier on August 2 in the Ohio Theatre and smart moves of Brian Brooks + Dancers August 5 also in the Ohio theatre at Playhouse Square. All performances during the festival begin at 7:30 pm and are preceded by engagement activities for audience members of all ages to enjoy before and after the show in collaboration with Playhouse Square and Cleveland State University's Department of Theatre and Dance.
The Connoisseur/Mainstage Series will begin October 1 at 3:00 pm at the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall with the high energy; Koresh Dance Company awes audience with their talented dancers, followed by the classic modern dance favorite, Paul Taylor Dance Company November 11 at 7:30 pm in the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. Winter will then bring the heat of Brazilian Grupo Corpo on January 20 at 7:30 pm and January 21 at 3:00 pm in the Ohio Theatre, followed by the Argentinian stomping cowboys, Che Malambo who will also be making their Ohio debut in the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square March 17th, 2018 at 7:30 pm.
Pam Young, Executive Director of DANCECleveland, has long wanted to find a platform for pushing the boundaries and broadening our understanding of what modern dance can be. She developed the idea of a summer dance festival format as the platform from which to launch this broader context which will precede the organization's more traditional season series.
"We have sought out dance practitioners who are stretching our notion of modern dance to share with our community. We are also working with new collaborators and placing performances into theatres that are not always available to us during the regular season. The opportunity to bring American Dance Festival to Cleveland will give our community the ability to see modern dance in many different forms in a short span of time as well as to expand our programming with a 4-day educational workshop with ADF faulty and in collaboration with CSU. We wanted to broaden our offerings this season to include dance companies and performances that are expanding the notions of modern dance. We have companies coming from Cuba, Brazil and Argentina as well as the United States and many are making their Ohio debuts with movement that is influenced by different cultures throughout the world."
DANCECleveland will kick off the season with two free performances of Malpaso from Cuba as part of the Cleveland Foundation's Creative Fusion/Cuba Project and a thank you to the community. After a sell-out performance at Playhouse Square in February of last year, DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation were thrilled to co-commission a brand new piece choreographed by renowned choreographer, Azure Barton titled "Indomitable Waltz". The company will spend ten days in Cleveland as part of a residency at Cleveland State University where they will teach and rehearse new works. Based in Havana, Cuba, Malpaso brings Cuban contemporary dance into the 21st century by collaborating with top international choreographers while nurturing new voices in Cuban choreography. Founded in 2013 the youthful company's well-honed dancers perform with energy and passion that can be felt from the last seat in the theatre.
"Surely, Malpaso, with its fluid, sexy athleticism, can put the lie to the old saw that contemporary dance is too cerebral to be fun to watch."- Miami New Times
American Dance Festival (ADF) in Cleveland will offer a week-long celebration of dance performances, classes and events from July 29 – August 5. After three years of planning, DANCECleveland is proud to partner with American Dance Festival, one of the oldest and most renowned dance festivals in the country to bring the festival to Cleveland. The community can enjoy dance demonstrations, dance movies and other events as well as attend three phenomenal dance performances, while advanced dancers ages 18 and up can sign up to be park of the workshop series taught by the ADF faculty. Partnering with Cleveland State University's Department of Theatre and Dance, as well as Playhouse Square, the festival will take place in the Playhouse Square District both indoors and out. The National Dance Day will launch the festival July 29th with a full day of dance offerings including a spectacular performance of Pilobolus.
Named after a sun-loving fungus that grows in barnyards, Pilobolus is renowned worldwide for its witty and gravity-defying works that challenge the notions of what modern dance can look like. Using the human body as a medium of expression, the company creates awe inducing shapes that push the imagination to the extreme. The National Dance Day July 29 will kick off with a creative performance of audience favorite, "Shadowland" which will take audience members on a dream-like adventure. Pilobolus collaborates with a diverse range of artists – including the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Art Spiegelman, OK Go, Radiolab, and many others – to make inventive, athletic, witty, collaborative performance works on stage and screen. They have performed in over 64 countries and received the Berlin Critic's Prize, a Primetime Emmy Award, the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in choreography, and a TED Fellowship for performing a TED Talk in 2005 among others. In recent years, Pilobolus has become an international entertainment brand with commercials (Mobil, Ford and Toyota); music videos (nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award); appearances on the 79th Annual Academy Awards, Oprah Winfrey Show and Conan O'Brien show and more!
