Tag Archives: Cleveland Foundation

Cuba’s Malpaso Dances Its Way Into Cleveland Audiences’ Hearts Again


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Malpaso in Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz.” Photo by Judy Ondrey.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

While Cuba may only be 103 miles from the United States at its closest point, for many it is worlds away in its mystery as a land seemingly caught in time. So when Cuban contemporary dance company Malpaso returned to Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre (they previously performed there in 2016) for two free performances, that immense curiosity once again translated into packed houses to see them.

Sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation as part of their Creative Fusion: Cuba Edition, and presented by DANCECleveland as a launch to their 2017-18 season, Malpaso proved once again they are more than mere curiosity, they are a world-class dance troupe with a unique fusion of influences and styles.

Their program on June 3, began as their previous Cleveland one did with company artistic director Osnel Delgado’s 13-minute duet “Ocaso” (Sunset), set to music by Kronos Quartet, Max Richter and English electronic music duo Autechre.

As the stage lights came up on dancers Daile Carrazana and Abel Rojo they had their backs to the audience. Side-by-side, arms wrapped around each other they then walked toward the back of the stage like lovers out on a stroll.  At times, each dropped and dipped their body at the other’s side; perhaps a metaphor for the ups and downs common in a romantic relationship. This vision of a couple’s intimate bond played out throughout the duet manifesting itself in changes in the mood of the work, and in the emotions conveyed by the two dancers who were intently expressive in their happiness as well as in their strife in Delgado’s illustrative choreography.

Never straying far from each other’s touch, the dancers swirled around each other like milkweed seeds floating on a breeze. They embraced, leaned on each other and occasionally pushed themselves apart from the other at an energetic pace. From time-to-time that pace was broken by a dancer reclining on the stage floor such as when the tall, but surprisingly nimble Rojo, tenderly lowered mighty mite Carrazana to floor as if she had fallen into slumber.

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Malpaso dancers in Osnel Delgado’s “Ocaso.” Photo by Robert Torres.

Of the handful of works Delgado has choreographed for the troupe he co-founded in 2012, “Ocaso” is perhaps his most complete. With its engaging choreography, compelling narrative of a couple’s life together and adroit dancing, it was a wonderful lead in to the brilliance that was to follow.

Inspired by a transitional moment in choreographer/filmmaker Trey McIntyre’s life when he was burning stacks of old papers from his recently defunct Trey McIntyre Project, “Under Fire” created on Malpaso in 2015, had a cathartic feel to it to go along with McIntyre’s signature ease of movement.  A somewhat folksy mood pervaded the piece and like in choreographer Nacho Duato’s works, McIntyre’s innovative, contemporary dance-styled choreography seemed to glide atop a cultural foundation that felt much older in spirit.

The 22-minute work for 8-dancers, set to five songs by Boise, Idaho-based singer/songwriter Kelsey Swope (a.k.a. Grandma Kelsey) had Malpaso’s dancers moving about the stage interweaving with one another in patterns a la country-western dance.

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Malpaso dancers in Trey McIntyre’s “Under Fire.” Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

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Malpaso dancers in Trey McIntyre’s “Under Fire.” Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

In the opening section of the work, all eight of its dancers clustered into a group only to have several of them suddenly dart off the stage, leaving behind a smaller group of dancers to carry out a finely-crafted movement phrase. This pattern continued on with delightful invention several more times before a song change sent the dancers off in another equally delightful direction.  Most memorable were an athletic solo by Rojo and a powerfully moving duet performed by Delgado and dancer Dunia Acosta to an emotionally searing cover of Dolly Parton’s 1973 ballad “Jolene.”

The program closed with choreographer Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz” (2016), an exploration of the soul under extreme emotional circumstances. Set to an eclectic mix of music from composers Alexander Balanescu, Michael Nyman and Nils Frahm, the 26-minute gem was co-commissioned by DANCECleveland and the Cleveland Foundation.

Enchanted by what she saw as the beauty in the decay of Havana’s architecture, Barton created choreography for the dancers to reflect that. Broken ankle-like steps revealed a kind of ugly beauty.  Arms wriggled about, dancers hunched like apes traversed the stage in unison, rocking back and forth to the music in a dreamlike waltz and partnered group dances ended with half the dancers being caught in backward falls by their partners who cradled the back of their necks.

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Malpaso in Aszure Barton’s “Indomitable Waltz.” Photo by Judy Ondrey.

Throughout the work you got the sense of seeing images related to the dancers’ personal lives and of life in Cuba. Childlike playfulness, solemnness, and an overcoming of obstacles were all filtered through Barton’s quirky movement lens.

In the end, as with many of her works, one is left to marvel at Barton’s choreographic peculiarities. With “Indomitable Waltz” that sensation also came with a poignancy that touched the soul as well.

