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
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland Announces 2014-15 Season Featuring Five Renowned Dance Companies Programs will celebrate creative spirit of widespread cultures
DANCECleveland Announces 2014-15 Season
Featuring Five Renowned Dance Companies
Programs will celebrate creative spirit of widespread cultures
CLEVELAND (May 12, 2014) – From America's majestic West to a kibbutz in Israel to the Carnival spectacle of Brazil, DANCECleveland's 59th season will continue a tradition of bringing companies noted for unique artistic voices and distinctive styles to stages in northeast Ohio. The 2014-15 season will feature five dance companies from around more › the globe, each known for innovative choreography and extraordinary dancers.
Opening the season in October is Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, hailed for its bold vision, accomplished choreographers and virtuoso dancers. In November, the world renowned Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will demonstrate Israeli dance at its best. In January, the wildly popular Pilobolus will delight audiences with its witty and gravity-defying works. A newcomer to northeast Ohio, Compagnie Käfig from France features Brazilian dancers who will captivate audiences in March with two heart-stopping works combining samba, hip-hop and capoeira dance styles. In April, Restless Creature will make its debut, featuring former New York City ballerina Wendy Whalen who joins forces with four top modern choreographers for a memorable evening of new dance works.
In addition, DANCECleveland subscribers will have an opportunity to purchase tickets for an additional production featuring popular radio personality Ira Glass and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" on Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theatre. DANCECleveland is participating in this presentation by Playhouse Square.
"Every year we look forward to the challenge of planning a season that gives audiences a taste of the dance world's infinite variety, and this year is no exception," says Pam Young, executive director of DANCECleveland. "From audience favorite Pilobolus and two ballet-based programs, to one of Israel's finest dance companies and a Brazilian dance sensation, our new season is filled with innovation and excitement. While our dedicated dance lovers have favorites that they return to see, it's frequently the newcomers to our stage that surprise and delight everyone."
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) will give a matinee performance at the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall on Sunday, October 5 at 3 p.m., co-presented by the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall and dance program. Known for its riveting dancers and the distinctive voices of established and emerging choreographers, ASFB has advanced to the vanguard in its field and forged a strong national reputation. When the company began in 1996, founders Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty tapped the creative choreographic scene in Europe where classical ballet was breaking from its boundaries. The divide between ballet and modern dance was dissolving and ASFB's model was at the forefront of this trend. Today the company continues to innovate and reap accolades nationally and internationally, appearing at the American Dance Festival, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Joyce Theater, The Kennedy Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Wolf Trap. Internationally the company has performed in Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Guatemala, Israel, Italy and Russia.
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance will be accompanied by 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 builds on the momentum of DANCECleveland's seven-year relationship with the Akron community that helps build dance audiences and spur economic opportunities.
"Stark, sleek, and chock-full of moves that skirt the edges of contemporary movement."
–The Boston Globe
Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC), one of Israel's most prominent dance companies, will perform at the Ohio Theatre on Saturday, November 8 at 8 p.m and Sunday, November 9 at 3 p.m. The troupe is widely identified with the work of Artistic Director Rami Be'er, whose exclusive and unique choreographic character has become the company's trademark both in Israel and abroad. With its technically strong and physically eclectic cast of dancers and its dynamic sensibility, KCDC characterizes Israeli dance at its best, and it performs regularly in the most respected theaters and at leading festivals around the world. The company was established in 1970 in Kibbutz Ga'aton, situated in the Western Galilee of northern Israel, by the late Yehudit Arnon, who laid the foundation for today's thriving International Dance Village which continues to evolve into a first-class center for dance.
"A troupe that belongs to the world elite" – Weimar Festival, Germany
Pilobolus, the witty company that has captured hearts around the world, will perform at the State Theatre on Saturday, January 31 at 8 p.m. Pilobolus' movement is at the cusp of acrobatics and dance, with extraordinary feats of partnering, frequent biological imagery and intense theatricality. Since its beginnings, the company has continually broken new ground with playful topsy-turvy entanglements that require extreme strength, flexibility and athleticism.
Founded by a group of Dartmouth College students in 1971, Pilobolus continually forms diverse collaborations that break down barriers between disciplines and challenge the way we think about dance. The company, which has traveled to more than 64 countries over the last 42 years, has received a number of prestigious honors, including the Berlin Critic's Prize, a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in cultural programming, the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in choreography, and a TED Fellowship for performing a TED Talk in 2005. In recent years, it has become an international entertainment brand with commercials (Mobil, Ford, and Toyota), music videos (nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award), and appearances on the 79th Annual Academy Awards, Oprah Winfrey, Conan O'Brien, and even the NFL Network, for which it received a Sports Emmy nomination.