"The performers of Pilobolus twist, turn, bend and flex. But the beauty in what they do is how their sometimes breathtaking actions create something bigger than movement"- ORLANDO SENTINEL
Challenging the range of what hip-hop dance can be, Raphael Xavier will continue ADF in Cleveland with a performance unlike any DANCECleveland has ever presented. An Award-winning artist originally from Wilmington, Delaware; Raphael Xavier is a Hip-Hop dancer and Breaking practitioner that has been honing his craft since 1983. A self-described "Innovative Movement Conceptualist", Xavier creates new ways to expand the vocabulary of the dance form and how it fits onto an aging body. He draws not only upon the culture but also his equally important visual background as a Hip Hop magazine photographer and musical artist. As the sound designer for his works, Xavier's understanding of movement and musicality allows him to structure beats, noises and sounds into captivating music that draws upon emotion and coincides with his choreography. As an active alumnus of the world-renown Hip Hop Dance Company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, his solo and ensemble choreographic dance works have been performed world-wide. Xavier has been awarded numerous accolades including a 2013 Pew Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellow in 2014 and most recently a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship for Choreography.
"…Artful and mesmerizing, Xavier transforms a bravado dance style into an introspective meditation." - Dance Magazine
Brian Brooks + Dancers will close the week-long dance festival in Cleveland with a performance full of the beauty and innovation of modern dance. Set to Max Richter's version of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," the company will perform an evening of mixed repertory, including "Torrent", a lush piece full of movement that sends the dancers soaring across the stage while playing with lines and texture as they perform. Choreographer Brian Brooks has been awarded with numerous awards and was recently appointed as the inaugural Choreographer in Residence at Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance. This innovative three-year fellowship supports several commissions for Brooks each season with the first year featuring Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Miami City Ballet, as well as his own New York-based group. The American Dance Institute is commissioned his recent production, Wilderness, with a NY premiere at The Kitchen in June 2016. Brooks' choreography was last seen in Cleveland as part of "Wendy Whelan Restless Creature" in 2015.
"The coiling fullness of Mr. Brooks's choreography, brimming with detail, frequently mesmerizes"– Siobhan Burke, New York Times
Koresh Dance Company was founded in 1991 by Israeli-born choreographer and artistic director Ronen (Roni) Koresh. The Philadelphia based company is known for its engaging performances and superb dancers. The company performs critically acclaimed works and has been hailed internationally, touring to destinations including Spain, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, and Guatemala. Over the years, Roni Koresh has developed a vast repertoire of work that ranges from explosive and passionate to intimate and restrained. The company also presents works by guest choreographers including Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Donald Byrd, Itzik Galili, and Paul Selwyn Norton among others. The driving energy and innovative movement of Koresh Dance Company will awe audience this fall as their technically gifted dancers exude the essence of Israeli inspired dance at its finest. This performance will be presented in collaboration with The University of Akron's Dance Program.
"Earthy, folk-dancey, emotionally direct, physically intense, and ostentatiously eccentric"– The New Yorker
The classic modern dance favorite, Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to Cleveland to perform some of the company's most beloved favorites. Choreographer Paul Taylor is the last living member of the pantheon that created America's indigenous art of modern dance. At an age when most artists' best work is behind them, Mr. Taylor continues to win public and critical acclaim for the vibrancy, relevance and power of his creations. Paul Taylor's dances are renowned for their movement invention, athleticism, cultural commentary, and intricate musicality. Best known for his ability to capture musicality in motion, for many people it is impossible to hear certain orchestral works and not think of his dances. He has set works to an eclectic mix that includes scores from both classical and modern composers. This performance will be co-presented with Playhouse Square.
"Mr. Taylor proves himself the greatest choreographer alive." - New York Times
Brazil's Grupo Corpo heats things up with a winter performance of effortless movement and overflowing creativity. The highly sought after contemporary company was founded by Paulo Pederneiras in 1975, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and debuted its first work, Maria Maria, the very next year. Featuring original music by Milton Nascimento, a script by Fernando Brandt and choreography by the Argentine Oscar Araiz, the ballet would go on to spend six years on stage and tour fourteen countries. Since then, the company has intensified its international touring and created more than 2,300 pieces, as well as ten full ballets in its repertoire. Most recently they performed as part of the opening ceremony during the 2016 Summer Olympics exhibiting their unique fusion of movement styles. Giving more than 80 performances a year in places as distinctive as Iceland and South Korea, the United States and Lebanon, Canada, Italy, Singapore, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Japan and Mexico, Grupo Corpo has become one of the most desired companies in the world! After ten years of anticipation, DANCECleveland is thrilled to bring them to Cleveland for two stellar performances. This performance will be co-presented with Tri-C.
