Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Verb Ballet, Inlet Dance, Antaeus Dance, American Ballet Theatre--March, 2004


One of the problems with short run productions is that before the word can get out, they are gone. This is especially true with many of the performances of local dance companies, which usually run one weekend. A case in point is the Cleveland Public Theatre’s “Dance Works ’04.” Some of the area’s finest choreographers are being showcased. Unfortunately, each group gets a one weekend three-performance slot. Since you can’t get to see what has been, maybe you can get ready for what’s going to be. If you see that these companies are presenting, go before they are gone once again.

Cleveland is blessed with some wonderful choreographers and company artistic directors. Three of the very best are being showcased in the “Danceworks ‘04” series. Two have already had their works presented: Hernando Cortez of Verb Ballets, and Bill Wade of Inlet Dance. Here are mini-reviews of what was presented.


The company’s ‘CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS COLLECTION 04’ was a wonderful and creative evening of dance. The dancers worked with assurance and displayed a complete understanding of each the choreographer’s works. Mark Tomasic and Tracy Vogt were superb in “In Passing.”

Dancing on boxes, in ballet shoes on toe, “The Last Sun” showcased wonderful dancing by Meghan Haas and DeAnn Petruschke. Unfortunately, Robert Wesner’s affected movements and lack of body control were distracting.

“The Envelope” was an absolutely delightful piece centering on the passing of an envelope from dancer to dancer. The melodramatic music and quick short moves delighted the audience.

“A Twist of Fate” was brilliant! It was a powerful, unsettling piece, accomplished with wonderful shadows projected onto the back scrim by lighting designer Cheanult Spence.

“Mozart Piano Trio in C Major” was danced to the fine live accompaniment of Eric Ziolek and Sara and Jeffrey Schimpelfenig. The classical music and contemporary stylized movements blended to give a sprightly conclusion to a wonderful evening of dance.

All in all, this was an entertaining, eclectic evening of dance. As a patron said as he walked out, “I could see that again.” I agree!! For information about Verb Ballets and their next performances call 216-397-3757.


Inlet Dance is at its very best when the company is performing to the ingenious choreography of Bill Wade. This was well-illustrated in their “Dance Works ‘04” program. Every one of Wade’s staged pieces was compelling. The works of the other choreographers left much to be desired.

Wade’s “B’roke,” danced to a Vivaldi violin concerto, was beautifully presented. He created involving stage pictures through the inter-twining of bodies. Each physical move perfectly fit the musical underscoring. Jennifer Lott lit up the stage. Marget Ludlow, M. Leila Pelhan and Devon Schlegelmilch were outstanding in this and each piece in which they performed.

“Doppleganger” was the evening’s highlight. Featuring 16-year old African American twins, Bryan and Ryan Peoples, who helped develop the choreography, the dancers displayed amazing physical strength and body control and blended into a co-joined tandem of gymnastic dance movements. Wow!!

“ImPAIRED” saw Leila Pelhand and Christopher Whitney impressively performing the entire piece blindfolded. The slow gymnastic movements were beautifully executed. This was a powerful piece, well conceived and well executed.
Less effective were “Tides and Solitude” which Sally Wallace choreographed using long poles which were used by the dancers to propel themselves across the stage. The effect worked for a while but the extended music and repeated movements became tedious and the piece called for cutting.

Jennifer Lott danced her own choreographed piece, “Duet” competently. The single dancer partnered with a square of light. The choreography failed to captivate.

“Dante’s First Night,” staged by Leilani Barrett, failed to coordinate the tone of the music with the dance movements. The repetitious music and lack of group unity hurt the piece. Interestingly, it was the performance of the choreographer that was most responsible for the lack of precision.

Steve Rooks’ “You Are Now Connected” missed the mark. The dancers, though they valiantly tried, were not capable of interpreting the rap music’s intent.

For information about Inlet Dance call 216-382-0201 or email


Starting with a series of bangs and cymbal clashes, choreographers Dough Lodge and Joan Meggitt’s “Moments of Repose” had an impressive beginning. But, as the piece went on and on, repeating and repeating the same musical tones and movements, the audience lost interest. It was too much of the same. Supposedly inspired by Frank Gehry’s Peter B. Lewis Building on the campus of Case-Western Reserve, the piece should have, like the building, flowed, flashed, attracted emotional attention, brought about strong emotional reaction. It didn’t. After a while more attention was paid to Greg D’Allessio’s solo manipulation of the musical instruments than to the dancers. The female dancers—Jenita McGowan, Sherri Mills, Latifa Sage, Beth Salemi and Shanna Sheline--were all very proficient.

A shortened piece, programmed with something of a different feeling, would have made the evening much more satisfying.

For information about Antaeus Dance Company call 216-486-2874.


Performing as part of the Ballet Series at Playhouse Square Center, American Ballet Theatre proved why it is a world class company. The program, danced to a full orchestra, opened with “Raymonda,” a classical piece with folkloric overtones. Well staged, it featured Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky in lead roles. Maxim and Carlos Lopez’s high scissors leaps and the precision dancing and toe work of Erica Cornejo were the piece’s highlights.

“Pillars of Fire,” was a somber, beautifully danced piece which combined traditional movements with modern staging. The result was a moving choreographic concept in which the moods of the dance and the music became one.

“Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison” was the lesser segment of the evening. Though it was interesting to see the former Beattle’s music set to dance, there was a lack of consistency in interpreting many of Harrison’s lyrics to the movements. This was especially true in “Something.” “I Dig Love,” with its interesting lift patterns and inter-weavings of bodies, was more on target as was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which featured powerful gymnastic movements. “Isn’t It a Pity” consisted of a series of countermoves created by having the dancers work in lines. “Within You Without You” evoked little emotional feeling, while “My Sweet Lord” was a high spirited gleeful dance.

All in all, if you missed ABT, you missed a dance season highlight. They will undoubtedly be returning to the area. Make sure to see them.