DANCECleveland and GroundWorks DanceTheater offer plenty of ways for audiences to keep their calendars full

By Jonah L. Rosenblum

PHOTO | Mark Horning / GroundWorks DanceTheater “Inamorata” by Kate Weare (2013), featuring Felise Bagley and Annika Sheaff. Weare’s latest debut will be held Oct. 16-17 at the Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square

PHOTO | Mark Horning / GroundWorks DanceTheater
“Inamorata” by Kate Weare (2013), featuring Felise Bagley and Annika Sheaff. Weare’s latest debut will be held Oct. 16-17 at the Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square

As the weather cools down, Cleveland’s stages heat up.

Through DANCECleveland and GroundWorks DanceTheater, Northeast Ohio is prepared to host a wide variety of shows designed with every kind of audience in mind.

“We work to make this a center of creativity for the world of contemporary dance,” says Beth Rutkowski, GroundWorks general manager. “The contemporary dance field in Cleveland is very, very strong.”

Particularly with world-class artists like Oded Zehavi, Kate Weare, MOMIX and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal making their way to the Forest City.

“It’s really important to us to bring in artists from outside of our area and keep this work happening in Northeast Ohio,” Rutkowski says. “We bring in these world-renowned artists and the dance world pays attention to that.”

Family-friendly fare

Parents and their children are covered with the upcoming slate, according to Sarah Hricko, DANCECleveland marketing manager.

Take Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, which kicked off the fall dance season Oct. 4 at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall. As befits an opening act, it promised to be festive, as “the feel-good company” mixed modern and contemporary with tastes of jazz and hip-hop. Hricko describes Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal as “a family-friendly event” devoid of “anything too dark.”

MOMIX has similar appeal, bringing a group of dance illusionists that have already hit pop culture with their appearances on Hanes and Target commercials to Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace Theatre on Jan. 23. Beyond their dance choreography, they’re known for using props, shadows, special effects and unique lighting to keep even the most unsophisticated audiences involved.

“It’s more accessible to a larger audience,” Hricko says. “This is a great one to bring kids to. It’s probably our favorite on the season for families.”

For experienced palates

Greater Cleveland also will play host to plenty of classical dance performances.

Avid dance fans may already know the name Kate Weare.

A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, 2011 Mellon Foundation Awardee and 2009 Princess Grace Award winner, Weare debuted “Unstruck” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in February.

Cleveland will play host to her latest debut Oct. 16 and 17 at the Allen Theatre, a piece that remained untitled as of late September.

“Her pieces, they’re very emotional,” Rutkowski said. “Her work definitely has a high-art feel to it.”

Rutkowski said Weare’s pieces are complex, but members of any audience can enjoy them so long as they are content to make their own interpretations and not necessarily have a “right answer” for the performance’s intent.

“It is beautiful dance done really, really well. The choreography is very interesting to look at,” Rutkowski said. “As long as someone is comfortable with not needing an absolute storyline, then they will enjoy their own interpretations and their own imaginations that might come from her work.”

Weare’s latest work came together, in part, through improvisation, as she let her dancers react naturally to various works of music and used those movements to build a piece. Also, given Weare’s company in New York City, she has turned into a Cleveland Hopkins International Airport regular. Beyond boosting her frequent flier account, her dancers had the unusual benefit of being able to use her gaps, when she’s in New York, to reflect on the “emotional arc” of the piece.

DANCECleveland’s ODC/Dance performance at the Ohio Theatre Nov. 7 brings similar sophistication. The “very modern company” brings work that’s “a little bit meatier in substance choreographically,” Hricko says.

Live music

The collision of musical and visual arts can make for a memorable occasion.

“Live music is really important,” Hricko says. “It’s something that’s really special and can never be done again.”

Northeast Ohio audiences have multiple chances to watch dance interact with music.

With GroundWorks DanceTheater’s October performances in Cleveland and November performances in Akron, audiences will be treated to an original score by Israeli composer Oded Zehavi, as inspired by the “Violins of Hope” exhibit featuring violins from the Holocaust.

A Latin flavor will come to Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre on Feb. 27, when the Malpaso Dance Company mixes Cuban contemporary dance with the musical styling of the Grammy-winning Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. The Havana-based company and its accompanying orchestra should bring “very spirited music, spirited dance” to Cleveland, Hricko says.

Telling a story

Storytelling has always been one function of the art world – and Northeast Ohio’s dance scene is no different.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers promise an “impactful evening” with “Black Girl: Linguistic Play” at the Hanna Theatre Nov. 14. Commissioned by DANCECleveland, the show will actually debut in New York, at the Joyce Theater, but will make one of its first stops in Cleveland a month and a half later. The show explores real-life situations from the modern female perspective, inspired in part by interviews with Cleveland-area women.

GroundWorks’ “Unpublished Dialogues,” which debuted in Northeast Ohio in 2008, returns to tell a choreographed story based on the life of writer Virginia Woolf.

The piece mixes the tragedy of Woolf’s life with the beauty of her work into a very emotional final result.

“It’s just a very, very strong piece,” Rutkowski said. “It has great depth to it and I think also that it fits really well with this program.” CV

*Lead image: PHOTO | DANCECleveland
MOMIX will perform “Alchemia,” shown here, Jan. 23 at Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace Theatre.