"It's as if we're being given a fleeting glimpse of the inner workings of the universe." – The New York Times
Compagnie Käfig will make its Ohio debut on Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre. Since their first performance in the U.S. in 2002, this innovative French hip-hop ensemble, directed by choreographer Mourad Merzouki, has become an international phenomenon, selling out performances and garnering rave reviews worldwide. After an encounter with eleven young dancers from the shantytowns of Brazil, Merzouki began creating works for them that would bring a true artistic dimension to hip-hop and expand the form. The Cleveland program will include "Correria," created in 2010, and "Agwa" from 2008, heart-stopping works that mix complex hip-hop with capoeira, samba, electronic music and bossa nova to showcase the young Brazilians' astonishing acrobatic skills, dazzling virtuosity and passion for dance.
"The eleven dancers commit themselves totally, energetically, joyfully. Absolutely irresistible!" -Le Figaro
Restless Creature, featuring celebrated ballerina Wendy Whalen, will close the season on Saturday, April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre. For over 25 years, Wendy Whelan has captivated audiences of the New York City Ballet with her elegant yet thrilling movement and her exacting, intelligent approach to performing. Restless Creature is a collaboration with four young choreographers to create a suite of duets that will be performed by Wendy and each of the choreographers in turn. The program will include "Ego et Tu" with Alejandro Cerudo; "Waltz Epoca" with Joshua Beamish; "the Serpent and the Smoke" with Kyle Abraham; and "First Fall" with Brian Brooks. The performance is being co-presented with Playhouse Square.
"It's hard to think of another woman who could dance these pieces, by four different choreographers, half so strikingly. Everything about her is riveting, interesting, unusual, intelligent." -Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times
SUBSCRIPTIONS: Season subscriptions, starting at $128, are now on sale 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 August 18.
For more information on the dance companies, visit:
For more information on DANCECleveland's presenting partners, visit:
www.ejthomashall.com or www.uakron.edu
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM PAM BARR AT 216-932-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 12:00 PM
Avid DanceCleveland patrons have had a tentative version of next season in their hands for weeks. Now they have the final edition.
After teasing followers at its last performance with a glimpse of its 59th season, the presenting organization has now released its next series officially, confirming what those who were able to fill in the blanks have known since April.
Unusually varied, even for DanceCleveland, the 2014-15 season is an eclectic more › mix of five international companies offering everything from traditional ballet to the latest in contemporary modern dance. The season begins Oct. 5 and concludes April 25.
Up first, at 3 p.m. Oct. 5, is Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, founded in 1996 and showcasing emerging choreographers. That performance will take place in E.J. Thomas Hall at the University of Akron.
Next in line, at 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 3 p.m. Nov. 9, is the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, a leading troupe based in Israel and led by artistic director Rami Be'er. This concert takes place in the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.
Well known in Cleveland and everywhere else, Pilobolus returns to the State Theatre at Playhouse Square at 8 p.m. Jan. 31. Expect more of what has made the company a favorite around the world: acrobatic, sculptural dance setting new boundaries for what human bodies can do.
A French company featuring dancers from Brazilian shantytowns, Compagnie Käfig will make its local debut at the Ohio Theatre at 8 p.m. March 7. The company, led by choreographer Mourad Merzouki, will perform hip-hop inspired works including "Agwa" and "Correria."
New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan will close the season at 8 p.m. April 25 part of "Restless Creature," a collaborative project with four young choreographers. The Ohio Theatre program will feature duets exclusively: "Ego et Tu" with Alejandro Cerudo; "Waltz Epoca" with Joshua Beamish; "The Serpent and the Smoke" with Kyle Abraham; and "First Fall" with Brian Brooks.
Season subscribers also will gain access to an additional production at 7:30 p.m. May 2 featuring radio personality Ira Glass and dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass. That program, titled "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host," will take place in the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square.
Subscriptions, $128-$248, are available now. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 18. Go to dancecleveland.org or call 216-991-9000.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Monday, April 14th, 2014 12:00 PM
Jessica Lang Dance pools resources of video, costumes and choreography for unforgettable evening (review)
Good thing Jessica Lang Dance didn't bill itself a "company." That would have been a misnomer.
Equal parts ballet, visual art collective and modern dance ensemble, the young New York-based troupe that stunned a DanceCleveland crowd Saturday night at Playhouse Square looked more like three companies than merely one.
The athleticism and control of the performers were themselves something to behold. Add to these Lang's poignant choreography and gorgeous work by some more › dozen designers of lighting, costumes and video and the result was an unforgettable evening of dance.
"Among the Stars" tugged hardest at the heartstrings. Separated at first by a long, silky fabric, dancers Laura Mead and Clifton Brown gradually overcame the gap and made use of the cloth in an elegant, almost classical pas de deux, only for Mead to end up bound once again, forever off limits.
Sympathy and awe, by contrast, were the prime reactions to "The Calling." Alone like a statute at the center of a vast white skirt, dancer Kana Kamura sank, twisted and pumped her arms in apparent anguish, at times seeming to disappear, magically, into the floor or the fabric itself.
