Tag Archives: Cleveland Public Theatre

Antaeus Dance Gifts Fans with One Last Gem in Joint Production with Travesty Dance Group


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Travesty Dance Group in “we all had flowers.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

Cleveland Public Theatre 2017 DanceWorks Series
Antaeus Dance & Travesty Dance Group – Taking the Fall
Cleveland Public Theatre – James Levin Theatre
May 4-6, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

For area dance fans and the Northeast Ohio dance community the opening weekend of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks series is always a cause for excitement. But tempering that excitement this past weekend was the knowledge that it would be the last time longtime fixtures on the DanceWorks series and in the local dance community, Joan Meggitt’s Antaeus Dance would be seen.  Founded in 2000, the company took its final bows in Taking the Fall, a joint production with like-minded movers Travesty Dance Group (TDG) at CPT’s James Levin Theatre.

Taking the Fall’s final showing this past Saturday, May 6, proved a showcase of the choreographic aesthetics of each of the company’s respective directors, Meggitt, and TDG’s Kimberly Karpanty, both faculty members in the School of Theatre and Dance at Kent State University.

The program, whose overarching theme “pays homage to those who keep us safe, demand our honesty and serve as models for integrity and right action,” says Karpanty, began with two works by her and performed by TDG.

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Travesty Dance Group in “we all had flowers.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

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Travesty Dance Group in “we all had flowers.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

In “we all had flowers” (2016), five women stood along a diagonal line with their hands shielding their faces.  Like a calculated game of peek-a-boo, the women took turns sliding one hand slowly down from over an eye and then back into place again. The dancers then one at a time engaged in little snippets of movement that took out from their place in line and back in again.

Set to an excerpt from Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio for choir and chamber ensemble “Anthracite Fields,” the moody, post-modern-styled work, mixed spurts of little hops, kicks and runs with hand and arm gestures and body positioning that at times suggested the blooming of flowers.

Next came, Karpanty’s trio “irreverence” (2016) that stylistically could have been mistaken for another section of “we all had flowers.” Danced to music by Dutch classical pianist and composer Jeroen van Veen, the work, apart from a more aggressive tone, used variations on movements seen in “we all had flowers.” In it, a dancer again shielded her face with her hands, only this time with splayed fingers to reveal her intense stare underneath.

(c) Copyright Dana Rogers Photography

Shannon Sefcik and Ashley Lain in Kimberly Karpanty’s “irreverence.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

Quiet gestures such as one dancer rapidly rubbing together the two middle fingers of one hand to draw another dancer’s attention were juxtaposed with several dancers’ loud slapping of hands on thighs. More a work revealing emotionality than any particular narrative, “irreverence,” ended powerfully with one dancer suddenly dropping to the floor in a heap as the other two turned their backs to her and to the audience.

The first of two works by Antaeus Dance, the premiere of Meggitt’s “UpShift” was a brief and lively solo created for longtime company member Heather Koniz Young as a parting gift to her.

Heather Young, UpShift, photo by Brad Petot

Antaeus Dance’s Heather Koniz Young in Joan Meggitt’s “UpShift.” Photo by Brad Petot.

Set to an original percussive score by Antaeus’ de facto resident composer, associate professor of music at Cleveland State University, Greg D’Alessio, Koniz Young was solid executing Meggitt’s stiff darting arm movements and Paul Taylor-like torso-twisting dance moves.  The upbeat solo was a tasty appetizer for Antaeus’ group work to come.

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A scene from “alter idem,” a dance film by Kimberly Karpanty (Director of Photography) and Joan Meggitt (Choreographer/Performer).

The Ohio premiere of Meggitt and Karpanty’s dance on film short, alter idem (second self) was another bite size morsel of goodness. Shot on location in rural Suffield, Ohio with music by D’Alessio played beautifully by violinist Sarah Blick, the 8-minute film featured Meggitt traversing an old wooden structure such as a barn or large chicken coop.  In the film we see her from many angles appearing and disappearing from sight, holding onto support posts, seated in a chair running through gestural hand movements and eerily staring off into the distance. In the film’s closing frames Meggitt is seen standing still, back to us, in a crop field as if she, and we, are looking down at her like an out-of-body experience.

