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The Plain Dealer  |  November 06, 2016

BodyTraffic jams into Playhouse Square with fresh images of dance from Los Angeles (preview)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - It had to be DanceCleveland. For BodyTraffic, the next act in this year's lineup, no other presenter would have made sense.

The two groups have at least one key element in common, you see. Like DanceCleveland, Los Angeles-based BodyTraffic re-animated contemporary dance in its hometown, helping other companies take root where at one point the art form had been on the verge of withering or never blossoming at all.

"We're so pleased that we in part paved the way for world-class dance here," said BodyTraffic co-founder Lillian Rose Barbeito. "The type of dance we wanted to do just didn't exist [in L.A.]. But there was such a desire for it, and the community kind of rallied behind us."

PREVIEW

BodyTraffic

What: DanceCleveland presents BodyTraffic.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

Where: Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, Cleveland.

Tickets: $25-$65. Go to dancecleveland.org or call 216-241-6000.

If all goes well, they'll get a similar response from Cleveland Saturday night at Playhouse Square, when the 9-year-old company makes its Ohio debut.

The odds at least are in their favor. Instead of treating the occasion like "just another city," Barbeito said the seven members of BodyTraffic intend to involve viewers, to pierce that fourth wall and engage with patrons.

"We actually interact with the audience," Barbeito said. "We want to get to know the people of Cleveland. We enjoy connecting with all people."

The same principle applies to their taste in choreography. Founded by Barbeito with fellow dancer Tina Finkelman Berkett - the two met and struck up a friendship in a ballet class - BodyTraffic represents a melding of sensibilities.

Where Barbeito sees herself as the physical, athletic type, her partner, she said, embodies elegance and refinement. Hence their willingness to address any subject and hire dance-makers all over the stylistic spectrum.

"She's Beverly Hills and I'm Venice Beach," Barbeito joked. "We just always want the next project to be challenging. The dancers always want the next project to be something new."

Diversity will certainly be the name of the game Saturday. Over the course of the program, the company will take up a mostly gestural work as well as pieces rooted in break-dancing, ballet and jazz.

Up first is the gestural work, a 2012 piece by Barak Marshall that seeks to portray the dancers not as artists but as real people. Its title? Take a breath: "And At Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square."

Next comes "Once Again, Before You Go," by Victor Quijada. Here, everything stems from the single image of being pulled and thrust by imaginary rubber-bands. "The dancers appear to be motivated by an unseen force," Barbeito explained.

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Finally, "O2Joy." In contrast to its intense predecessors, this 2012 work by Richard Siegal is a lighthearted celebration of American jazz. Still, it's not a walk in the park. Not for the dancers, anyway. For them, Barbeito said, it's a display of "sophisticated musicality."

Which leads back to DanceCleveland, to a second point the presenter and BodyTraffic have in common. Between Saturday's program and the presenter's inclusion of BodyTraffic this year, these are two groups clearly open to anything.

Indeed, Barbeito said, "We scour the world, looking for distinct voices."

DANCECleveland

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