Tag Archives: Christian Broomhall

Fourth Annual ‘The Benefit’ Offers Up World-Class Music and Dance to Aid Hemophilia Foundation


Carolina Ballet’s Marcelo Martinez and Lara O’Brien in Robert Weiss’ “Meditation from Täis.” Photo by Ira Graham.

By Steve Sucato

As humans we pride ourselves in turning negatives into positives. Following the proverbial phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” we make lakes of the stuff in an effort to ease suffering and find cures for the countless ills life throws at us. So when former BalletMet star Jimmy Orrante’s son Isaac was born with hemophilia ─ a condition in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced ─ Orrante began formulating how he could use his art to help others make lemonade out the lemons life dealt them.

In 2013, he and fellow former BalletMet dancer Attila Bongar organized The Benefit (formerly Dancing for the Cure), a charity event that featured music and dance performances from top flight dancers and musicians from the Columbus area and across the United States.

“The first year we did The Benefit it was to fight cancer and benefitted Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus,” says Orrante. “Me being a part of the hemophilia family and knowing the people in that community, it made more sense for us to link up with The Central Ohio Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation.”

Now in its fourth year the all-volunteer event ─ which annually raises over $25,000 for the Hemophilia Foundation ─ will be even bigger and better. The event, Sunday, May 21, will be held for the first time at The Riffe Center’s newly renamed Davidson Theatre (formerly Capitol Theatre) offering attendees a more theatrical experience.

One of the premiere dance events in the region, this year’s production features dancers and choreographers from Miami City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Rochester City Ballet, BalletMet, Columbus Dance Theatre and others, along with live music by Camarata (a multi-piece orchestra made up of musicians from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and led by CSO principal cellist Luis Biava), Columbus ambient alternative band The Wind and the Sea, and North Carolina bluesman th’ Bullfrog Willard McGhee. In addition, following the performance there will be a meet and greet with the performers that includes food and a silent auction.


From 2016’s ‘The Benefit’: BalletMet’s Adrienne Benz and Carolina Ballet’s Marcelo Martinez in Jimmy Orrante’s “Imperfections.” Photo by Ira Graham.

The 90-minute program will open with Milwaukee Ballet leading artists Patrick Howell and Nicole Teague-Howell in the Act 2 pas de deux from the ballet Swan Lake with choreography by Milwaukee Ballet artistic director Michael Pink. After a musical selection from baritone singer Robert Kerr, Miami City Ballet soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Jarrett Reimers will perform the first of two works by Orrante on the program; a brand new pas de deux danced to an excerpt from Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. Says Orrante of the pas de deux, it will be a reaction to the music and to the relationship Fadeley and Reimers develop dancing together.

In “A Caretaker’s Vow” (Excerpt) a solo by dancer/choreographer Marcus Jarrell Willis, the former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer explores his uncertainty about his future after leaving Ailey and how his friends encouraged and lifted him up. Set to music by British soul singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, the solo, says Willis, “takes you into my innermost thoughts.”

Next, COSI Science Center chief scientist Paul Sutter narrates “Voyager,” a new work in three stylistically diverse movement sections by three different choreographers inspired by and titled after music selections contained in NASA’s  messages from earth Golden Record included on Voyager 1 and 2’s interstellar missions.

The work opens with Orrante’s second piece on the program, a contemporary ballet for 6-women set to Blind Willie Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” sung live by McGhee. “Voyager’s” second part is a new solo by kathak dancer/choreographer Mansee Singhi danced to “Jaat Kahan Ho,” a traditional Indian song sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar that Singhi says is “related to Lord Krishna’s tales.”

Concluding the work is a new ballet for 12-dancers by Columbus Dance Theatre’s Christian Broomhall set to Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F.”  Says Broomhall, my piece is “wholly inspired by the images and feelings that the music evoked within me. It’s very quirky and whimsical.”


From 2016’s ‘The Benefit’: BalletMet’s Caitlin Valentine-Ellis atop dancers in Atilla Bongar’s “Forced March: Second Eclogue.” Photo by Ira Graham.

Following a performance of Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite, Op. 40,” performed by Camarata, will be the first of two ballets by Bongar. Yet to be titled, the ballet, set to Alexander Scriabin’s “Fantasie in B minor, Op. 28,” is a trio for Fadeley, BalletMet’s Michael Sayre and BalletMet Dance Academy student Isabelle LaPierre. Says Bongar, the ballet takes inspiration from Jacqueline Kennedy and her emotional state after husband, President John F. Kennedy died. “I saw a touching image of her and her daughter standing in front of JFK’s coffin and wondered what was going on inside her beneath her composed manner,” says Bongar.

Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham returns to The Benefit with his new ballet “Mordent.” Set to an excerpt from Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 No.3” played live, the neo-classical ballet for two men and one woman says Cunningham, “connects heavily to the musicality of the trio.”

After a piano solo by BalletMet music director Tyrone Boyle, the program’s second-to-last offering comes from choreographer Kristopher Estes-Brown. Danced to live music by The Wind and the Sea, the new contemporary ballet for 6-dancers entitled “Somewhere, Something,” says Estes-Brown, is about “distance, time and human connection.”