After solo excerpts of Karpanty performed of her new work “Precipice,” the program concluded with its two finest offerings beginning with TDG’s “the tongue of the wise,” choreographed by Karpanty.

Set to music by Bang on a Can All-Stars along with excerpts from a sermon by Pastor Jim Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle recited live by Chuck Richie, the work pitted dancers Stephanie Harris and Tanya Mucci against one another as the embodiment of the wise man and the fool.

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(L to R) Travesty Dance Group’s Tanya Mucci and Stephanie Harris in Kimberly Karpanty’s “the tongue of the wise.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

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(L to R) Travesty Dance Group’s Stephanie Harris and Chuck Richie in Kimberly Karpanty’s “the tongue of the wise.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

During the cleverly-crafted work Richie, moving as an actor among the dancers, spoke of the differences between the fool and the wise man’s reactions to uncomfortable situations as the two dancers gave visual imagery to what Richie was saying, often aggressively tussling with one another.

Ultimately, a chastising of how one person’s thoughts spoken with malice can hurt another, Richie offered up this bit of wisdom, “Endurance is what God gives you to get through situations. Patience is what God gives you to get through people.”

In the conversation as being Meggitt’s magnum opus, the final work on the program, “Mercy” (2016), encapsulated those qualities that have come to define her work for Antaeus Dance over the past 16-years. Wonderfully crafted with a mix of quiet dignity, grace, and beauty, “Mercy” revisited a recurring theme in Meggitt’s works, the interplay between the individual and the collective.

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Antaeus Dance in Joan Meggitt’s “Mercy.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

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Antaeus Dance’s Desmond L. Davis and Melissa Knestaut Ajayi in Joan Meggitt’s “Mercy.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

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(L to R) Antaeus Dance’s Melissa Knestaut Ajayi and Shannon Sefcik in Joan Meggitt’s “Mercy.” Photo by Dana Rogers Photography.

In it, Antaeus’ full complement of 6-dancers including Meggitt, moved through deliberate and heartfelt choreography that bubbled up feelings between the dancers (and audience) of caring, hopefulness, melancholy and longing. Dancing to another of D’Alessio’s original scores, the veteran unit of dancers never looked better in Meggitt’s signature movement language. They flowed through interactions with each other that were tender and full of purpose.  In a nod to several past Antaeus works, the diminutive Desmond L. Davis at one point was carried offstage cradled in the arms of fellow dancer Melissa Knestaut Ajayi.

In her last performance with the company she founded, Meggitt captivated with her usual precision and determination. Pausing at times during the work to look back reflectively at the other dancers, one got the sense she was also wishing them farewell and thanking them for the years they spent together as a troupe.

A fitting end to Taking the Fall, “Mercy,” a culmination of all the Antaeus works that came before it, shone as a final gem in Antaeus Dance’s legacy.

Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2017 DanceWorks series continues 7:00 p.m., every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, through June 3 at CPT’s newly renovated James Levin Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $12/Thursdays and $30/Friday & Saturday. For more information and tickets call (216) 631.2727 x501 or visit cptonline.org.

 

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Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2017 DanceWorks Series to Showcase New Artists, New Works and Old Favorites 


(c) Copyright Dana Rogers Photography

Antaeus Dance. Photo by Dana Rogers.

By Steve Sucato

The longest running and only dance series of its kind in the region, Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual DanceWorks series will once again showcase the talents of Northeast Ohio region professional dance troupes. This year the series will feature eight area troupes along with Taiwan-based dance company Body Expressions Dance Theatre (BodyEDT) over five weeks of performances May 4 – June 3, 2017 at CPT’s newly renovated James Levin Theatre.

