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Quantum Physics, Environmentalism and the Me Too Movement: Cleveland Public Theatre’s Annual DanceWorks Series Continues it Daring Dance Ways


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madcap’s Tyler Ring and Annie Morgan. Photo by Dominic Iudiciani.

By Steve Sucato

Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT)’s annual DanceWorks series returns for its 21st season, May 16 – June 15 with five weekends of thought-provoking dance performances by eight area dance companies at CPT’s historic Gordon Square Theatre.

DanceWorks 2019 will feature a diverse lineup of dance works and styles from first-time participants and series veterans including Travesty Dance Group co-founder/artistic director Kim Karpanty in her first solo show for the series, MONSOON.

The new 35-minute multidisciplinary and multimedia improvisational solo, says Karpanty, was inspired by recent experiences she has had as the victim of bullying, gender bias and ageism. Created in Barcelona in collaboration with Argentinian media artist Tristán Pérez-Martín and Swedish performance artist Benedikte Esperi, the work parallels the catastrophic strength and power of a monsoon to internal storms in our own lives.

Danced to soundscape of consisting silence, spoken word, sound effects and contemporary classical and classic pop music, Karpanty sees the work as a metaphor for the cycle of human storm, recovery and renewal.

“While the monsoon brings devastation, in some countries it also brings all of the rain to grow all of the food the rest of the year,” says Karpanty.

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Kim Karpanty in “MONSOON”. Photo courtesy of Kim Karpanty.

She says she arranged her solo along the arc of a monsoon beginning with calm and progressing through rising heat into microbursts of storm and destruction and ending with recovery and renewal.

Karpanty describes herself as a mid-career dance artist redefining who can dance and for how long. A professor of dance at Kent State University, Karpanty says she has in recent year been transitioning her performing career toward that of a solo artist. MONSOON represents a new direction in that transition.

In the past several years Karpanty has attended dance workshops in Spain, France and Sweden where she has embraced a different way of working that she describes as “a horizontal experimental and improvisational process that yields control of the finished product.” For her, adopting this new movement identity in MONSOON, she says, has been a challenge and a source of trepidation.

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(Archive Photo) Kim Karpanty. Photo by Larry Coleman.

“It’s a risk to go up [with the show] in this format, especially performing for Cleveland audiences that have watched me and my company perform the past 22-years,” says Karpanty. “It’s a live theater piece that will change for each audience who sees it.”

Karpanty performs MONSOON in Week 4 on a double-bill with Movements in Motion.

Here is a brief rundown of DanceWorks 2019’s other offerings:

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Verb Ballets. Photo by Bill Naiman.

WEEK #1: VERB BALLETS
May 16 – 18, 2019

DanceWorks series regulars Verb Ballets return with Fresh Inventions, a program featuring new choreographic works by Verb’s dancers and company associate director Richard Dickinson. Included are new company dancer Daniel Cho’s first work for the company, “three lullabies for you and I”.  A contemporary dance work for a cast of eight, Cho says, “This piece was founded on the notion of relationships. I’ve recently been interested in how relationships with oneself, with another person and with a group can be represented through highly physicalized movement.”

Kate Webb’s new 11-minute contemporary ballet for six dancers, “UnHEaRd” takes its inspiration from the Me Too movement and the work that still needs to be done in achieving equality for all. Webb’s piece focuses specifically on women’s equality. She says: “The sad reality is that a woman’s voice is still second to a man’s. Our culture does not consider a female to be as viable as her male counterpart—if she is subservient, she is not heard, yet the minute she speaks up she is either ridiculed for her perspective and not taken seriously or considered to be overly aggressive and unsavory.” With “UnHEaRd”, Webb seeks to shine a spotlight on those lingering concerns.

“The Leaving Song” is the latest work by Michael Escovedo for Verb. The new piece for eight dancers is set to music by American singer-songwriter Chris Garneau and “is about how the psyche can break when faced with tragedy and the decisions made afterwards,” says Escovedo.

Rounding out Fresh Inventions are Dickinson’s new ballet, “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Antonio Morillo’s “Mortal Empathy Variations,” a new 4-minute duet danced to George Gershwin’s “Preludes for Piano, No. 2 Andante con moto e poco rubato” that Morillo says explores “a young couple meeting in trying times.”

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Inlet Dance Theatre. Photo by Suzanne Sherbundy.

