Monday, May 18th, 2015 12:00 PM
National Center for Choreography to Launch in Akron $5 million investment to attract world's finest dance makers
AKRON, Ohio (May 14, 2015) – The University of Akron and DANCECleveland announced today that they will launch a new organization; The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. This center for choreography – only the second in the nation – is where the country's finest dance professionals will create new work. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide $5 million to support the more ›
center, under an agreement being finalized.
"The next generation of great American choreographers needs space and time to develop the craft and to explore the full potential of the creative process," said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. "The new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will fill that need, building on the resources of northeast Ohio to create the works that inspire tomorrow's audiences."
The new center, to be located on the university's campus, will select national choreographers and dance companies through a rigorous curated process, providing them full access to the world-class facilities of the university's Center for Dance and Theatre. The advanced technology available in seven dance studios and in E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall will provide dance makers with a full array of resources, from studio space to on-stage rehearsal time to create new work. In addition, University of Akron students will benefit from the presence of professional artists on campus through creative and intellectual exchange.
The center builds on the success of the University of Akron and DANCECleveland's long-standing partnership, which offers one of the strongest dance residency and performance programs in the country. Since 2006, they have provided extended campus and community access to acclaimed professionals and companies, including BalletX, Paul Taylor Dance Company, LINES Ballet, MOMIX and others.
"Dance makers in the United States are sorely underserved and lacking in resources," said Pamela Young, executive director of DANCECleveland. "If dance is to thrive, it's essential to have residency spaces coupled with a full range of support for choreographers. We first envisioned northeast Ohio with its enormous cultural, research and physical space resources, and The University of Akron with its state of the art dance studios, as having the potential to fill this gap. It is thrilling to see this vision take shape and help answer a critical need in the dance ecosystem."
"Our resident artists will be able to tap into a wealth of resources not only at The University of Akron, but also region wide to support the creation of new dance works," Young said.
This effort follows the recommendations of a Knight-funded Blue Ribbon Panel, and a subsequent feasibility study both led by DANCECleveland that addressed an industry-wide challenge: Where and how will the dances of tomorrow be developed? With significant input from the northeast Ohio community, The University of Akron and DANCECleveland have agreed to a memorandum of understanding for the creation of a center that seeks to strengthen the dance ecosystem of the northeast Ohio region and the nation. Knight has agreed to pledge $5 million to support the center once it is created.
UA President Scott L. Scarborough has committed the university to preparing students for the working world through career-focused, experiential learning. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron complements that vision by providing UA students the opportunity to interact with professional companies and learn first hand about the process of creating dance works.
"The University of Akron is already known around the nation and the world for its excellence in areas including polymer science and engineering," Scarborough said. "With the addition of the choreography center, we will become one of few institutions with a national presence in both the sciences and the arts."
DANCECleveland, now in its 60th year, is one of eight stand-alone, dance-only presenters in the nation. It has presented performances by more than 200 dance companies, conducted more than 1,000 workshops and master classes and produced seven commissioned works.
Monday, May 18th, 2015 12:00 PM
You enter a theater and take your seat. The house lights dim, the curtain goes up and a dance performance by a national touring company begins to unfold. The talented dancers, stunning lighting, exquisite costumes, inspiring music and standing ovation during the final bows create an evening to remember.
Though the beautiful memory will linger, you will likely not think of the struggles that the choreographer overcame to bring the performance more › to the stage.
The fact is choreographers in the United States are sorely underserved and lack the resources to create and rehearse their craft. If dance is to thrive and endure nationally, dance makers need rehearsal time and space, the bodies to move through that space, and community resources to bring their works into the public domain.
Over the past decade of collaboration to offer one of the strongest dance residency and performance programs in the country, DANCECleveland and The University of Akron have discussed the possibility of creating a new national center for choreography to help meet these needs. Knight Foundation asked if we had an idea that could be transformative, and this concept piqued their interest.
Now, with Knight Foundation's $5 million pledge in support, both time and space will be provided to the most creative dance makers around the nation. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will engage the rich cultural resources of northeast Ohio. This will be only the second such center in the U.S. – the other is the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University. The nation needs this new center. In France, there are 19.
The new center, which will operate as a stand-alone, non-profit organization, will select national choreographers and dance companies for residencies. Choreographers chosen for residencies will receive stipends and access to the rich academic and creative resources of a comprehensive university including the world-class facilities of the university's Center for Dance and Theatre, and the 3000-seat E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.
Choreographers can also take advantage of the rich cultural climate of northeast Ohio, perhaps using spaces at other colleges and universities in the area and at Cleveland's Playhouse Square, the largest U.S. theater complex outside of New York City. They can tap into the creative energy of the region, engage students in their craft and take the work they accomplish back to cities around the country for performances.
