Tag Archives: Sarah Morrison

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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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.

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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.

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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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