WEEK #2: INLET DANCE THEATRE
May 23-25, 2019

Inlet’s program From the heART is a series of non-narrative explorations, prototypes, and repertory inspired by works of art from other mediums. Included in the program are reprises of Inlet works “B’roke” (2004), “And Still I Rise” (2018), “Semiotic Variations” (2000), “Ascension” (2006), “Offaxis” (2008) and “impaired” (2004).  The program will also feature premiere works “Becoming” and “Sketches Before a Storm: Ariel and Caliban, pre-colonization (a prototype)” choreographed by company artistic director Bill Wade in collaboration with Inlet’s dancers.

Set to music from the soundtrack of the 2016 film Arrival by Jóhann Jóhannsson, the sculptural work for a male trio costumed in slightly metallic red stretch fabric, takes its inspiration from the art and artistic philosophies of American sculptor Frederick Hart. Says Wade: “This piece is a way to investigate the idea that every human being is God’s artwork and the thought that perhaps creation (Genesis) is still ongoing.”

The 5-minute “Sketches Before a Storm: Ariel and Caliban, pre-colonization (a prototype)” is a male/female duet danced to excerpts from Cleveland composer Ty Emerson’s “Caliban Ascendant”. Says Wade it ponders an alternative version of the characters in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

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(Top) MorrisonDance. Photo by Bob Perkoski. (Bottom) madcap. Photo by Dominic Iudiciani.

WEEK #3: MORRISONDANCE & MADCAP [DOUBLE BILL]
May 30- June 1, 2019

MorrisonDance returns to DanceWorks with the premiere of its latest science-inspired dance work aptly titled Dance meets Science: Quantum Entanglement. The 45-minute in work six sections on topics including superfluidity, quantum tunneling and Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment (Schrödinger’s cat) is choreographed and directed by Sarah Morrison with creative contributions from the company. Danced to music by London-based experimental band The Mostar Diving Club, Ludovico Einaudi and others, the work for six dancers reflects on “the profound nature of the quantum theory and universal connectivity,” says Morrison.

New to the DanceWorks series are GroundWorks DanceTheater dancers Tyler Ring and Annie Morgan a.k.a. madcap in their new 20-minute work Transcription Beta. Choreographed and performed by the duo along with fellow GroundWork’s dancer Robert Rubama, Transcription Beta delves into our ubiquitous use of voicemails that Ring says “act as a semi-permanent moment in time when two people missed one another.” The contemporary dance work also “hopes to humanize distant relationships that might only exist superficially, and at the same time, offer a lighthearted look into relationships both big and small.”

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(Top) Kim Karpanty of Travesty Dance Group. Photo courtesy of Kim Karpanty. (Bottom) Movements in Motion. Photo by William G. Barnard.

WEEK #4: TRAVESTY DANCE GROUP & MOVEMENTS IN MOTION [DOUBLE BILL]
June 6-8, 2019

Joining the aforementioned Travesty Dance Group’s Kim Karpanty’s solo work MONSOON, Movements in Motion will make their DanceWorks debut in RASA, a 45-minute production blending Indian classical (Manipuri and Kathak) dance techniques, Indian martial arts and contemporary dance. First performed in 2008 in Krakow, Poland, the work for three dancers, an actor and a singer, “conceptualizes how to control and balance emotions in order to create a harmony of peace and love.”

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(Top) Shri Kalaa Mandir. Photo by Srini Ranganathan. (Bottom) Terre Dance Collective’s Robert Rubama. Photo courtesy of Robert Rubama.

WEEK #5: SHRI KALAA MANDIR & TERRE DANCE COLLECTIVE [DOUBLE BILL]
June 13-15, 2019

Founded in 1993 by Sujatha Srinivasan, Shri Kalaa Mandir (Center for Indian Performing Arts) make their DanceWorks debut in Srinivasan’s Vivarta – Transformations. The new hour-long piece for ten dancers is performed in the Bharathanatyam classical Indian dance form to a selection of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) composed primarily by the Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. Says Srinivasan: “It is an artistic expression of the state of our environment today…telling a story of beneficence, abuse, redemption and triumph.”

Also making their DanceWorks debut is Terre Dance Collective in Blood Orange. The newish 25-minute piece choreographed by Robert Rubama in collaboration with the dancers is danced to a mix of ambient electronic and classical music. It will be performed by dancers Chelsi Knight, Emily Liptow, Shannon Metelko and Oberlin College grad Akane Little. Says Rubama: “The piece, in a nutshell, is a nonlinear exploration of dependency, vulnerability, connection and the breaking down of barriers we place in our own way.”

Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 2019 runs 7:30 p.m., every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 16 – June 15 at CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland. Tickets are $15-25. Students/Seniors receive $5 off on Friday and Saturday nights. All Thursdays are $15.  For feeless tickets and more information visit cptonline.org or call the CPT Box Office at (216) 631-2727 ext. 501. Group discounts are available.