"Members of this astonishingly versatile Brazilian troupe are trained to pirouette as expertly as they can samba or shimmy, and the steps seem to pour out of their sleek, supple limbs with unstoppable force." – Guardian
The powerhouse, all-male, Argentinian dance company, Che Malambo, excites audiences with their percussive dance and music spectacle. Since its premiere in Paris in 2007, Che Malambo has performed around the world awing audiences with their dynamic blend of precision footwork, rhythmic stomping, drumming and song. Paris-based Gilles Brinas first learned about Malambo while researching traditional dances. He soon fell under its spell and travelled to the Pampas region of Argentina to engage with the gaucho and further his exploration of their traditions. Inspired by the dance and the talent of its exponents, Brinas created Che Malambo so as to share this powerful, passionate form with international audiences. Capturing the spirit of the gaucho (South American cowboy) Brinas has choreographed a full evening work evoking agility, strength and dexterity, all characteristics that make up the heart of Che Malambo. The fast-paced footwork and whirling boleadoras will excite audiences and transport them into a world of rhythmic dance. This performance will be co-presented with Tri-C.
"Percussive sounds vibrated through the theater. Complex stimulating rhythms made on drums, by clapping hands and dynamic footwork were breathtaking"- Berkshire Eagle
SUBSCRIPTIONS: Season subscriptions packages, starting at $117, are on sale March 4, 2017 at www.dancecleveland.org. Call 216-991-9000 or visit www.dancecleveland.org to purchase season tickets or request a brochure. Single tickets will go on sale May 11, 2017.
For more information on the dance companies, visit:
For more information on DANCECleveland's presenting partners, visit:
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM SARAH HRICKO AT 216-991-9000 OR EMAIL: email@example.com.
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters in the nation 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.
DANCECleveland is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
The Ohio Arts Council helped fund DANCECleveland with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 12:00 PM
LEVELAND, Ohio - No need to attend Jessica Lang Dance unprepared. Beyond simple program notes, the New York-based troupe en route to Cleveland Saturday has provided detailed video previews of its entire program.
Well, almost the entire program. One of the five works slated for the Ohio Theatre, "Her Road," is impossible to preview, as it's a world premiere. Yes, a world premiere. For that one, written commentary will have to more › suffice.
Jessica Lang Dance
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4.
Where: Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, 1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.
Tickets: $25-$65. Go to dancecleveland.org or call 216-241-6000.
First off: a little about Jessica Lang Dance in general. This is the not the company's Cleveland debut. In fact, the nine-member troupe was here less than three years ago, just three years after its founding, in April 2014. Here's what I said about that performance.
Jessica Lang Dance pools resources of video, costumes and choreography for unforgettable evening
As for the program itself, know that it consists of five works. Three of them originated at Jessica Lang Dance. The other two were choreographed by Lang for other companies, before she founded her own troupe.
Start with the oldest work: "The Calling" (previewed below). This 4-minute work from 2006 was commissioned by Alvin Ailey II and calls for once dancer in an elaborate dress. It's set to music by the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval.
Next oldest is "Solo Bach" (previewed below). This brief work for one dancer hails from 2008 and was commissioned by Global Dance Theater. As its title implies, it's set to a work for solo violin by Bach.
The next two offerings are each barely one year old. Both "Thousand Yard Stare" and "Sweet Silent Thought" were created in 2016.
Below is the video preview of "Thousand Yard Stare," a setting of Beethoven involving all nine dancers and lasting some 20 minutes. Key to an appreciation is knowing that it's based on the stories of military veterans.
"Sweet Silent Thought," by contrast, calls for four dancers - two men and two women - and lasts 10 minutes. It's set to music by Jakub Ciupinski, a New York-based Polish composer, and pays tribute to the sonnets of Shakespeare.
Last but far from least is "Her Road," the world premiere. This one, too, calls for four dancers and relies on the music of Beethoven. It, though, deals in the visual art of Georgia O'Keeffe.
Sadly, of course, there's no video as of yet. Maybe there'll be a camera at the performance Saturday.
The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Jessica Lang Dance
Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 12:00 PM
"As a successful female choreographer with a focused and careful vision, Lang continues to push boundaries in dance, crafting subtle art that occasionally verges on "masterpiece.""- Huffington Post
DANCECleveland Presents Jessica Lang Dance at Playhouse Square March 4
A jubilant return in an evening of dance that will include a world premiere
CLEVELAND (February 1, 2017) – New York City-based Jessica Lang Dance will return to the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square more › on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. for one performance that is sure to be one of the audience favorites of DANCECleveland's 2017 dance series, which continues to highlight female choreographers and artistic directors this winter. Since the company burst onto the dance scene five years ago, Jessica Lang Dance has been thrilling audiences across the world with powerful dancing, beautiful sets and costumes, and expressive choreography in lush contemporary ballet works.