The opportunities for students at The University of Akron are exciting. They will reap the benefits of having prominent choreographers on campus and in the studios. Student choreographers will increase their knowledge of the business side of their craft – understanding how to effectively communicate and work with presenters and venues, creating opportunities for peer review of work in progress and advocating for the presentation of new dances.
While the center is launching, dance making is already underway, with three pilot residencies at The University of Akron already in the works with selected choreographers John Jasperse (New York City); Carrie Hanson/The Seldoms (Chicago); and Camille A. Brown & Dancers (New York City).
The vision is taking shape and talented choreographers are arriving to create those dances that will likely be seen on stages throughout the country in coming years and create lasting memories for audiences far and wide. We look forward to joining in the applause.
Scott L. Scarborough, PhD, President of The University of Akron, and Pamela Young, executive director of DANCECleveland
Friday, May 15th, 2015 12:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio – Akron and Northeast Ohio generally are about to leap to national prominence as a hotbed for dance.
Fast-tracking a plan to turn the region into a generator of new work, the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has given $5 million to establish a national center for choreography at the University of Akron.
The grant, several times larger than expected, moves the project forward rapidly – at more › last reporting, planners were conducting a feasibility study – and sets up Northeast Ohio as only the second area in the nation dedicated to dance creation.
"This is stunning news in the dance world," said project member Pamela Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, recalling that she lost her breath when she heard it. "The whole thing has been a little magical."
Like its predecessor, the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University in Tallahassee, the dance center coming to Akron will not be a physical space so much as a network of facilities and resources.
Choreographers and dance companies, many of whom struggle for studio time, will apply for access and then be granted space in which to create and perform in the school's well-stocked Center for Dance and Theatre. The artists also will paid for their time, and be positioned to seek inspiration and do research all over Northeast Ohio.
"In a lot of ways, the center will be like a matchmaker," said Young, pointing to a recent test of the idea with Camille A. Brown & Dancers. "The whole region can be an incubator. We have all the right stuff. It's all right here."
Two choreographers already have been selected to inaugurate the new center, Young said.
Carrie Hanson, Chicago-based director of The Seldoms, will be the first, in July, and John Jasperse, artistic director of a troupe in New York, will be in residence next April. The former, Young said, plans to do research at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, while the latter will avail himself of videographers at the University of Akron.
Whether or not these artists complete anything while here -- and what becomes of that work -- remains to be seen. Still, the very presence of cutting-edge artists living and working on campus in Akron and the ideas the choreographers will carry away should prove to be worthy ends in themselves, said Neil Sapienza, associate dean of fine arts and humanities at the university.
"[W]e look forward to having many prominent choreographers in our studios, on our campus, on a regular basis, year after year. For our students, having that national presence is just enormous."
The greatest impact, though, is likely to be on the public, on the region as a whole. Some works conceived here, for instance, are bound to appear later on a DanceCleveland program. Others will yield insight on the creative process and thereby serve to advance understanding of the art.
Northeast Ohio, meanwhile, will only step further into the spotlight. Like the best of dance partners, the new center will elevate and hold up the region as a destination for creative souls.
"I think this puts Northeast Ohio squarely in the high beams of national attention for dance," Young said. "The whole system of dance in Northeast Ohio will be the better for it."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
Friday, May 15th, 2015 12:00 PM
The University of Akron is dancing for joy.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Thursday announced $5 million in funding for the school and the nonprofit DANCECleveland to launch the National Center for Choreography on the Akron campus. It will be only the second center of its kind in the country.
"We want to increase the amount of experiential learning our students receive - whether it's in the sciences more › or the arts," UA President Scott Scarborough said. "[The dance program] has a historical legacy, and we want to build on the strength that comes with that history. When people say 'The University of Akron,' you think of polymers and engineers, We want to be known for our art programs as well."
The center will provide national choreographers and dance companies with access to seven dance studios and the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall so they can create new work. It also will help UA by using Guzzetta Hall, which was refurbished and expanded in part to house the Ohio Ballet. (The ballet company ceased operations, however, before the addition opened.) The university also expects students to benefit from professional artists being on campus.
"We want the students to have hands-on experience before they go out into their fields," Scarborough said. "This is an investment in learning, and it's important the students can learn in person as opposed to a textbook. But they also can rub shoulders with people already in the field. It gives them contacts to help get jobs later and which is integral to all of our programs."
The dance activities are expected to begin immediately, although the groups still must hire an executive director and appoint a five-member board of directors to oversee the center.
The idea follows a blue-ribbon panel that examined the future of dance and a feasibility study funded by Knight and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, housed at Florida State University, is the only other national choreography center in the nation at a major research institution.
"Dance makers are very underrepresented when it comes to resources," DANCECleveland Executive Director Pamela Young said. "This is a game-changer that will be felt locally, regionally and nationally."
Young said the center is important for choreographers because, more often than not, they do not get to see the dances onstage with the accompanying sets and costumes until a few hours before the show - making the job vastly more difficult if something goes wrong or doesn't look correct.