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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Akron’s ‘Lose Your Marbles’ Festival Returns with a Decidedly Different Approach


Neos Dance Theatre. Photo by Dale Dong.

By Steve Sucato

After taking a year off in 2018, Akron’s dance-centric Lose Your Marbles festival is back with a smaller, regionally focused event taking place Friday, March 1 at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Founded by Neos Dance Theatre artistic director Robert Wesner with the support of a three-festival, $100,000 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant, Lose Your Marbles (a reference to Akron’s history as a marble making center in the late 1800s), first go round in the summer of 2017 was an ambitious undertaking that featured a diverse group regional and national music and dance acts.

With the initial goal of presenting more experimental and avant-garde artists in traditional and alternative performance spaces a la the many “Fridge” festivals seen around the country, Wesner says although the pilot festival was a success in many ways, he and his fellow festival organizers felt more evaluation was needed to develop a sustainable path forward for the event.

“It was decided [for Lose Your Marbles II] to dial back the numbers of different groups and really focus on local artists so we could further develop relationships with existing dance audiences in the area and survey their interest in seeing other types of contemporary artists in future, says Wesner.”

This year’s scaled down festival is part of a strategy to get future festivals to a place where the initial goal of presenting tried and untried local, state and national artists in varying performance spaces around Akron can be realized.  

“The third year is going to be a continuation of what we have done in these first two festivals,” says Wesner. “This is a full on exploration of what Lose Your Marbles is and can be and the audience is in it with us.”  

Returning for Lose Your Marbles II are 2017 festival participants GroundWorks DanceTheater, Inlet Dance Theatre, Neos Dance Theatre and Verb Ballets.  Familiar to area dance goers, three out of the four troupes annually perform at the City of Akron’s Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival.

GroundWorks DanceTheater. Photo courtesy of Lose Your Marbles.

GroundWorks DanceTheater will open the one-night-only event with company artistic director and former Ohio Ballet star David Shimotakahara’s “LUNA” (2012).  Set to an original score by Oberlin Conservatory of Music grad Peter Swendsen, the work, says Shimotakahara “explores the nature of desire and its deeply held and often conflicting motivations. These polarities developed into a series of physical relationships that reveal many facets in a cycle of experience. That cycle is like the moon, as unknown and primal as it is familiar.”

“LUNA’s” celestial motif will fit in nicely with Akron Civic Theatre’s Moorish castle decor complete with an atmospheric twinkling starlit sky and moving clouds ceiling display.  

Inlet Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Lose Your Marbles.

Next, highlighting the humanitarian crisis of over 60 million refugees fleeing war, famine, violence and persecution worldwide, Inlet Dance Theatre’s work “Sojourn” offers up a message of compassion, empathy and grace for those in desperate need. Choreographed by Inlet founder/artistic director Bill Wade in collaboration with the company’s dancers, the work in five-section is danced to music by Max Richter.


Neos Dance Theatre. Photo by Dale Dong.

Wesner’s Neos Dance Theatre then reprises choreographer Joseph Morrissey’s “Near Light” that premiered at last summer’s Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. Performed to music by composer Ólafur Arnalds, Wesner describes the ballet as being a dynamic and fairly aggressive work movement-wise with a lot of twists and turns in its partnering sequences.

Verb Ballets. Photo by Bill Naiman.

The roughly two hour program will close with Verb Ballets in choreographer Adam Hougland’s “K281” (2007). Originally created on Cincinnati Ballet, the 14-minute ballet gets its name from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat major, K. 281 that it is danced to.  Staged by Jill Marlow Krutzkamp and original cast member, the ballet for three male-female couples is full of quirky contemporary dance movement. Each couple has their own distinct personality says Marlow; the first has a fun, free relationship, the second’s mood is somber and the third has a peculiar relationship where the woman moves like a rag doll.

Neos Dance Theatre with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation presents Lose Your Marbles II, 8 p.m., Friday, March 1, Akron Civic Theatre, 182 South Main Street, Akron. Tickets are $23 for reserved seating, $18 general admission, and $5 for students with ID and available online at loseyourmarbles.org and at the door that evening.

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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Cleveland’s Inlet Dance Theatre Brings To Life Best-Selling Children’s Book “What Do You Do With An Idea?”


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Inlet Dance Theatre in “What Do You Do With An Idea?” Photo by Suzanne Sherbundy.

By Steve Sucato

Although rare in life, those times when opportunity and fate collide can produce a special kind of magic with the power to enrich lives. Such was the case for Inlet Dance Theatre founder/artistic director Bill Wade in 2015 when Daniel Hahn, vice president of Community Engagement and Education at Playhouse Square, asked him to create a dance-theater work geared toward 4-8-year olds and their families as part of the Center’s LAUNCH performance creation residency program.