Begun in 1998, the award-winning series is a perennial favorite with area dancegoers. The curated series of mostly modern and contemporary dance troupes has, long before binge-watching television shows became a thing, allowed audiences to, in a sense, binge-watch live dance. And like any popular series, this season’s offerings are full of new choreographic twists, new artists and the final chance to see one of its most enduring companies Joan Meggitt’s Antaeus Dance, which will cease operations after 16-years.

“This year we were really looking to represent a diverse range of [movement] aesthetics, dance creators and creations,” says CPT associate artistic director and producer of the DanceWorks series, Beth Wood. “We have a few staples of the series like Verb Ballets and Inlet Dance Theatre, but also some artists new to the series like Across the Board and Alpha dance.”

The troupes on the series are chosen through a public proposal process open to Northeast Ohio dance artists. Wood says that CPT is also open to proposals from dance companies outside the region who are willing to work within what she terms as “the theatre’s meager budget.” Each year CPT receives many more submission proposals than they can accommodate and this year Wood says they even added a fifth week to the series to present more troupes. “I try to find a balance in what we present to give audiences a little bit of everything,” says Wood.

This year the series moves back to its original home in the James Levin Theatre from CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre. For the dance companies involved that means a larger stage and for audiences members, a more intimate viewing experience. And with the addition of a new elevator, the theatre now becomes fully accessible.

Here is a brief rundown of this year’s DanceWorks offerings:

(c) Copyright Dana Rogers Photography

Travesty Dance Group. Photo by Dana Rogers.

WEEK #1: ANTAEUS DANCE & TRAVESTY DANCE GROUP (DOUBLE BILL)
May 4, 2017 – May 6, 2017

The two companies join forces to present Taking The Fall, a program of dance works choreographed by Meggitt and Travesty Dance Group artistic director Kimberly Karpanty that she says “pays homage to those who keep us safe, demand our honesty and serve as models for integrity and right action.”

Founded by Meggitt in 2001, Antaeus Dance (Tremont’s Resident Dance Company) will call it quits after its DanceWorks performances this week.

“It’s time,” says Meggitt. “All the mechanics to support the running of a company have become a lot for me lately and I am ready to let that go.”

Meggitt, an assistant professor of dance at Kent State University, says career advancements had made it increasing difficult to maintain Antaeus Dance. And while Antaeus may be gone Meggitt will continue to dance and choreograph, leaving the door open to work with the artists of Antaeus and others on future dance projects.

Over the years Meggitt says Antaeus has evolved as troupe from a group of young dancers excited about making works to a veteran group of dancers equally excited about making new work. As the troupe’s primary choreographer, Meggitt says her approach to making dances has also evolved over the years, first from solely creating movement on the dancers, to integrally involving the dancers in the creative process, to now a mix of both approaches.

Of making works for the company Meggitt reflected: “I’m not experimental and I am not really interested in highly technical dancing. I like the aesthetic of human beings moving together. I think I have made some works that have pushed boundaries, but in the end I am a formalist and I appreciate [choreographic] craft.”

(c) Copyright Dana Rogers Photography

Antaeus Dance. Photo by Dana Rogers.

Last at DanceWorks in 2014, Antaeus will present two works within the hourlong Taking The Fall including Meggitt’s “Mercy,” a piece for six dancers (including Meggitt) set to an original score by award-winning composer Greg D’Alessio. Returning to a recurring theme in her works of the interplay between the individual and the collective, “Mercy,” says Meggitt, “Juxtaposes the external world of relentless action against an internal world of reflection.”

The second work, also set to music by D’Alessio, will be a solo created by Meggitt for longtime company dancer Heather Koniz entitled “UpShift”.  Says Meggitt of the 3 1/2-minute solo, “I really wanted make a meaningful for her. It’s a direct, strong little bon bon of piece.”

Also in the program will be a 3-minute dance film short Meggitt and Karpanty collaborated on entitled “alter idem” (second self) that was shot on location in rural Suffield, Ohio and explores questions of identity and discovery.

