Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 12:00 PM
We went to see Parsons Dance perform at Cain Park on Sat 7/25, the National Day of Dance celebration. We missed the onstage show that local dancers - and dancing elephants! - put on but we were in plenty of time for the curtain speech in which Pam Young of DanceCleveland brought out David Parsons himself who spoke warmly to the audience.
"We're so happy to be here on the more › kick-off of the 60th anniversary season of DanceCleveland," he said.
"Parsons Dance is one of your favorite dance companies on those surveys you fill out," added Young. Indeed, Evans Amphitheater was nearly full.
The first dance on the program was Whirlaway. The music by Allen Toussaint, costumes by Keiko Voltaire and choreography by Parsons gave the piece a definite New Orleans ambience. We'd never realized how good Parsons Dance is at jazz dance. Their walks and struts would shine in a Mardi Gras parade.
After a pause, the concert continued with Hymn, a dance for two men choreographed by Trey McIntyre. Ian Spring and Omar Roman De Jesus, probably two of the best dancers in this company full of exceptional movers, acquitted themselves well to the syncopated score. Like McIntyre's other work, Hymn is balletic but in a quick and witty way that makes surprising use of rhythm.
Cleveland and Akron dance audiences may remember when DanceCleveland and others brought Trey McIntyre Project to E.J. Thomas Hall in 2012. TMP was both like and unlike Parsons Dance. Moment to moment, the dancing in both companies is very, very good. McIntyre's choreography, however, often resonated with another aspect of the performance - the words of a song, a larger meaning. Parsons' compositions - a criticism, unfortunately - often seem like highlight reels, one great moment after another with no larger meaning.
So, if Parsons is going to perform repertoire by other choreographers, McIntyre is an excellent choice, not least because McIntyre has, since 2014, turned his attention to other art forms.
The next dance on the program, Train, evoked for us the hot and gritty feel of a summer street festival in the Bronx of the 1980s, complete with powerful West African-sounding percussion and solo dances that "break out" from the rhythm established by the ensemble. Here's a highlight reel, but because it so successfully captures an ambience, this dance adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Googling later we learned that choreographer Robert Battle, now the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, used to dance for Parsons.
In the next dance, Kind of Blue, Parsons has choreographed a dance for two couples to music from the famous Miles Davis album of the same name. Many at Cain Park apparently enjoyed this dance but for us, the dance and the music didn't go together.
Not everyone in Eisenhower's America listened to Kind of Blue but to many of us who did, it seemed that Davis had tapped a flow to another universe - a beauty and calm that were unexpected, wholly other from everything else in 1959 - and we returned to it again and again, as if to an oasis in a desert. So for persons of a certain age, choreographing to Kind of Blue is not a task to undertake lightly, perhaps not a task that a pop choreographer should undertake at all. The pretty dancing we saw on the stage on Saturday, including the twist during the musical refrains, struck us as a facile response to music which deserves to draw from a deeper choreographic well.
Parson's choreographed Nascimento to the highly danceable music of Brazilian singer/songwriter Milton Nascimento. It's impossible not to like. Just to give you an idea, here's video of a much earlier performance of Nascimento with Parsons himself dancing in the beginning. Whatever criticisms we may have of some of his choreography, he was an awesome dancer. Toward the end of Nascimento, red lighting, faster music, and more percussion brought in a couple of codas, and the concert ended with the audience on their feet cheering. There was a lot to like. Our criticisms are quibbles.
[Written by Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas]
RELATED COMPANY: Parsons Dance
Friday, July 31st, 2015 12:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio – Add modern dance to the Rubber City's list of exports.
The new home of only the second National Center for Choreography in the United States, Cleveland's neighbor to the south already is developing a small but significant cultural industry, welcoming artists from around the country and enabling them to realize their dreams.
One choreographer and her team already have visited and fine-tuned a new work at the University of more › Akron facility, and another is on the way. Still another served as a kind of test case, when the idea was still under consideration. Pretty soon, people are going to start using the term hotbed.
"Having this opportunity pushed us to get this thing created," said Carrie Hanson, artistic director of Chicago's The Seldoms, at end of a week-long residency during which she finalized a new piece called "RockCitizen."
"This puts us way ahead of the game. We are really prepped now."
The importance of the center – a project spearheaded by DanceCleveland and funded by a five-year, $5 million pledge from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is difficult to convey, given that it's essentially an abstraction.
Though housed in Guzzetta Hall at the University of Akron, the center – the second such facility after the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University – has no bricks-and-mortar building, dedicated office space or employees. A five-member board of directors remains to be established.
Even when it's fully up and running, the center, a standalone nonprofit, will basically amount to a network, a collection of diverse regional resources for choreographers to access as they conceive and create new dance.