"With the new center, dance makers can get a look at the full performance throughout the process," Young said. "They will have access to the studios in Guzzetta Hall and access to E.J. Thomas [Hall], this gap will be filled.
Alberto Ibarguen, president of the Miami-based Knight Foundation, also attended the event.
"Vision, talent, ability, will and tenacity will help pull this off," Ibarguen said. "This will not be for the faint of heart, and it's all being made possible because of the combination of desire, facilities and community support."
UA and DANCECleveland, which have partnered on dance performances and projects since 2006, have agreed to an 11-page memorandum of understanding to create the center. Knight has pledged $5 million to support it once the center is established. The groups are still finalizing the agreement.
The memorandum notes that the Knight Foundation has the option to name the center after its organization. If it decides not to, the parties may seek to sell naming rights.
Scarborough said that the $5 million is to be spread out evenly over the course of five years, therefore the foundation would be bearing most of the costs associated with the center during that time.
UA, however, is responsible for dance studio space, office space for the center staff, access to costume and scenery, access to E.J. Thomas and support from the theater production crew.
It also says the center will conduct its own fundraising.
DANCECleveland is one of eight stand-alone, dance-only presenters in the country. It has presented performances by more than 200 dance companies, conducted more than 1,000 workshops and master classes, and produced seven commissioned works.
Katie Nix and Rick Armon , The Akron Beacon Journal
Monday, April 27th, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Following in the footsteps of other ballet stars like Mikhail Baryshnikov that made late-career transitions from ballet to contemporary dance styles, former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, seeing the writing on the wall after 30-years with NYCB, launched her Wendy Whelan New Works Initiative.
What has been remarkable about Whelan's transition more so than most, is rather than easing into the change, she cliff-dived into it. more › In short order, even before her official retirement from NYCB last October, she began crash courses with four different dancer/choreographers in four movement languages foreign to the way her body was used to moving to create "Restless Creature," the first production in her New Works Initiative.
The hourlong program co-presented by DANCECleveland and Playhouse Square at the Ohio Theatre Saturday night more than lived up to its pre-show hype giving the assembled audience a sumptuous dance memory to cherish for some time.
The critically-acclaimed suite of four duets danced by Whelan and her four male dancer/choreographer partners began with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago resident choreographer/dancer Alejandro Cerrudo's "Ego Et Tu" (2013).
Danced to music by Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and others, Cerrudo entered the stage first pouring forth contemporary dance movement in a solo that had his outstretched limbs leading his body into swooping dips and rises, careening turns and liquidly smooth sways. Whelan then joined him dancing with similar fluidity.
While not quite as silky smooth as Cerrudo, the waif-like and powerful Whelan's carriage seemed to have shed a fair amount of its ballet rigidity since "Restless Creature" premiered in 2013. Both dancers were magical. Their partnering was elegant and effortless in Cerrudo's divine choreography that even gave a nod to Balanchine's iconic "Serenade," a ballet Whelan must have danced countless times.
Choreographer Joshua Beamish's "Conditional Sentences" (2015) was perhaps the least stretch for Whelan in terms of movement language. The courtly duet was infused with ballet steps and poses along with some tricky off-count starts and stops. But while Beamish and Whelan performed the call and response choreography expertly, they seemed to lack onstage chemistry and the work seemed to drag out and repeat itself.
Kyle Abraham's "The Serpent and The Smoke" (2013) proved the evening's most dramatic and resplendent work. Set to music by Hauschka and Hildur Guanadottir, the piece began with Abraham, aflutter like a whirling dervish, launching himself into a sequence of rapid turns and arm movements.
As a dancer, Abraham has a most distinctive way of moving that blends modern, contemporary and hip hop styles into seemingly steroid fueled movement riffs counterbalanced by tender moments of graceful serenity. Whelan bought into Abraham's movement language wholeheartedly in her performance, circling him at the outset as if stalking him as he looked on captivated by her wispy movement around him. The two, simpatico in their dancing brilliance, exuded strength, sensuality and rare beauty in the riveting duet.
The program concluded with the Brian Brooks gem "First Fall." To a score by Philip Glass, Brooks and Whelan melted into each other's arms moving up and down across the stage like on a rapidly moving stream. Brooks' modern dance choreography a la choreographer Doug Varone, was exceedingly pleasant to watch as were the two dancers in it.
In its latter stages, the pair engaged in a repeated sequence where Whelan fell trusting backwards onto a crouched Brooks' back and then he slowly rose up carrying Whelan with him. The effect, and the work, was spellbinding.
With the diverse and immensely gratifying "Restless Creature," Whelan showed she hasn't lost any of her star quality. She and her partners danced brilliantly. Most impressive and promising for her future after ballet though was her deft choices of partners and the works they created for her.
Steve Sucato, Cleveland.com
RELATED COMPANY: Wendy Whelan- Restless Creature