In Taking The Fall, Travesty Dance Group (TDG), celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season, will present the short solos “we all had flowers,” about the human capacity to thrive after a loss, and “irreverence,” a trio about how certain body language can convey ill will towards others. TDG will also perform Karpanty’s witty “the tongue of the wise,” and  Karpanty will dance an excerpt from her new solo “Precipice”.

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Verb Ballets. Photo by Kolman Rosenberg.

WEEK #2: VERB BALLETS WITH BODYEDT (OF TAIWAN)
May 11, 2017 – May 13, 2017

Back from its recent two week international tour to Taiwan, Verb Ballets joins forces with BodyEDT of Taiwan in Fuse: Explorations from Taiwan and Cleveland. The program, part of Verbs’ 30th anniversary season, will feature several works including a reprise of Verb company dancer Antonio Morillo’s “Pieces of Yearning”. Taking inspiration from the works of dance icon Merce Cunningham, “Pieces of Yearning” explores the process of relating environment to movement. It had its premiere this past January in New York City as part of the Martha Graham Dance Company’s NEXT@Graham series.

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Verb Ballets. Photo by Susan Bestul.

Also being reprised, will be fellow Verb company member Michael Hinton’s “Broken Bridges” that premiered recently as part of Verb’s Continuing the Legacy of Heinz Poll program at the Akron Civic Theatre. The work is a reimagination of Poll’s work “Elegiac Song”. Highlighting the program will be the U.S. premiere of BodyEDT founder and artistic director, Ming-Cheng Lee’s multimedia work “Initial-Space Starting”.

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Inlet Dance Theatre. Photo by Michelle Sipes.

Week 3 – INLET DANCE THEATRE
May 18, 2017 – May 20, 2017

DanceWorks
mainstays Inlet Dance Theatre will present several works on their program Springing Forth With New Life including three premieres.

The premiere of “Building CLE” (made possible by the OAC’s Creative Aging Initiative) says Inlet founder and artistic director Bill Wade, is a collaboration with residents of University Circle’s Judson Manor Retirement Community. “The work is a prototype for what we hope to be a collection of works created in collaboration with aging residents throughout the Cleveland area,” says Wade. Choreographed by him, the multimedia piece is centered on the idea of “building Cleveland” and includes filmed interviews from Judson Manor’s residents.

Also new, Wade’s “Walk With Me,” is a virtuosic duet performed by Dominic Moore-Dunson and Joshua Brown.  The piece, set to an original score by Cleveland area musician/composer Lee Harrill, says Wade, “explores mentoring relationships which transform the lives of both mentor and protégé.”

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Inlet Dance Theatre. Photo by Michelle Sipes.

The program’s third premiere also choreographed by Wade, “Sackcloth and Ashes,” is a work he says “explores the ancient practice of wearing sackcloth and ash to represent mourning for a personal or national disaster as a sign of repentance or a prayer of deliverance.”

Also on the program will be reprises of Wade’s “Let Go,” a three movement work looking at human striving, desperation, and then ultimately release, and Inlet company member Dominic Moore-Dunson’s autobiographical “Even There, You Lead Me,” a quartet investigating the dynamic of growing into manhood in a fatherless home.

Elu Dance Company_photo by LaurenStonestreet

Elu Dance Company. Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

WEEK #4: ELU DANCE COMPANY & ACROSS THE BOARD (DOUBLE BILL)
May 25, 2017 – May 27, 2017

In keeping with Elu Dance Company’s core mission to shine a light on humanitarian and social issues, the company’s latest evening-length work Caught, choreographed by company founders/directors/dancers Mikaela Brown and Mackenzie Valley, seeks to break through barriers of understanding by exploring the horrors of the ongoing global refugee crisis.

DanceWorks first-timers Across The Board will present an excerpted version of their evening-length work Black Don’t Crack (2016). Choreographed and performed by Makeda Abraham, Mfoniso Akpan, Aseelah Shareef and artistic director Jakari Sherman, the multimedia dance-theater work is set to a soundscape of recorded original and existing music compiled by Sherman that includes Curtis Mayfield’s song “We Are The People Darker Than Blue.”

