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Zachary Lewis - The Plain Dealer  |  September 30, 2013

2013-2014 Season Preview Article by Zachary Lewis - The Plain Dealer

Thank you, anonymous company that withdrew. If it hadn't been for you, the new DanceCleveland season might not be as attractive as it is.

But withdraw you did, and thus was Pam Young inspired to craft an American season pairing two of the nation's oldest, most respected dance companies with three of its youngest and most enterprising.

"We tried to create a balance," said Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, a presenting organization affiliated with the University of Akron and Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare. "If you don't like one, you may very well love the next.

"A person who attends the whole season will see the full breadth and range of this art form, and that it's diversifying in many ways."

PREVIEW

DanceCleveland's 2013-14 Season

What: Philadelphia's BalletX.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5.

Where: E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron.

Tickets: $10-$30. Go to uaevents.com or call 330-972-7570.

That's not all that person will see. Thanks again to the international troupe that was unable to plan a performance here, DanceCleveland also was able to structure a season around an ever-blurring stylistic line.

To a tee, the companies on the season beginning Saturday, Oct. 5, bear out the ongoing breakdown of the formerly ironclad border between classical ballet and modern dance.

"There's been a real transformation going on in dance," said Young. "Choreographers today, it's like that wall doesn't exist. They look at it all as one big toolbox."

Start, as Young did, with Paul Taylor Dance Company, slated to appear at PlayhouseSquare Nov. 9. Founded in 1954, the troupe stands as the elder statesman of American contemporary dance, renowned for its unique power to illuminate great works of music.

No less respected is the Trisha Brown Dance Company, a second representative of the elder generation of American modern dance, founded by a choreographer known for her openness to collaboration and rigorous sense of structure.

Last seen on DanceCleveland in 2001, the company appears here again March 8, perhaps for the last time. Earlier this year, in response to its founder's declining health, the performing branch of the organization decided to fold after a lengthy farewell tour.

"We realized we had to get them on our season," Young said.

The rest of the season explores newer threads in dance while attesting to the second theme Young described, to the fluid wall between classical and modern. Two of three companies even have the word "ballet" in their name.

The first company, BalletX, makes its Northeast Ohio debut Oct. 5 at the University of Akron. Co-artistic director Christine Cox said the Philadelphia-based troupe is "like a blank slate," composed of dancers trained in classical ballet but able to execute whatever maneuvers a choreographer might ask of them.

On the program, she said, are three works from the company's repertory: a light, entertaining piece by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa called "Still@Life"; "Silt," a slower, darker and more thoughtful piece by Alex Ketley; and Matthew Neenan's "The Last Glass," a lengthier narrative setting of 10 songs by the indie-rock band Beirut.

"I could watch it constantly," Cox said of the latter. "It really stirs up a lot of feeling. You can really see the movement behind the thought, and you have the time to process it."

Two performances Jan. 25 and 26 have been reserved for New York's Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. That's because the 10-year-old company is in high demand and travels extensively, making U.S. engagements precious commodities.

Happily, said interim artistic director Alexandra Damiani, the program covers a lot of ground and should leave patrons with a clear sense of the company's range and versatility.

AT A GLANCE

Dance Cleveland's 2013-14 Season:

BalletX

Saturday, Oct. 5

Paul Taylor Dance Company

Saturday, Nov. 9

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Saturday, Jan. 25 and Sunday, Jan. 26

Trisha Brown Dance Company

Saturday, March 8

Jessica Lang Dance

Saturday, April 12

On the serious side will likely be two offerings, "Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue," by Crystal Pite; and "Violet Kid," a work exploring the eternal teenager in all of us, choreographed and composed by Hofesh Shechter.

In stark contrast then will come "Necessity, Again," by Jo Stromgen, in which a speech by Jacques Derrida is playfully juxtaposed against French New Wave music.

"It's totally impossible to understand what he says, and it's totally on purpose," said Damiani. "With those dancers, it's just about the pleasure of moving and having a good time. You can almost hear the audience release and enjoy the ride."

The youngest company on the season is also the last. Jessica Lang Dance, founded in 2011, brings up the rear with a performance April 12.

Todd Burnsed, publicity manager, said choreographer Jessica Lang left Twyla Tharp Dance in order to develop her own ideas and pursue her interest in collaboration with visual artists and musicians. Now she's got nine dancers and a reputation as one of the most sought-after troupes on the modern-dance scene.

"She just said, 'I want my own crayons,' " he explained. "It was a way for her to expand her own creativity."

The audience also is bound to have its creativity expanded, given the works on the PlayhouseSquare program. Although the exact lineup is still being determined, Burnsed said the company is likely to present a work based on Piet Mondrian's paintings, a Japanese-influenced piece about two gods who only meet rarely, and the very work on which Burnsed himself became hooked on Jessica Lang.

Watching "I.N.K.," a collaboration with composer Jakub Ciupinski, at the Juilliard School in New York, Burnsed said he was moved not just to admire the choreographer but to join the company.

"You could definitely see a structure," he recalled. "She knew how to move the dancers around to make a great piece. We could all see that there was going to be more to come."
DANCECleveland

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