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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Verb Ballets’ ‘DanceWorks’ Program Out of Character


Verb Ballets  in Ngo Thanh Phoung's "How YA Doin'?". Photo by Harry Weller.

Verb Ballets in Ngo Thanh Phoung’s “How YA Doin’?”. Photo by Harry Weller.

Verb Ballets
DanceWorks ’14
Gordon Square Theatre at Cleveland Public Theatre 
Cleveland, OH
May 1-3, 2014

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Cleveland-based Verb Ballets closed out Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2014 DanceWorks series with a program of two new works that harkened back to the modern dance style of its predecessor company the Repertory Project.

Audiences used to Verb’s mix of classical modern dance works from Paul Taylor and Martha Graham, the masterworks of Heinz Poll, and works from contemporary choreographers like Chung-Fu Chang and Shapiro & Smith could have seen this program as being somewhat out of character for company.

The program at CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre May 2 opened with the premiere of Vietnamese choreographer Ngo Thanh Phuong’s “How Ya Doin’?”. The dance-theater work created during a Cleveland Foundation Creative Fusion residency might best be described as experimental in that Phuong’s choreography introduced a number disparate ideas and production elements into a collective pot. Unfortunately, not all of those ideas meshed and the work proved to be a bit of a hot mess.

Phuong’s choreography was a bit of an enigma in that in parts of the work – which began with Verb’s dancers moving to recorded voices of mothers lamenting the absence of their grown children – showed a sophistication of movement style and phrase work, while others bore resemblance to bad student work with Verb’s dancers improvising like recreational dancers told to wriggle about.

Phuong’s mishmash of ideas such as the often used gimmick of dancers using miniature flashlights to light each other’s movements and the seeming use of the entire “disaffected youth” playbook, were all muddled together giving the work a grab bag feel to it rather than those elements being a part of the work’s developmental arc.

Phuong has talent, she just needs to make better use of that talent by focusing and refining her ideas while maintaining the quality level of choreographic movement she showed in flashes  in “Ho Ya Doin’?”.

Verb Ballets in Sara Whale's "Muse". Photo by Rob Erick.

Verb Ballets in Sara Whale’s “Muse”. Photo by Rob Erick.

Next, Baldwin Wallace University dance faculty member Sara Whale’s “Muse” fared better in its compatibility with Verb’s dancers.

Set to music by Baldwin Wallace University composition student Danny English, the group work for the full company was an homage to the works of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

In it, Whale had Verb’s dancers posing atop boxes referencing imagery contained in Klimt’s well known paintings like The Kiss (1907–08). The dark atmosphere of Cleveland Public Theatre and Whale’s mostly utilitarian choreography for those sections did little to capture the gold leaf vividness, texture and color contained in Klimt’s paintings which left “Muse” feeling a bit dull.

Whale’s choreography however was well crafted and contained some nice lines,  movement, and imagery such as Verb’s male dancers yanking on the ponytails of the women in the piece. While the company performed it well, the work did little to challenge them technically and was at times predictable.

Neither of these works were a great fit for Verb Ballets. The company of late seems to have lost its identity grasping at any straw that comes their way or perhaps they are attempting to craft a new identity. In either case, for audiences and critics (like myself), coming to their shows it has become a crapshoot as to which Verb Ballets we will see.

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Verb Ballets to present two different programs in DanceWorks ’13 at Cleveland Public Theatre


Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets

Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets

By Jen Garlando

CLEVELAND, OH – Verb Ballets returns to Cleveland Public Theatre as part of the DanceWorks ’13 Series with two different programs. Verb Ballets is pleased to announce they will kick off the series with an additional program added to the season: Verb Goes Electric with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, running March 21- 23, 2013. The company will close out the contemporary dance showcase with a modern rendition of The Rite of Spring running April 18-20, 2013.

“Verb harnesses the opportunity to create work at CPT that is adventurous and can push the boundaries of creativity. The two shows will examine the close relationship dance has to music contrasting how it has changed over the past 100 years within the development of style and its impact on contemporary dance,” said Director, Dr. Margaret Carlson.

Verb Ballets in collaboration with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony (CCS) presents an evening fusing dance and electronic music. Verb Goes Electric with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, March 21- 23, 2013, builds on the creative talent of local artists to create new collaborative work. CCS has selected four young and emerging composers through a competitive selection process. William DeLelles, Frederick Evans, Paulus van Horne and Evan Williams have been chosen by CCS to present new electronic music scores that explore and push the boundaries of contemporary American music. Stephanie Krise, Leslie J. Miller, Brian Murphy and Rebecca J. Nicklos, dancers of Verb Ballets,will then take the new score and to develop how to move in the sound evolution of the musical language.

