Tag Archives: MorrisonDance

MorrisonDance Celebrates 20th Anniversary Season with Retrospective Showcase as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 2018


MorrisonDance Spider photo by Bob Perkoski

MorrisonDance Spider. Photo by Bob Perkoski.

By Steve Sucato

If it wasn’t for some perseverance and a bit of luck in the form of Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) founder James Levin deciding to a chance on an unknown Case Western University dance department graduate and giving her the opportunity to mount her first show, the 1997’s groundbreaking LEAPING INTO THE NET!, dancer/choreographer Sarah Morrison might not have stayed in Cleveland.

Brought here in 1992 by a CWRU Creative Achievement Award Scholarship for her choreography, Morrison, an Atlanta-native, might have returned to Georgia without ever forming MorrisonDance, a mainstay on the Northeast, Ohio dance scene.

Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary season, MorrisonDance returns to CPT this weekend, May 24-26, for a retrospective showcase of Morrison’s staged dance works as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 2018.

In addition to performing extensively in the greater Cleveland area including site-specific and aerial works at museums, parks and other venues like Schoepfle Gardens and Edgewater Park, Morrison and her company have had tours to Pennsylvania, California, Georgia, Italy, England, Mexico and New York’s City Center, the Joyce SoHo and Joe’s Pub at Public Theatre.

A 2018 recipient of the OhioDance award for “Furthering the Artform of Dance” and a 2009 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Morrison has created over 75 works for her company in the past two decades as its principal choreographer. Sixteen of those works will be highlighted on this weekend’s 20th anniversary program along with “Simean Suit Sequence” (2016), choreographed by longtime MorrisonDance company dancer Taliesin Haugh.

MorrisonDance 1997-2017 Director Sarah Morrison

From 1997’s LEAPING INTO THE NET!, the first modern dance performance broadcast live online.

MorrisonDance Dali's Drawers photo by Bob Perksoski

MorrisonDance in “Dali’s Drawers”. Photo by Bob Perksoski.

MorrisonDance stars photo by Bob Perkoski

Photo by Bob Perkoski.

Morrison is best known for her highly visual works described as “zany” and “endearing” by former Plain Dealer dance critic Donald Rosenberg, that often involve a light-hearted, playful and humorous approach such as 2001’s “A Tribute to Sissy Hankshaw,” which features a solo dancer wearing oversized thumbs, and the lamp-shade-wearing improvisational solo “My Grandmother’s Lamp” (2003 / 2008).  Through those works and many others, Morrison and company have carved out a unique niche in the region as a dance company that embraces quirkiness while regularly delivering an abundance of audience smiles.

“The process I have [in creating work] is to jump on an inspiration and let it become what it needs to be,” says Morrison. “Often what my work becomes is never my first entry point.”

Morrison says not all of her works fall into that lighthearted spectrum. “Over the years I have done some dark and creepy pieces,” she says — “Dark in the sense of imaginative dark. There is a depth to my work that often explores a gestalt dual side of things.”

The 20th anniversary production will showcase that full theatrical spectrum work in a series of short 3-10 minute works and excerpts from larger works that spans the company’s history. Eight performers including Morrison and Cleveland-based performer/composer Braden Pontoli make up the cast for the 2-hour program that includes 2015’s neurotic “Phobophobia,” set to original music by composer Jeremy Allen and voiceover by Clyde Simon and featuring the dancers in inflatable bouncy ball costumes; Morrison’s zebra-striped pant solo “Zugzwang Zebra” (2015) which cleverly uses a white plastic chair with a hole in its back; the seductive and sinister Irish fairytale “Leanan Sidhe,” (an excerpt from the 2006’s Mad Mask Maker of Maigh Eo); the gravity-inspired “9.8 m/s^2”(2007 / 2009), set to music by James Brown; 2010’s “Conflict Resolution,” a duet where the dancers are connected together at their arms and “Out On the Town” (1996), one of Morrison’s oldest works to music by Tom Waits that celebrates Cleveland’s working-class persona in which the female cast is costumed a la the iconic World War II-era “Rosie the Riveter” posters.

MorrisonDance dreams photo by Bob Perksoki

Photo by Bob Perksoki

MorrisonDance monkeys photo by Bob Perkoski

Photo by Bob Perkoski.

Morrison says beyond trying to find computer keyboards from the 1990s to use as props, the toughest part about putting together this weekend’s 20th anniversary program was selecting the works that would be included on it. More a retrospective than a greatest hits production, for those unfamiliar with the company and Morrison’s work, it’s a relative crash course in it.  And for those already familiar with both, it’s a chance to revisit and reminisce on one of the region’s most long-lasting and unique dance troupes.

MorrisonDance performs as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 2018, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 24 – Saturday, May 26 at CPT’s Gordon Square 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

Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks 2018 continues with:

WEEK #3: INLET DANCE THEATRE – May 31 – June 2

WEEK #4: OBERLIN DANCE PROJECT & MARQUEZ DANCE PROJECT (DOUBLE BILL) – June 7 – June 9
WEEK #5: DOUBLE-EDGE DANCE – June 14 – June 16

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Airings

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”.

Verb Ballets_Photo Kolman Rosenberg_6473

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.

Verb Ballets_photo by Susan Bestul DSC_4552RT

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”.

Inlet Dance Theatre_photo by Michelle Sipes_2

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.”

Inlet Dance Theatre_photo by Michelle Sipes_1

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.

Alpha_photo by Gemma Freitas-Bender and Michael Marques

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Airings

MorrisonDance and Elu Dance Company Double Bill Food for the Soul


EluDanceCPT-6219-X2

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.

IMG_4671

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

IMG_4672

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.

EluDanceCPT-6386-X2

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

EluDanceCPT-6563-X2

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.

EluDanceCPT-7022-XL

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dance Reviews 2016