Given this opportunity, fate then intervened on a wintry day that year when Wade, not inspired by a list of children’s literature options Hahn had given him to make a dance work around, happened into a Barnes & Noble to escape the cold and spotted Kobi Yamada’s 2014 New York Times best-selling children’s book “What Do You Do With An Idea?”on a table. Wade began reading it and says “halfway through the book I got caught up in the story and by its end I was standing there crying.”

Wade says his emotional reaction to the book came from his identifying with the story’s central character of a young boy who has an idea but doesn’t quite know what to do with it. Wade says he felt the same way when the idea to create Inlet Dance Theatre came to him in 2001. As in Yamada’s tale, Wade’s idea for Inlet would not leave him alone until he did something with it; eventually nurturing it to fruition.

Realizing this was the book he wanted to create a dance work around for his Inlet Dance Theatre and Playhouse Square, Wade and Hahn pressed ahead with the project and contacted Yamada for the rights to use the book.

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Katie McGaha as “The Idea” and Kevin Parker as “The child” in Inlet Dance Theatre’s “What Do You Do With An Idea?” Photo courtesy of Inlet Dance Theatre.

At the idea of turning his book into a dance work Yamada says he was thrilled. “Dance is such a beautiful and athletic art form and just to know my children’s book can be interpreted in such a way is fascinating artistically but also such a great example of how ideas build on ideas,” says Yamada by phone from Seattle. “You put something creative out into the world and it inspires something else creative. You just don’t really know when you drop that pebble in the pond where the ripples end.”

Yamada in a 2015 interview with Vancouver-based podcast Essential Conversations says the inspiration for his book, “What Do You Do With An Idea?,” came from a conversation he had with his staff at Seattle-based publishing and gift company, Compendium, Inc. on the fragility of ideas: “We’ve all had experiences where we have had ideas and we just don’t know if they are good or not…when an idea first comes to you it is in its most fragile state and can be killed with an eye-roll or an exhale…I have witnessed that in my company…its human nature sometimes for us to not quite know what we have before we know what we have.”

To tell Yamada’s story of a young child and his egg-shaped, crown-wearing idea in dance Wade says he wanted to honor what Yamada had written by using the book’s text verbatim. For the work’s choreography and dance sequences Wade says he looked to the book’s lively illustrations by Mae Besom that brilliantly captured the emotions of the book’s characters and the wonder of the world they existed in.

In watching a rehearsal of What Do You Do With An Idea? recently, I found Inlet’s athletic, acrobatic and sculptural movement language a la modern dance standouts Pilobolus, tailor-made for a family-friendly production such as this that is geared toward entertaining and capturing the imagination of young audience members (ages 2 +).

Yamada, who saw an early work-in-progress showing of excerpts from What Do You Do With An Idea?, says Inlet’s dancers brought physical humor to the story. “In some ways the dancing also allows the audience to see in-between the pages and into the lives and interactions of the characters in the book.”

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Courtesy of Inlet Dance Theatre and Kobi Yamada.

For his part in the dance work’s creative process, Yamada says he only played a consulting role, helping to flesh out the motivations of the book’s characters.  So impressed with Inlet’s handling of the relationship in movement between the child and the idea, and of the naysayers of the idea, Yamada says he shared a recording of those excerpts with animators from producer Steve Waterman’s (Stuart Little, Alvin and the Chipmunks) studio Film Roman who are creating an animated short of the book to help inspire them.

Set to a vibrant original score by composer and co-founder of FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, Jeremy Allen and narrated by Cleveland television (WVIZ/PBS) and radio (WCPN) icon Dee Perry, the 45-minute intermission-less production features Kevin Parker as “The child,” Katie McGaha as “The Idea” and a corps of six dancers portraying mice, deer, foxes, townsfolk and a bear along with other non-corporeal elements from the book. The work also features scenic design by Ian Petroni including pop-up book inspired set pieces, costumes by Kristin Wade and lighting by Trad Burns.

“It has been nothing but positive for me,” says Yamada of his experience having his book turned into a dance work. “I love the people at Inlet and Playhouse Square. They have been warm and welcoming to me and my family. The idea of somebody doing something different with the book is the book’s heart and soul. It’s all about believing in those ideas when they first come out. To see something that you created get recreated into a brand new piece of art is an honor and something I would absolutely do again.”

Inlet Dance Theatre performs What Do You Do With An Idea?, co-produced by Playhouse Square, 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 21 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $10 (Free for children under age 1) and available at playhousesquare.org, by calling (216) 241-6000, or at the Playhouse Square Box Office.

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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