Also, to be revived on the program, “The Cleveland Flats Suite”, choreographed by Diane Gray (2010). “This work is dedicated to the timelessness of the Flats and the ever presence of the energy that powers them,”said Diane Gray about inspiration for the piece. The electronic symphony composed by NASA scientist, Richard Rinehart, was written as a musical story of the Cuyahoga River. The work integrates video projections by NASA scientist and artist, Jay G. Horowitz, whose work explores the art in science and the science in art. Cleveland Flats Suite was made possible in part through the generosity of John Zayac and Bob Perry.

In honor of the late composer, Michael Leese, Verb Goes Electric with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony will feature “Breach”, choreographed by Erin Conway Lewis. The piece was originally created to Leese’s music, Klavierstück, in 2011. Donald Rosenberg of The Plain Dealer described the music as, “Michael Leese’s …piano music, … establishes the aura for the alternately robotic and sweeping content.” This selection is dedicated to Leese’s commitment and involvement in Cleveland music.

Verb Ballets is honored to close the DanceWorks ’13 showcase with The Rite of Spring: The Bride Unseen. The Rite of Spring originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky shattered expectations and was a milestone in performance history in Paris 100 years ago. Verb Ballets will take to the stage with an evening work featuring a modern version of The Rite of Spring choreographed by Richard Dickinson (Ohio Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Boston Ballet). Music composed by Igor Stravinsky has innovative complex rhythmic structures, timbres, and use of dissonance which have made it a seminal 20th-century composition.  The new ballet titled, The Rite of Spring: The Bride Unseen, reinvents the story of pagan sacrifice as the bride surrenders her dreams to appease her family and succumbs to the pressure of an arranged marriage. The ballet explores the interpersonal relationships of a quirky family and the influence they play in the family paradigm. Someone will be sacrificed. Who will it be?

Each year Cleveland Public Theatre welcomes the opportunity to showcase Cleveland’s talented contemporary dance companies as they premiere new work and revive celebrated performances. “CPT has always been a place where various performing arts converge and where the lines between “disciplines” become blurred, but it fits into our mission because “DanceWorks” is about local artists creating new work, and that is what we are here to support,” says Rebecca Hill, Marketing Coordinator for CPT.

Verb Ballets will perform in DanceWorks ’13 March 21- 23, 2013 and April 18-20, 2013 in the James Levin Theatre. Performances take place at 7:00 p.m. Single tickets on Fridays and Saturdays $25 for general admission, $23 for students and seniors and $10 for all tickets on Thursdays. You can purchase seats by calling 216-631-2727 ext. 501, or buy in person at 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44102. For more information visit www.verbballets.org.

Choreographers available for interviews please email or call 216.397.3757 to arrange. Richard Dickinson will be creating the new ballet at Verb’s studio photo opportunities available. Photos from Verb Ballets’ repertory and season choreographers available upon request.

About Verb Ballets

Verb Ballets ignites audience passion and participation in contemporary dance. Under the leadership of Director, Dr. Margaret Carlson, Verb strives to support and foster emerging talent, to present excellence in contemporary choreographers, and to revive and honor modern dance classics. The company strives to be a thought leader in cultivating dance appreciation and support through education and outreach programs. In growing audience appreciation for dance, Verb Ballets helps make northeast Ohio a national destination for the arts. Verb Ballets’ season is made possible thanks to the generous support of: Akron Community Foundation, AHS Foundation, The Bascom Little Fund, Bike Cleveland, Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, The City of Shaker Heights, The Cleveland Foundation, Findley Davies, Inc., Gay Community Endowment Fund of The Akron Community Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, Kulas Foundation, The Laub Foundation, Lubrizol Foundation, The McGregor Foundation, John P. Murphy Foundation, Omnova Solution Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, Shah Capital Management, Individual Contributors including Millie L. Carlson, Alan Miles Ruben, Jeri Chaikin, Chuck and Ann Ennis, Frederick Lautzenheiser, Kenneth Milder, David R. Pierce, Robert M. Shwab and Members of the Verb Ballets Board of Trustees.

About Cleveland Chamber Symphony

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony (CCS) performs music of our time that dares to explore under direction of Music Director Steven Smith.  Through the vision and expertise of Dr. London and the talent of a dedicated core of Cleveland musicians, the ensemble steadily grew in scope and stature throughout the following two decades, performing, recording and commissioning contemporary orchestral music. CCS nurtures composers, musicians and audiences through professional performances, recordings, commissions, and educational experiences. The Cleveland Chamber Symphony’s excellence has been recognized with prestigious awards including a Grammy and ASCAP John S. Edwards Awards. Through the mission CCS has contributed to the advancement of the art of contemporary American music and promoted the dissemination of musical works by composers of our time.

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