Across the Board_photo by Jakari Sherman

Across the Board. Photo by Jakari Sherman.

Titled after an adage used in the African American community to suggest the graceful aging of black people, Black Don’t Crack is an intimate conversation about the pride, pressure and presumption associated with race and cultural aesthetics. It offers a window into the personal negotiation of these conflicts and raises questions about authenticity and how we value ourselves and others. ​

“Our piece is representative of us, our culture, and is the story of African-American dancers,” says Shareef.

The work uses spoken dialogue and video projections of recorded conversations with African-American dancers such as former Houston Ballet star Lauren Anderson and others, and will have audience members outfitted with headphones allowing them, during certain sections of the work, to listen to 1 of 3 different audio tracks. Or, if they choose, they can experience those sections without headphones and hear the house audio track.

Morrison Dance - Photo © Bob Perkoski, www.Perkoski.com

MorrisonDance. Photo by Bob Perkoski.

WEEK #5: MORRISONDANCE & ALPHA (DOUBLE BILL)
June 1, 2017 – June 3, 2017

Another staple of the DanceWorks series, MorrisonDance will premiere their new production In The Space Of Dreams: Asleep And Awake choreographed and directed by company founder/artistic director/dancer Sarah Morrison.

The hourlong work is set to a live music composition by Braden Pontoli, who Morrison says also inspired its theme. Braden’s idea of working together on dreams “unlocked ideas I have been storing for a long time,” says Morrison. “This has allowed us to work in a very inspired and creative way toward producing many different dances that reflect on differing visions of dreams.”

Taking further inspiration from Irish and Greek mythology to Native American dream catchers and the artwork of Salvador Dali, In The Space Of Dreams will feature Morrison’s signature mash-up of movement styles and use of props to explore the surreal visions produced in R.E.M. sleep.

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Alpha’s Michael Marquez and Gemma Freitas-Bender. Photo courtesy of Alpha.

Led by GroundWorks DanceTheater dancer Michael Marquez, Alpha will make its DanceWorks debut (and maybe its only appearance as Marquez is moving abroad) with their new work Behind The Next Door.

College friends from Juilliard, Alpha is made up of Marquez, former BJM Danse member Gemma Freitas-Bender and Metropolitan Opera dancer Blake Krapels. The trio choreographed and will perform Behind The Next Door.

Says Marquez of the work: “The main topic of the piece is the complex array of choices and questions people make in life. Doors constantly open and close as decisions are made. Metaphorically, as a door closes, another one opens, while others stay closed. They define and separate spaces and figuratively symbolize different segments/chapters of life.”

Cleveland Public Theatre’s 2017 DanceWorks series runs 7 p.m., every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 4 – June 3 at CPT’s newly renovated James Levin Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $12/Thursdays and $30/Fridays & Saturdays. For more information and tickets call (216) 631-2727 x 501 or visit cptonline.org.

 

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MorrisonDance and Elu Dance Company Double Bill Food for the Soul


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Elu Dance Company’s (L-R) Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

MorrisonDance – HUManIMALS
Elu Dance Company – barefaced
Gordon Square Theatre at Cleveland Public Theatre

Cleveland, Ohio
March 17-19, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Kicking off Cleveland Public Theatre annual DanceWorks series, the split bill of Cleveland-based modern dance troupes MorrisonDance and Elu Dance Company (formerly Without Words Movement), provided an evening of opposites; one, the dance equivalent of snack food. The other, a dish filled with complex flavors ─ both satisfying in their own rights.

The program, on March 17 at CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre, began with MorrisonDance’s HUManIMALS, choreographed by company founder Sarah Morrison and Taliesin Reid Haugh.

The multimedia work tapped into the similarities and differences humans share with our animal kingdom brethren and began with “Murmuration Improvisation,” a structured improvisation performed by the company’s dancers.