Tickets, starting at $25, are available at www.DANCECleveland.org or by calling Playhouse Square at 216-241-6000. Groups of five or more can call DANCECleveland at 216-991-9000 for more information about discounted group tickets.
The March performance will feature six pieces of Lang's choreography. The highlight of the evening will be the world premiere of Lang's newest piece, "Her Road", a creation honoring the art work of Georgia O'Keefe and set to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. In addition, to end the evening, the company will perform "Thousand Yard Stare" a powerful and emotional piece created by Lang in 2015 based on the lives of war veterans from across the country and set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven. Veterans created artwork that is displayed on the backs of the costumes of each dancer. The performance will begin with "Solo Bach", a solo choreographed by Lang in 2008 to music set by Johann Sebastian Bach and will continue with a beautiful duet titled, "Among The Stars". After an intermission, the second half of the performance will include "Sweet Silent Thought", a work inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets and featuring readings from sonnets 30, 64, 40, 105, and 71. A crowd favorite, and powerful solo, "The Calling" (excerpt from Splendid Isolation II), created in 2006, and set to music by Trio Mediaeval will follow.
Jessica Lang's choreography is much in demand, having created more than 75 works for such companies as New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet, among others. She is known for her artfully crafted, emotionally engaging contemporary ballet works and has "established a reputation for concocting ingenious choreographic interactions between dancing bodies and the movements of striking set and costume pieces." (Kansas City Star) Since the company's inception, marked by Lang's receipt of a Joyce Theater Artist Residency supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, JLD has made rapid success performing at world renowned venues and festivals including Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, New York City Center's Fall for Dance Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Joyce Theater, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Northrop Auditorium, Winspear Opera House and Palacio de Bellas Artes, among others. The company's performances have been named among the best dance events of the year by major publications in Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City and Boston. JLD has received numerous grants and funding from organizations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the O'Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Harkness Foundation for Dance, and the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Lang is a former member of Twyla Tharp's company, THARP!
The Cleveland performance will be surrounded by educational activities for dancers and non-dancers alike including dance master classes at Cleveland State Univerity's Middough Building as well as a weeklong residency where Lang will be working on new choreography. More information regarding the master class can be obtained by emailing Alison@dancecleveland.org. There will be a pre-performance chat at 6:45 pm and post-performance Q&A with the dancers on stage, designed to provide an opportunity for audience members to learn more about the visiting company.
For more information about the company visit www.jessicalangdance.com
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM SARAH HRICKO AT 216-991-9000 OR EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters in the nation 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 OH.
Learn more about DANCECleveland at www.DANCEClevland.org.
This engagement is generously supported by:
DANCECleveland also thanks their generous season funders:
The Char & Chuck Fowler Family Foundation The George Gund Foundation George W. Codrington Foundation
Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Since returning from an 8-year hiatus in 2012, Dance Theatre of Harlem, now under the artistic direction of founding company member and former star Virginia Johnson, has steadily begun to reclaim its former glory as a premiere American dance company. It's sold-out performances at Playhouse Square's Saturday attested to the public's thirst to once again see the company in action.
Co-presented by DANCECleveland and Cuyahoga Community College, the more › 3 p.m. matinee program opened with Cleveland dance icon Dianne McIntrye's ballet "Change" (2016). On a day when thousands of women in Cleveland and millions across the globe marched for the protection of their rights and against the negative rhetoric and demonization of diverse communities espoused during the recent election cycle, McIntrye's all-female trio exploring the changes that African-American women have experienced throughout history couldn't have been timelier.
The first piece McIntyre has choreographed for dancers on pointe, "Change," set to original music by Eli Fountain and traditional spirituals, evoked the spirit of African-American activists like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hamer.
The ballet began with the dongs of a bell that resonated throughout the theater as a single female dancer tentatively moved out onto the stage, head lowered with hands outstretched in front of her as if searching for a path forward. She was soon joined by the ballet's other two dancers who did the same.
McIntyre's gestural choreography was abstract yet meaningful. Simple, yet elegant in the ease in which it flowed from the trio of Chyrstyn Fentroy, Ingrid Silva and Stephanie Williams. The long and lean Fentroy was particularly impressive, encapsulating the fragile beauty and grace of movement to a melancholy song about laying down a heavy load, and then switching gears later in the ballet to become a fierce and defiant figure vocalizing guttural shouts while dancing a solo to African drum music.
Reflective of those McIntyre referred to in the program notes as past "warriors for change," her ballet was also mindful of the ongoing struggle women, especially those of color, still face today.
After choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie's "Equilibrium (Brotherhood)" (2016), a brief men's trio celebrating male camaraderie and solidarity, the program settled in for DTH alum Francesca Harper's lengthy "System" (2016).
Danced to dramatic and driving music by John Adams, Harper's contemporary ballet for five men and three women was a constant stream of intermixed solos, duets and trios with dancers coming and going from the stage with regular frequency. Abstract but with an emotional undercurrent, the talented group of dancers showed off their adroit skills in Harper's chaotic, intriguing choreography.
Amidst Harper's torrent of jumps, turns, and partnered movement, much of which appeared to be the dancers proving their skill, every so often the dancers clustered in a group to stare out into the audience with looks of fear and apprehension, yet still drawn to whatever it was they were seeing.
As a showcase of DTH's young dancers' skills, "System" delivered. On the whole, however, the ballet at length tended to tread over similar ground.
The program concluded on a high note with choreographer Robert Garland's audience-pleasing "Return" (1999). Set to a suite of songs from James Brown and Aretha Franklin, the funky and joyful piece was just what the doctor ordered to send toes tapping and spirits rising.
Dancing to James Brown's "Mother Popcorn," Silva opened the work in choreography that sent her backfield in motion and that was the movement equivalent of a smile. Joined by the rest of the company including a show-stealing performance by dancer Francis Lawrence who emulated some of Brown's signature moves, the work blended neoclassical ballet with urban sensibilities sending waves of recognition and appreciation across the faces of audience members with the introduction of each classic song contained in it.
Of the work's many highlights, the performances of Fentroy and Jorge Andres Villarini dancing to Franklin's "Call Me" and Lawrence and the company letting loose in a "Soul Train" line dance to Brown's "Superbad" stood out.
Superbly-crafted and wonderfully danced, "Return" elicited a standing ovation, capping a successful return of Dance Theatre of Harlem to Cleveland.
The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Dance Theatre of Harlem- VERY LIMITED SEATING
Monday, January 16th, 2017 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Talk about a dance company on point. Dance Theatre of Harlem knows exactly what it's doing, and why that mission matters.
En route to the DanceCleveland series this week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the famed New York dance troupe is recommitting to inclusivity, underscoring its belief that ballet can and should be a universal language.
"It's an important message to carry forward," said Virginia Johnson, the company's more › executive director. "We're not a black ballet company.
What: Dance Theatre of Harlem.
When: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21.
Where: Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, Cleveland.
Tickets: $25-$45. Go to dancecleveland.org or call 216-241-6000.
"We want to give people a different way of looking at this art form. We want people to see this art form as something that's relevant and that can apply to everyone at this time."
Johnson knows of what she speaks. The company she directs might not even be active if the mission she cited weren't still potent enough to inspire her dancers or the public at large.
But it is. When Johnson brought a sleek, readily portable Dance Theatre of Harlem company back to life in 2012 after a lengthy hiatus brought on by over-ambitious touring, she did so with the firsthand knowledge that the vision of company co-founder Arthur Mitchell could change lives. It changed hers, after all.
"He thought that by teaching a classical art form to those who were written off, he could give them the keys to success, no matter their career," Johnson said.
It's precisely this philosophy the company seeks to convey with its program Saturday afternoon and evening at Playhouse Square. Through dance, Johnson said, the troupe will prove and explore the notion that ballet is for everyone.
Robert Garland's "Return," from 1999, blends classical ballet with popular dance moves, upending the traditional art-world order. "For such a long time," Johnson explained, "there's been one idea about who belongs onstage and who dances for us."
"Change," meanwhile, a recent work by Cleveland-based choreographer Dianne McIntyre, approaches the topic from a different angle. To convey the stubborn persistence of racial and gender issues over time, her work asks the dancers to portray significant figures from history.
Issues of male identity and solidarity are at the heart of "Equilibrium (Brotherhood)," by Darrell Grand Moultrie, and "System," by Francesca Harper, grapples with life as an African-American in classical ballet.
"It's very intriguing work," Johnson said. "It deals with our history, but it's also very personal. It's like they're speaking to us through their bodies."
Indeed, that's exactly what they're doing, in "System" and every other work on their Cleveland program. And they're speaking loudly and clearly.
That's because Johnson is discriminating when it comes to repertoire. Whether at home or on the road, the director said she only selects or commissions "gateway" work, pieces she said will speak to "people who feel like they don't like ballet."
"We're saying [ballet] is something they can take extreme pleasure in, and real meaning from," Johnson said. "It's not all princesses and frogs."
The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Dance Theatre of Harlem- VERY LIMITED SEATING