Costume and lighting designers Lisa Choules and Nicole Pearce deserve nearly as much credit as the choreographer, who also designed the set, for the wonder that was "Lines Cubed." Without them, Lang's homage to painter Piet Mondrian might have been flat or anemic.
Instead, it was dynamic, a paean to color and spirit. Dancers in red, yellow and blue executed mechanical patterns and freewheeling, virtuosic solos against a backdrop of white squares and black lines. Rounding out the three-dimensional space were accordion borders, drawn forward and back, on and off, like a painting in the making.
Typically a live art, dance instead came pre-recorded in "White," a film by Shinichi Maruyama. Playful and groundbreaking at once, the film showed larger-than-life dancers moving at half or double speed, toying with foreground and background, and interacting in ways generally unthinkable in real life. Perhaps never has a single work of dance unveiled so many possibilities.
Maruyama also was a prime creative force behind "i.n.k.," the program's mesmerizing finale. There, a gurgling soundtrack and high-definition video of ink globules in air served as the backdrop to black-clad dancers essentially imitating what was going on behind them.
Every element of the footage became a springboard for movement. Speed, texture and density all translated as everything from lyrical duets to frenetic ensemble numbers. In one case, a dancer even interacted with the screen, executing flips over a string of ink-blobs rolling along the bottom.
The emotional pull of this was surprising. Contained within those images was the spectrum of human sentiment. Like most of the evening with Jessica Lang Dance, it was sensory saturation, the equivalent of two dances taking place simultaneously.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Jessica Lang Dance
Monday, April 7th, 2014 12:00 PM
DanceCleveland isn't fading into the sunset. Far from it. It is, however, ending its season in classic fashion, with the parting image employed countless times by books, movies and television: the hint of a bright future.
In presenting Jessica Lang Dance next week, the series is closing out the year, not with an established troupe but rather with a striking newcomer, a company that's been in existence only three years but more › already ranks as one of the dance world's hottest commodities.
"There's a lot of buzz," said dancer Laura Mead. "We're building very rapidly. We're definitely young, and that's part of the excitement. We're a new thing."
Much of the buzz stems from Lang's unique choreographic voice, formed and tested at the Juilliard School in New York. Rare in her field, her language combines classical ballet with the weighty, grounded elements of modern dance.
The spell this casts on performers and their audience is potent. Those bound to tradition get to remain inside their comfort zones, enjoying ballet's symmetry, lightness and flowing lines. At the same time, all get the chance to witness or convey personal, emotional statements.
"I do enjoy work that comes from a ballet idiom," Mead explained. "And love that I get to use all my physical powers, that I really get to dig in.
"But there's also a lot of room for individual expression. She [Lang] really gives us a lot of room to find what feels good for us. We are nine individuals dancing together."
Collaboration is another secret to the success that has greeted Lang since 2011. Where some choreographers insist on doing everything themselves, Lang is fond of sharing the creative load with others, especially composers and visual artists.
At least two of the works in store on the company's Cleveland program April 12, "I.N.K." and "Lines Cubed," hinge heavily on sets and costumes inspired or conceived by artists outside dance.
The former, which includes video and an original score, finds beauty in midair collisions between ink and water, while the latter plays off Piet Mondrian's bright color palette and stark geometry. "Among the Stars," meanwhile, employs a long, stretchy fabric, and the solo dancer in "The Calling" works magic with an immense white skirt. The fifth and final work is "Mendelssohn/Incomplete."
"They're not just gimmicks," said Mead of the visual effects. "They really add something. They're like another dancing partner."
Not to be underestimated, too, is the company's team spirit. Because it's an entity both new and small, the troupe is still very much on the ascent, and all members are serious and invested in a way dancers with larger, established organizations may not be.
"She really gives us a lot of room to find what feels good for us. We are nine individuals dancing together."
Dancer Clifton Brown said he came to Lang from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in part for the experience of starting from scratch. Now, in addition to dancing, he's helping with administrative work and performing other tasks. This carries over to the stage, he said, keeping egos in check and drawing the artists together.
"Young dancers want to outshine the image itself. But we're all on the same page, to make a good body of work. In this company, everybody has a job besides dancing, and it's because we all want to help. We believe in the company."
But if there's one thing that truly explains why Jessica Lang Dance is on the rise, it's probably accessibility. For while strict classical ballet can be off-putting, and pure modern dance doesn't necessarily resonate with everyone, Lang's work strives for broader relevance.
In fact, Mead said, patrons need not feel obliged to know anything about dance. All it takes to be one of Lang's patrons is a certain openness and an appreciation for the inherent beauty of physical bodies moving in space to music.
"People really respond to us," Mead said. "If you release yourself to the experience, you'll be transported."
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
RELATED COMPANY: Jessica Lang Dance