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Zachary Lewis   |  July 18, 2019

Dancers of all stripes headed downtown for ‘ADF in CLE’ Summer Dance Festival

CLEVELAND, Ohio — There was a time, not so long ago, when summer was the slow season for dance in Northeast Ohio.

That time is gone.

With the recent development and imminent return of DanceCleveland’s “ADF in CLE" Summer Dance Festival, July and August have emerged as two of the hottest months for dance on the shores of Lake Erie.

“Downtown in summer used to be pretty quiet,” said Pamela Young, executive director of DanceCleveland. “That’s not the case anymore. We realized we were waiting all year for this weather.”

As it happens, weather is keenly relevant to the “ADF in CLE.” That’s because most performances and other festival events take place outdoors, on the plaza in front of Playhouse Square.

A few shows and classes unfold in traditional theaters and studios, but the rest of the festival, weather permitting, has people taking free lessons and joining group performances right out in the open, under the sky. It is, after all, a festival, a celebration of dance in the truest sense in which any and all are invited to take part.

“It’s so fun to be outside,” Young said. “It’s a cool experience to be out there with all those people on the sidewalks.”

For some, the main attractions of the festival are exactly what Young is referring to: the participatory elements. They’re drawn to the Community Dance Day, to the free Zumba and salsa classes, lessons in West African and Liturgical Dance, the “Silent Disco,” “Mega Barre” workout and yoga sessions, and to the wide range of specialized master classes and workshops for aspiring dancers (registration required).

They, in short, believe DanceCleveland marketing director Sarah Hricko when she says that if you can dance at a wedding, you can take part in this festival, without spending a dime.

Others, as at a wedding, prefer passive viewing. They’ll come to the festival this year for the Student Showcase or to watch BalletX (Philadelphia) and Malpaso, the festival’s two professional headliners, each of which constitutes a major force in the realm of contemporary dance.

Those same viewers are also the target of a recently added slate of events celebrating acclaimed choreographer Merce Cunningham, whose 100th birthday is this year. They’ll be the ones attending a film and lecture-performance with Malpaso at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where Cunningham himself once paid a visit.

Not that one can’t occupy both categories. It’s OK, in other words, to be both a viewer and a participant. In fact, DanceCleveland would like nothing more.

By filling the festival calendar with all sorts of events, performances and classes representing almost every major thread in dance today, Young and Hricko hope to create hordes of new hybrid patrons, people willing to watch and take part in dance, in whatever form may be of interest.

“Most people think of just one thing when they think of dance,” Young said. “They don’t realize this is an art form people can understand and participate in.

“With the festival, we’re giving people lots of entry points and ways to deepen their relationship with the art form. You never know. You may just find it’s the coolest thing ever.”



What: “ADF in CLE” Summer Dance Festival.

When: Tuesday, July 23-Saturday, Aug. 10 (see schedule).

Where: Various locations.

Tickets: For workshop registration and free ticket information, go to or call 216-991-9000.


Tuesday-Friday, July 23-26, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Cleveland State University

Summer Dance Workshop (registration required)

Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Playhouse Square and U.S. Bank Plaza

ADF in CLE Community Dance Day

Saturday, July 27, 4:30 p.m.

Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square

ADF in CLE Student Showcase

Saturday, July 27, 7:30 p.m.

Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square

BalletX (Philadelphia)

Tickets: $20-$45

Tuesday, July 30, 6 p.m.

U.S. Bank Plaza

Salsa on the Plaza

Saturday, Aug. 3, 8:30 p.m.

U.S. Bank Plaza

Dance Movie on the Plaza: “Center Stage”

Sunday, Aug. 4, 1:30-3 p.m.

Cleveland Museum of Art

“If the Dancer Dances” (film)

Tickets, $10, at

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m.

U.S. Bank Plaza

Salsa on the Plaza

Wednesday, Aug. 7, 6 p.m.

Cleveland Museum of Art

Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration with Malpaso (lecture performance)

Tickets at

Saturday, Aug. 10, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square


Tickets: $25-$55.


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