Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Cleveland Repertory Project/Verb Ballets (Cain Park)

Cleveland Repertory Project (a.k.a. Verb Ballet) wonderful at Cain Park

One of the problems with viewing dance at venues such as Cain Park is that the presentations are for one night only. They are here, they are good, the word needs to get out as to the excitement of attending such productions, and they are gone before the support can build. This has been the case with all three of the local dance companies reviewed this summer at Cain Park. Groundworks Dance, Pointe of Departure, and most recently, Cleveland Repertory Project. All received standing ovations, positive commentaries, and left their audiences wanting more.

The positive side is that the Cleveland area, even in the midst of the financial famine, has been able to nurture such companies, though barely. They all hang on by a financial thread and the donations of local dance aficionados. Another positive is that with the hole left by the demise of Cleveland San Jose Ballet Company, and the less than thrilling productions by Ohio Ballet, there is still good dance to attend.

Cleveland Repertory Project is in its sixteenth season. It is considered one of the premiere modern dance groups in the area. It has been blessed with a wonderful new Artistic Director in the person of Hernando Cortez. His works and programming show creativity, precision and exciting variations.

“Planet Soup,” the opening number, featured an enchanting melange of dances to world music. Filipino folk dances, Irish reels, African ritual dances and Indian traditional forms were all displayed. Beautifully costumed by Edward Sylvia, the bare-chested, tie dyed skirted males and sarong draped females created exotic images. The dancers, who obviously were enjoying themselves as much as the audience, spun, partnered, flowed and performed with exhausting and cohesive movements. The highlight of the piece was Jason Ignacio’s blind-folded step-dancing between clapping poles.

For long-time local dance attenders it was like a shift back into time with the presentation of the second number, 'Laura’s Women.” The contemporary ballet was choreographed in 1975 by the late Ian Horvath, who was a co-founder of Cleveland Ballet. Danced to the music of Laura Nyro, with copies of the original costumes by Ginger Shane and using the original lighting design of Jennifer Tipton, the piece flowed beautifully. Kallie Marie Bokal, Elizabeth Flynn and Shannon Mulchay made the composition their own.

"Speed" (2003) was Cortez’s humorous approach to a comic-strip-in-dance. A smile piece from beginning to end, tiny Jason Ignacio was the exact image of the TV character Speedracer. Along with his living “wings,” composed of three female dancers, he flew threw the number taking the audience on a delightful journey. This is no great number, but it is fun to watch normally staid dancers let loose and do it so well.

Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” is a beautiful and haunting piece of music. It lends itself well to dance interpretation. Originally choreographed and costumed by the renowned Martha Graham, the piece was reconstructed by Diana Gray and Gary Galbraith for local presentation. The story-ballet centers on a celebration by a man and a woman who build a house in the wilderness with joy, love and prayer. They are helped on their journey by a revivalist and his followers and a pioneering woman who dreams of the Promised Land. The piece was given a meticulous production. Every character was clearly developed. Tall and powerful Mark Tomasic was properly stern as the Revivalist. Catherine Meredith was enchanting as the bride. Gary Galbraith, who was part of the revival team, effectively danced the Husbandman. Elizabeth Flynn was strong as the Pioneering Woman. This was a wonderful reincarnation of a very important piece of modern dance.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Call 216-397-3757 and request a schedule of Cleveland Repertory Project’s season brochure and attend one or more of their presentations. You won’t be disappointed. They will be repeating “Appalachian Spring” in their November program.