Rounding out the program will be Bongar’s pas de deux “Spartacus,” set to Aram Khachaturian’s music from the ballet of the same name and will be danced by BalletMet’s Jessica Brown and Romel Frometa.

One of the easiest and best choices in helping make a difference in the lives of those with hemophilia, their families, and to help find a cure, The Benefit, is a win-win for anyone who enjoys world-class arts entertainment and making lemonade out of life’s lemons.

The fourth annual The Benefit takes place 5 p.m., Sunday, May 21, The Riffe Center’s Jo Ann Davidson Theatre, 77 S. High Street, Columbus, OH. Tickets: Adult – $30, VIP Priority Seating – $55, Student/Child – $15. (614) 902-3965, (614) 469-0939 or https://www1.ticketmaster.com/event/0500527BD2F4CC36#efeat4212

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.


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Father-Son Dance Program an Up and Down Ride

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CDT dancers in Tim Veach’s “Synapse.” Photo by John Ray.

Columbus Dance Theatre – V2
Fisher Theatre
Columbus, OH
March 3, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

It was a homecoming both on stage and off for Judson Veach. Returning home to Columbus, Ohio and to Columbus Dance Theatre where he was one of his father Tim’s first students, Judson, now a dancer with Nashville Ballet, took part in V2, an evening of works choreographed by the Veach’s at CDT’s Fisher Theatre.

The program on March 3, performed by CDT in collaboration with the Carpe Diem String Quartet, led off with the premiere of Tim’s latest work, “Synapse.” Set to an eclectic score by Erberk Eryilmaz, the contemporary dance work through its choreography attempted to emulate the nervous system’s explosion of activity with synapses firing and brain signals racing about.

A group of ten dancers moved in a tight circle that expanded outward and then released them into a flurry of individual movement riffs. The dancers twisted, squirmed, snaked and jumped in a chaotic mishmash that, in general, wasn’t appealing. The work had occasional moments of beauty but the choreography, with its “jazz hands” shaking, mostly came off as an awkwardly literal interpretation of synaptic activity.

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CDT dancers in Tim Veach’s “Synapse.” Photo by John Ray.

Next, a last minute program change scratched Judson dancing a solo choreographed by Tim. Instead we were treated to an improvised duet danced by the father-son duo.  For this reviewer, straight-up concert dance improvisation is normally an indulgent exercise more interesting for the dancers to perform than it is to watch. Thankfully however, the father-son dynamic and their comedic approach to the improvisation was a pleasure to watch.  Performed to live improvised violin music by Carpe Diem’s Korine Fujiwara, the dancing was primarily centered on a reluctant game of one-upmanship with each dancer showing a dance move and the other attempting to repeat it. The self-deprecating, middle-aged Tim often not taking the bait on the challenging stuff but still showing he is a capable mover when prodded. As people off stage, the pair are good natured and likable. That showed onstage as well in this short and sweet bonus performance.

The highlight of the evening turned out to be its oldest work, Tim’s “Entangled Banks” (2009). Unlike “Synapse,” this was an engaging, well-crafted piece performed marvelously by CDT dancers Stefani Crea and Christian Broomhall.

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CDT dancer Stefani Crea in Tim Veach’s “Entangled Banks.” Photo by John Ray.

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CDT dancer Stefani Crea and Christian Broomhall in Tim Veach’s “Entangled Banks.” Photo by John Ray.

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CDT dancer Stefani Crea and Christian Broomhall in Tim Veach’s “Entangled Banks.” Photo by John Ray.

Set to an original score by Fujiwara played beautifully by Carpe Diem, the work began with the dancers lying on the stage floor.  Resembling a long-limbed insect, Crea moved with a slow elegance contorting and pulsating her body as she slinked about the stage. The pair then came together for a dance of jittering limbs in sympathy with one another before Crea climbed atop Broomhall’s back to be carried by him on all fours across the stage. Both dancers expressed a range of emotion in their facial expressions and distant stares during the spellbinding duet that ended with the Crea and Broomhall fully upright walking toward each other and into a kiss.

V2 closed with the world-premiere of Judson’s “Ever Forward.” The contemporary ballet for eight dancers including Tim was set to Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s driving String Quartet No.1 (‘Quartettino’) and Baltimore-based composer Jonathan Leshnoff’s “Four Dances.”

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CDT dancers in Judson Veach’s “Ever Forward.” Photo by John Ray.

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CDT dancers in Judson Veach’s “Ever Forward.” Photo by John Ray.

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CDT dancer Erika Junod in Judson Veach’s “Ever Forward.” Photo by John Ray.

Said to be inspired by the steadfastness and resiliency of those who settled the West by wagon train, the somewhat abstract ballet followed dancer Erika Junod as she and her compatriots navigated a series of trials and tribulations along a journey that would see all but Junod’s character perish.

A young choreographer with some promise, Judson seemed to fall victim to trying to cram too many disparate ideas together to fill the music. There was way too much going on. Taken separately, sections of the younger Veach’s ballet sparked some interest. One of those being a scene where the dancers teetered on the front lip of the stage as if ready to fall then turned and began crawling on their stomachs upstage.

