Tag Archives: Cleveland

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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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.

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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.

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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’s North Pointe Ballet to present ‘Cinderella,’ May 5-7


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Photo by Celia Romanoski.

By Janet Dziak

North Pointe Ballet (NPB) returns to Hope Community Church Auditorium in Olmsted Falls this spring to present another full-length classical ballet featuring a cast of professional dancers from the company as well as local dance students in children’s roles. The company will perform the ballet Cinderella set to Sergei Prokofiev’s 1944 score. The dancers tell the tale of how Cinderella finds true love with a little help from her Fairy Godmother, despite being held captive by her wicked stepmother and stepsister. Director Janet Dziak’s original choreography is comical, light-hearted, and easy-to-understand for the whole family. Performances are May 5 at 7:30pm, May 6 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm and May 7 at 2:30pm. Girl Scout troops wishing to earn their “Creative Play” badge by attending a special workshop before the May 6 performance should contact janet@northpointeballet.org for more information.

All of NPB’s performances are held at the beautiful 1,000-seat Hope Community Church Auditorium, 6941 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls, Ohio 44138.

TICKETS:

Purchase show tickets on the NPB website www.northpointeballet.org

Group tickets can be purchased by contacting the box office at npbboxoffice@gmail.com.
Organized groups of 10 or more will receive a $3 discount per ticket. A 50% non-refundable deposit is required at time of reservation.

Military and Senior discounts will be required to present ID at will call when picking up tickets. Seniors and military with proper ID will receive $2 off per ticket.

For questions about tickets email: npbboxoffice@gmail.com.

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Photo by Celia Romanoski.

In addition, North Pointe Ballet will offer a sensory-friendly performance of Cinderella for individuals on autism spectrum and with other sensory needs on May 4.

North Pointe Ballet was established with the mission to make classical ballet accessible to everyone in our community. Part of fulfilling this mission includes offering a special sensory-friendly preview performance providing an accommodating version of all of its productions. Many individuals on the autism spectrum or with other sensory needs greatly benefit from live dance productions. Unfortunately, many individuals with sensory needs can’t even step into a dark theater, let alone deal with unexpected sounds or lights. They may exhibit behaviors that bother surrounding patrons and, as a result, are often excluded from the experience that ballet and live theater have to offer. NPB offers a performance that caters to these individuals and their unique needs.

Kristen Metz, Autism Specialist for Elyria City School District, volunteered at NPB’s Sensory friendly performance of The Nutcracker in December 2016. “North Pointe Ballet provides opportunities for everyone to experience the art of dance and ballet,” says Metz. “Sensory-friendly performances allow for those with exceptionalities to experience the ballet in an environment that allows audience members to be themselves. North Pointe Ballet also provides opportunities for individuals with exceptionalities to participate in dance and the arts. The artists work diligently to understand and support those who experience the world in a unique way.”

To provide a supportive and welcoming environment for children and families, dedicated sensory-friendly performances include:

· Reduction of loud or jarring sounds
· Reductions in flashing or strobe lights
· Modification of the house lights during the performance
· Accommodated house rules: audience members are free to talk or move about during       the show
· Extra staff and volunteer support.
· Designated “Take a Break Space” in the theater where children can play and families         can still enjoy the performance

North Pointe Ballet also features guest performers in special performances, giving children with special needs a chance to get onstage with the professional dancers. In December 2016, NPB’s special guest performer appeared as one of Clara’s friends in the The Nutcracker. When asked what it was like to be onstage in the party scene, she said “It was so amazing—my eyes were popping!”

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Photo by Celia Romanoski.

“As someone who works closely with families with individuals that have special needs, I am so pleased to be a part of an organization that provides opportunities to include everyone, regardless of their sensory needs,” says Elizabeth Radachi, BCaBA and dancer with NPB. “It isn’t just artistic staff that has such a welcoming and tolerant attitude. The dancers in the cast are open to and supportive of audience members who need to stand up and move about, or who are extra verbal. No one minds these things happening, everyone is just happy to have a broader audience with which to share the art of dance. In our last performance, I watched with awe as the neurotypical students in our cast embraced our guest artist for the sensory friendly show by learning about her through personal conversation, offering to help with her hair and makeup, and working with her to create interactions for the stage, even exchanging what we call “merde,” or good luck gifts with her, just like they do with each other. This is how North Pointe Ballet is doing its part to spread inclusion and patience.”

Artistic Director Janet Dziak hopes that the special sensory-friendly performance is as beneficial to families of loved ones with sensory needs as it is to the individuals themselves. “It is important for me to be able to provide a welcoming environment and opportunity for parents and families of children with sensory needs. The families of these kids often suffer, too, without opportunities to see ballet for themselves or with their ‘typically developing’ siblings. I want these families to be able to attend a performance without fear of audience members judging them for their child vocalizing at inappropriate times and let their child run around and experience the theater in his own way while sitting back and enjoying the show for themselves, knowing they are all welcome and safe.”

For more information on our sensory-friendly Performance of Cinderella on May 4 at 6:30pm, visit www.northpointeballet.org/events.html or email npbboxoffice@gmail.com

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Photo by Celia Romanoski.

About North Pointe Ballet

North Pointe Ballet (NPB) is a professional dance company whose mission is making professional, classical ballet accessible to all families in the western suburbs of Cleveland.

NPB offers education outreach programs to help integrate arts into all curriculums and enforce academic content standards. Dynamic instructors lead children through hands-on workshops and professional, costumed dancers perform excerpts from full-length productions. Email janet@northpointeballet.org to schedule a program customized to your school’s needs.

 

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