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Kerry Clawson, The Akron Beacon Journal  |  August 17, 2015

New choreography center at UA hosts its first two pilot residencies

Beginning stages for the new National Center for Choreography are going forward at the University of Akron, as two choreographers recently completed pilot residencies at Guzzetta Hall.

Carrie Hanson and her Chicago-based company The Seldoms spent the week of July 20 working on developing the dance RockCitizen at UA and New York choreographer John Jasperse spent nearly two weeks in the beginning stages of setting Remains, his fifth commission by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Jasperse said doing the choreographic residency at UA, which wrapped up Thursday evening, gave him the luxury of 10 days of uninterrupted time as well as ample studio space.

"To have the dancers all day is a difficult thing in general" in New York, he said. "Here [in Akron] was really the first time the dancers came together" to start creating the new work.

At UA, dancemakers have at their disposal seven state-of-the-art rehearsal studios and the black box Sandefur Theatre at Guzzetta Hall. Jasperse also used the time to test ideas, including how to integrate video with the dance by projecting it on the floor, wall or freestanding space in Sandefur Theatre.

"A resource like this is the perfect place to grapple with those questions," he said.

Cuts don't pose problem

DanceCleveland Executive Director Pam Young said UA's recent announcement of $40 million in cutbacks has not jeopardized the new choreography center, which is funded by $5 million over five years by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The center has received its 501(c)3 status as a standalone nonprofit housed at UA.

Board members include DanceCleveland appointees Young and Jennifer Calienes, former founding director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University; and UA appointees President Scott Scarborough and Vice President for Advancement Lawrence Burns. The Knight Foundation will soon appoint the final board member.

The original plan - before the E.J. Thomas Hall staff was eliminated and future programming plans were limited to student and faculty performances as well as rental events - was to provide visiting choreographers with access to E.J. Thomas to explore technical aspects of their new works.

"What we will do as we move forward is, once we know what the needs are, we will work with [UA CFO] Nathan Mortimer, who is now sort of overseeing E.J., for a while, to make sure all those things can be delivered. We're as committed as we've ever been and we're sort of taking each need individually and making sure we have in place what is needed" for artists at E.J. Thomas, said Burns.

In the pilot residencies, neither choreographer was far enough along in the dance to need access to the E.J. stage, but both worked on some technical brainstorming at Sandefur.

Details of work

On Wednesday, Maggie Cloud, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer worked painstakingly with Jasperse on a short sequence of the dance where they created an interplay of leaning, pushing and shifting weight among the three, with Cloud serving as what Jasperse called a fulcrum.

Dancer Claire Westby had worked with the dancers during the first week of the Akron residency and Heather Lang, now dancing on Broadway in An American in Paris, will join in the later stages of the dancemaking.

Choreographer Jasperse, 51, who established John Jasperse Company in 1989 and later renamed it John Jasperse Projects, received the 2014 Doris Duke Award and two Bessie Awards for dance and performance.

What inspired his new work?

"It's very much about stuff that gets left over," as well as the connectivity that each of us has with others, he said of Remains. "What are all the ways in which my action ripples out from my experience?"

Hanson, whose dance probes the counterculture of the 1960s, made research trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame education department as well as the Kent State University May 4 memorial during her company's Akron stay.

"Even though it's [the residency] at the University of Akron, the entire field of research and opportunity to impact these artists comes from all across Northeast Ohio," Young said.

Read the rest of the story at: http://www.ohio.com/news/education/new-choreography-center-at-ua-hosts-its-first-two-pilot-residencies-1.616512
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