While “Ever Forward” was a bit of a miss choreographically, CDT’s dancers were solid in it with Junod showing she is convincing actress and a lovely performer.

Inconsistent as it was as a dance program, V2 was a success in showcasing the relationships at its heart; that of father and son, mentor and protégé, and the ongoing successful collaboration between CDT and Carpe Diem String Quartet.

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Columbus Dance Theatre’s ‘Dancers Making Dances’ a mixed bag worth digging into

CDT's Elena Keeny (center) in Jaime Kotrba’s “Isolation.” Photo by John Ray.

CDT’s Elena Keeny (center) in Jaime Kotrba’s “Isolation.” Photo by John Ray.

Columbus Dance Theatre – Dancers Making Dances
Fischer Theatre
Columbus, Ohio
October 23, 2015

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Columbus Dance Theatre kicked off its 2015-2016 season with its annual Dancers Making Dances program in which CDT company members choreographed on each other.

Like most productions featuring works by mostly novice dancemakers, the program on October 23 at the Columbus Dance Theatre’s Fischer Theatre, was a mixed bag in terms of quality and refinement. It led off with what would be its highest quality offering Christian Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places,” that set a high standard few works on the program would approach.

Set to a trio of Indie-folk tunes by singer-songwriter Sam Beam (a.k.a. Iron and Wine), Broomhall, a former dancer with BalletMet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, put the full weight of his past movement experiences dancing the works of great choreographers into creating a gem of his own.

Essentially an extended contemporary dance duet performed by himself fellow former BalletMet dancer Kerri Riccardi, “A Dozen Places” was a quiet, tender piece that swept up the viewer in its soft current like a winding stream.

CDT's Christian Broomhall and Kerri Riccardi in Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places.” Photo by John Ray.

CDT’s Christian Broomhall and Kerri Riccardi in Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places.” Photo by John Ray.

CDT's Christian Broomhall and Kerri Riccardi in Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places.” Photo by John Ray.

CDT’s Christian Broomhall and Kerri Riccardi in Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places.” Photo by John Ray.

Broomhall’s choreography for the first of its three sections fostered the image of a romantic couple conversing through movement.  The pair leaned into and fell into each other. Each targeted touches that gently nudged the other into motion. And while Iron and Wine’s song “Muddy Hymnal,” musically fit the mood of the section, its lyrics seemed at odds with the picture that played out before us.  In contrast, the work’s second section danced to the song “Cinder & Smoke,” pitted Broomhall and Riccardi on opposite sides of a movable wall mirroring and shadowing each other’s unseen movements but not able to touch.

Entering into the mix were dancers Erika Junod and Jaime Kotrba who appeared to be echoes of Riccardi’s character, flanking her at times and other times moving two more mini-walls about the stage that hid and revealed the work’s dancers with magical results.

Well thought-out, wonderfully-crafted and beautifully danced, “A Dozen Places,” alone justified the price of admission with the rest of the program still to come.

Broomhall is talented choreographer that CDT artistic director Tim Veach would be wise to utilize in future productions.

After a Stefani Repola’s balletic and breezy “Drops of Ocean,” dancer Terrence Meadows showed off his technical prowess, strength and vulnerability in “Please Don’t Leave,” a solo he created for himself set to the French standard “Ne Me Quitte Pas.”

The program’s first half then closed with Alexandra Napoli’s group work “Bella” for six of the company’s women. One of several beginner-level choreographic works on the program, Napoli’s choreography, although rudimentary, held an air of grace to it.

Napoli’s work, along with others on the program, also revealed the wide range of dancer skill and maturity found in the company.  Individually, CDT’s dancers are all capable movers in their own right. As a unit however, those disparities in technical ability and stage presence could at times be quite glaring.

The program’s second half began with Seth Wilson’s pas de deux “A Walk in the Park” set to the Stevie Wonder song “Village Ghetto Land.” Like Wonders’ song, which juxtaposes a happy melody with depressing lyrics about poverty and violence, Wilson chose to pair a cute, playful, contemporary dance waltz with those stark lyrics that was nicely performed by Broomhall and Kotrba.

As choreographer for the geisha-inspired group work “Suzuko” that came next in the program, Junod struggled to create an interesting, cliché-free dance. As a performer in Chloe Mellblom’s solo work “unBalanced” that followed, Junod showed brilliance. The solo had the feel of a delicate lullaby interjected with flurries of leaps and turns. Most captivating though were several repeated gestures in which a paused Junod nervously twisted her hands together or tensely grasped at her dress.

The program closed with Kotrba’s vibrant “Isolation.” Set to pulsing music by Philip Glass, Tyondai Braxon and Nosaj Thing, nine of CDT’s dancers including central figure Elena Keeny, swiveled, shimmied, twisted and twerked with style in the interestingly patterned work.

A program like Dancers Making Dances for any dance company is more a vehicle to foster its dancers’ growth as artists rather than being a best representation of its capabilities. Sometimes, as with Broomhall’s “A Dozen Places,” those two objectives meet.

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