For instance, while in Akron developing "RockCitizen," an evening-length work exploring the impact and legacy of 1960s counterculture (and the sequel to "Power Goes," below), Hanson took advantage of the center's connections to do research at both Kent State University and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Had she needed them, Hanson also could have tapped other campus facilities or any other institution in Northeast Ohio.
"It was really crucial in realizing the vision," Hanson explained.
The lack of a physical headquarters notwithstanding, the center is far from without allure. On the contrary, so bright, ample and high-tech are the facilities at Guzzetta Hall, few dancers or choreographers could resist them.
No wonder Neil Sapienza, associate dean of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Akron, is so proud. Giving a tour of Guzzetta's seven studios, several complete with seating and video-conferencing, a therapy room, and on-site costume and set shops, he had good reason to label his school "one of the nicest academic dance facilities in the country."
And The Seldoms only used the studios to warm up. Because "RockCitizen" entails a complicated backdrop – a wall of bras, to be precise – and the group sought to simulate the space where they usually perform in Chicago, most of their real work took place in Sandefur Experimental Theatre, a black-box theater without a sprung floor but with ample lighting and rigging.
Combine these facilities, smack in the middle of a busy music and dance school, with a week of free time in which to create and rehearse, and you have all the conditions under which modern dance flourishes and new works leap into existence. Happily, as a privately funded, independent organization, the new center is likely to be unaffected by the recent closing of EJ Thomas Hall at the University of Akron.
"It's a real luxury," Sapienza said. "Uninterrupted time in a theater is almost unheard of."
Much about the center remains unknown. How often and how many artists will use it; whether the works they create will be performed in Northeast Ohio; who will direct it. All of these are questions yet to be answered. Although two choreographers, including Camille A. Brown, already have made use of the center, and a third, John Jasperse of New York, is en route, the project is still in "pilot" status.
But about its potential, there is no doubt. Host of an already noted dance program, Sapienza said the University of Akron is likely to see a rise in both the quantity and quality of applicants as students bid for regular, one-on-one work alongside real professionals.
"It's going to be an amazing resource," Sapienza said.
Northeast Ohio, meanwhile, will benefit on two fronts. Not only will local patrons and students relish the opportunity to view and possibly have a hand in the creation of new art, but the region as a whole also will gain prominence in the larger dance world.
It's no small matter, in other words, that the nation's second dance laboratory has been established outside New York, in a small Midwest city. All of a sudden, Hanson said, the heart of "flyover land" is a national dance destination.
"The fact that this shifts the focus a little bit is amazing," she said.
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – We should all look so good at 60 as DanceCleveland did Saturday night at Cain Park.
Kicking off its diamond jubilee season a bit earlier than usual with a series of events in honor of National Dance Day, including a pre-concert dance sequence open to the public, the esteemed series evinced all the vitality and joie de vivre of a freshly minted startup.
And yet it also displayed more › great wisdom and good sense. In selecting Parsons Dance, one of its most popular guests, for the occasion, DanceCleveland virtually guaranteed, and indeed provided, a fun, rewarding experience on its first show at Cain Park in 10 years.
Fun, in fact, was how the night opened and closed. With the new "Whirlaway" and 1990's "Nascimento," two bright, spirited works by Parsons, the eight-member company welcomed and sent home its fans in a festive mood.
A crisp setting of New Orleans-style R&B, "Whirlaway" lived up to its name with flowing, rhythmically precise dance laced with twirls and spins of every sort. Attitude and energy were as abundant as the pastel colors in the costumes.
The backdrop to "Nascimento," meanwhile, was the lively music of Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. No less colorful than its predecessor, this early work delighted the eyes with unison or tightly symmetrical moves and a host of frolicsome, devil-may-care exchanges. A stately exploration of arm gestures in the middle provided thoughtful respite.
Shorter but weightier were two works by well-known choreographers other than Parsons: Trey McIntyre's "Hymn" and "Train" by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater director Robert Battle.
Stunning in its cool intricacy, the former entailed movement for dancers Ian Spring and Omar Roman De Jesus that was breathtakingly close but not exactly intimate. "Train," by contrast, was anything but cool, a wild, ritualistic tirade full of floor work set to fierce, relentless drumming. If that vehicle had a destination, it was ecstasy.
But if there was one piece in which music and dance melded perfectly, it was Parsons' "Kind of Blue." There, loose but highly intentional choreography for four black-clad dancers dovetailed seamlessly with Miles Davis' "So What?," and even conveyed some of the music's improvisational aura. Like DanceCleveland itself, the artists saw free space, and filled it beautifully.
Parsons Dance Audience Participation
in celebration of National Dance Day, the audience at Parsons Dance Saturday at Cain Park prepared and performed a routine in hopes of being televised on "So You Think You Can Dance."