Dancing in front of a video projection of random people’s feet as they walked down a street (compiled from footage from RiMind and keepturningleft.co.uk), MorrisonDance’s performers mimicked those in the video. This was a recurring theme throughout the piece with a video being shown and then the performers emulating the action in it in some way afterwards. Moving to music by Marconi Union, the dancers walked about as Inlet Dance Theatre’s Joshua Brown seated in the audience, called out word suggestions from the audience such as “strength” and “passion” that then directed the performer’s actions. The improvisation was an exercise in the obvious and proved uninteresting.

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MorrisonDance in Sarah Morrison’s “Peacock Spider.” Photo © Bob Perkoski, http://www.Perkoski.com

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MorrisonDance in Taliesin Reid Haugh’s “Simian Suit Sequence.” Photo © Bob Perkoski, http://www.Perkoski.com

Next, video from a 2010 episode of PBS’s Nature showed a pat of Chilean flamencos moving about as a prelude to Morrison’s “Why?,” in which six dancers basically recreated what the flamencos in the videos did. Wearing flamenco heads created by Scott Radke and dancing to music by Irish cellist Vyvienne Long, the dancers’ amusing impressions of flamencos proved pleasing.  A similar vignette about the movements of the peacock spider followed.

Keeping with the uncomplicated theme of HUManIMALS, Haugh’s “Simian Suit Sequence” began with the showing of a popular YouTube video from Frans de Waal’s “Moral Behavior in Animals” TED talk in which Capuchin monkeys were given unequal rewards for doing the same task. Like humans the monkeys reacted poorly to the inequality. In Haugh’s dance work that followed, Morrison portrayed a lab worker monitoring the activity of three other dancers that acted like monkeys in feel-good, hip hop-infused choreography.

On the whole HUManIMALS was lighthearted fare suitable for audiences of all ages.

MorrisonDance’s half of the evening concluded with the group work “A Sense of belonging,” choreographed by Morrison, and its most challenging and complex work, the solo “Saudade,” created and performed by MaryPat Dorr.  Meaning a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia, “Saudade,” was danced to music by art pop collective The Irrepressibles and was an emotional cloudburst compared to HUManIMALS beaming sunshine. Dorr’s performance of the solo rendered a special beauty that was spellbinding.

Where MorrisonDance’s HUManIMALS had the simple joys of a cartoon, Elu Dance Company’s barefaced had all the earmarks of a Greek tragedy.

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Elu Dance Company’s (L-R) Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

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Elu Dance Company’s Mikaela Clark in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

Directed, choreographed and performed by company founders Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley, barefaced was heavily inspired by C.S. Lewis’ 1956 novel “Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold” and was a cut above the prior works I have seen from the pair as well as being a highlight of Cleveland’s 2015-2016 dance season.

Following the novel’s storyline, Clark and Valley played out in dance the heartbreaking tale of Psyche and her older sister Orual and their emotional bond. Set to music composed, performed and recorded by artists from Ohio-based non-profit Ancient Path, the dance-theater piece also used recorded narration of excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ novel to smartly help drive its storytelling.

In the work, Clark portrayed Psyche, the cast out wife of Cupid looking for redemption, and Valley, danced the role of her older sister Orual, a mortal woman jealous of the life of a goddess Psyche had and resentful of Cupid for luring Psyche away from her and leaving her eternally alone and lonely.

Danced on and around a multi-tiered set piece by Mark Sugiuchi that the performers used as a symbolic ladder to the realm of the gods, the work had the feel of a Martha Graham mythology-themed ballet but with very different movement language. The athletic pair of Clark and Valley danced with strength and grace in well-crafted choreography filled with rounded arm and shoulder movements and characterized by emotionally riveting acting that brilliantly revealed the joys and plight of their characters.

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Elu Dance Company’s Mackenzie Valley in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

Thoughtful, poignant and smartly conceived, barefaced enhanced in dance Lewis’ captivating story.  Clark and Valley were marvelous in eliciting empathy, sympathy and caring for their characters from the audience. And with its captivating story and powerful dancing, barefaced left a lasting impression that lingered long after Clark and Valley took their final bows.

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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