The marketing director for DANCECleveland talks about the American Dance Festival in Cleveland Summer Dance Festival. The festival’s opening performance, featuring BalletX, takes place at 7:30 p.m. July 27 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre. The festival runs through Aug. 10, closing with two performances by Malpaso at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre.

What can visitors look forward to from the American Dance Festival in Cleveland Summer Dance Festival?

American Dance Festival is one of the oldest and most renowned dance festivals in the United States. It takes place for six weeks in Durham, N.C., each year. Cleveland is proud to be a smaller version of this festival that allows our Northeast Ohio community to experience dance through several entry points. The community dance day on July 27 at Playhouse Square will be filled with dance, dance and more dance! Community members can participate, observe, learn, explore and enjoy all that dance has to offer. We’re excited for our headliner performance in the evening by BalletX, 14 free community dance classes for all ages and abilities, a free local student dance showcase, special events and more!

ADF in CLE opens with a performance by BalletX. What can you tell us about the group and its performance?

BalletX will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 27 at 7:30 in the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square. It is a Philadelphia-based ballet company highly regarded for versatile dancers and contemporary choreography. Their artistic director, Christine Cox, was previously a dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet before founding the company. The company performs around the world and is a favorite of the Veil International Dance Festival. This will be their Cleveland debut, although DANCECleveland last presented the company in Akron in 2013. On July 27, they will perform three pieces: “Steep Drop Euphoric,” choreographed by Nicolo Fonte, a balletic work with classical music and sounds from nature; “Express,” choreographed by Lil Buck, which has hip hop movements, sneakers mixed with ballet and fun music; and “The Last Glass,” which features contemporary choreography by Mathew Neenan and lush beautiful movement with music by Beirut, an indie rock group that creates a playful, light piece.

The festival closes with a performance by Malpaso, a modern dance company from Cuba. What can you tell us about the group and its performance?

Malpaso Dance Company arrives from Cuba for a whole week on the ground. Before their two performances at Playhouse Square, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10, they will actually be part of several special events that we are presenting as part of the Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration, which will honor what would have been the great Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, there will be an event at The Cleveland Art Museum involving a lecture by Ken Tabachnick, executive director of the Merce Cunningham Trust, and a performance of “Fielding Sixes” by Malpaso Dance Company in the auditorium. Malpaso is the first Cuban company to be given a Merce work.

Then, during those two Aug. 10 performances at the Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square, Malpaso Dance Company performs three pieces. One is “Face the Torrent,” choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (most known for her work on “So You Think You Can Dance”). Sonya started this work with Malpaso the last time they were here in Cleveland as part of a residency, and now audiences get to see the finished product! The second piece is “Being (Ser),” choreographed by company dancer Beatriz Garcia, and the third is “Tabula Rasa,” choreographed by Ohad Naharin, which is a master work of Israeli choreographer and director of Batsheva Dance.

Image for Malpaso Dance Company by Nir Arieli courtesy of DANCECleveland.

In between those performances, there’s a lot of programming, including dance demonstrations and classes. Will you elaborate on what will be offered?

We have a variety of free events happening throughout the two weeks, and especially on Community Dance Day on July 27. We encourage people of all ages and abilities to come out and try several classes to see what they enjoy most! All classes are free, but registration is encouraged. You can check for the full listings, but here is a glimpse into the classes offered July 27:

10 to 11:30 a.m.

  • Ballet with Pamela Pribisco, formerly of Cleveland Ballet
  • Jazz with Gregory King: Kent State University
  • Contemporary dance with Bobby Wesner: Neos Dance Theater
  • Master Class with BalletX
  • Professional development sessions for parents of dancers

12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

  • West African dance with Talise Campbell: Djapo Cultural Arts Institute
  • Zumba
  • Professional development for dancers

1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

  • Yoga by Yoga Strong Studios
  • Social Dances of Today with Tony Fresh

3 to 3:45 p.m.

  • Best of ballroom with La Danse Cleveland
  • Mega Barre with Logan and Jessica from Pure Barre Brecksville
  • Liturgical dance with Edna Duffy of Duffy Liturgical Dance

4:30 to 6 p.m.

  • Local studio showcase performance in the Allen Theatre featuring 10 local studios selected in range of dance styles. The event gives students the opportunity to perform in professional theater. Free but ticketed.

ADF in CLE will of course appeal to a broad audience, but what might you say to readers who perhaps aren’t as familiar with professional dance? What can they learn or discover by attending that might further their interest in the art form?

I think that oftentimes, people who have not attended professional dance performances assume that all dance is like “The Nutcracker.” They may have seen dance once or twice as a kid, and they expect it to be similar to what they’ve experienced before. However, just like other art forms, such as music or visual art, there are all different kinds of dance. We hope that the festival gives the opportunity to see one or two performances and to start to gain an understanding of just what type of dance they might enjoy watching.

For example, just on the program for BalletX, the company will perform movement with inspiration ranging from ballet to modern and even hip hop. The music selections used range from classical to indie rock to jazz. So, on one program, an audience member will experience several different variations of the same art form, just like you would when touring an art museum. We are excited that this year, not only can people watch a dance performance, but they can try out participating in different types of movement themselves, too! Give it a try — you might just fall in love with it! CV

Lead image: Image for BalletX by Gabriel Bienczycki courtesy of DANCECleveland.