The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis
RELATED COMPANY: Parsons Dance
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland and Cain Park Co-Sponsor World Renowned David Parsons Dance to Celebrate The National Day of Dance on July 25
CLEVELAND (June 23, 2015) – Exceptional musicality, precise movement and finesse, New York City- based David Parsons Dance will kick off DANCECleveland's 60th Anniversary Season with dancing that the whole family can enjoy. The summer performance, co –sponsored by DANCECleveland and Cain Park will take place at Cain Park's Evans Amphitheater, owned and operated by the City of Cleveland Heights, July 25 at 8 p.m. The beloved David more ›
Parsons Dance performance will also be surrounded by various events before and after the performance for audience members to take part in including picnic options, wine tastings, free ballroom and line dance classes, and the chance to see local dance students perform "The National Day of Dance Routine" before the show.
A favorite of Northeast Ohio, and known throughout the world since 1985 as a family-friendly uplifting dance company, Parsons Dance will perform a variety of contemporary dances with stunning dancers and effortless movement. Named "one of the great movers of modern dance" by The New York Times, the company will bring top quality dance to the stage. Parsons Dance is best known for their large repertory of works by Artistic Director David Parsons, as well as commissions by well-known and emerging choreographers. The company has performed in more than 350 cities, 30 countries and 5 continents at some of the most well-known theaters and festivals worldwide, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Maison de la Danse, Teatro La Fenice and Teatro Muncipal. From 1978-1987, David Parsons was a lead dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company and has gone on to enjoy a remarkable career as a choreographer, teacher, director, and producer of dance that continues today.
To celebrate The National Day of Dance, the performance will be surrounded by events for dancers and non-dancers alike to take part in. Advanced dancers over 16 years of age can participate in a free dance master class in the morning with David Parsons himself at 11 a.m. on the Evans Amphitheater stage. RSVP is required by emailing email@example.com. Limited space is available.
Dance lovers of all ages can arrive early at Cain Park to enjoy free beginner ballroom and popular line dance "classes" in the Colonnade, with music and more. Audience members over 21 can also take part in a wine tasting at 6:30pm hosted by Cain Park and The Wine Spot. Wine tasting tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advanced at www.cainpark.com or in person at the Cain Park Ticket Office. Concession options are also available for those who wish to bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic during the summer performance from the lawn seats. Visit www.cainpark.com for boxed dinner and concession information.
Making the day even more of a celebration, dancers from beginner to advanced are encouraged to learn the National Day of Day of Dance official 2015 routine and arrive early to "perform" together on stage alongside Parsons Dance dancers. Started in 2010 by "So You Think You Can Dance" co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe, The National Day of Dance is an annual celebration that encourages Americans to embrace dance as a fun and positive way to maintain good health and fight obesity. Those interested should learn the routine in advanced by watching it online at www.dizzyfeetfoundation.org or on DANCECleveland's facebook page. The updated choreography video will be released in late June and features different versions so that dancers of all abilities can take part in the fun. Then, on the day of the performance, participants should arrive at 7pm. to perform it with others on stage and be videotaped as a group. DANCECleveland will send the recording to The Dizzy feet Foundation for a chance for the tape to be shown on televisions' popular show So You Think You Can Dance!
A 60th birthday party for DANCECleveland, a national celebration of dance and a return to Cain Park after a ten year hiatus with a phenomenal summer dance performance, the day will mark an event not to be missed!
TICKETS: Performance tickets range from $20- $25 and are now on sale at www.dancecleveland.org, or call 216-371-3000. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Cain Park Ticket Office, or by visiting www.cainpark.com. Discounts for groups of five or more are also available by calling DANCECleveland at 216-991-9000.
For more information on the David Parsons Dance, visit:
www.parsonsdance.org and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJIoArCB5g4
For more information on Cain Park, visit:
ELECTRONIC PHOTOS AVAILABLE FROM SARAH HRICKO AT 216-991-9000 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. Started by visionary heights area women in 1956, DANCECleveland, originally known as Cleveland Modern Dance Association, has grown into one of the oldest dance-only presenters in the United States. 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. For more info, visit www.dancecleveland.org.
Cain Park is a summer performing art park owned and operated by the City of Cleveland Heights. No ordinary City park, Cain Park begins where most leave off: an outdoor, intimate, covered theater similar to a mid-sized off-Broadway space (Alma Theater); an outdoor covered amphitheater (Evans Amphitheater); an air-conditioned art gallery (Audrey & Harvey Feinberg Art Gallery), and outstanding programming that includes professional theatrical productions, a nationally recognized Arts Festival, cabaret series, professional dance companies, children's programming, and concerts featuring national, regional, and local performers. For more information on Cain Park, visit: www.cainpark.com.
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.
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.