Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dance, dance and more dance (Pointe of Departure, Verb Ballets)

Dance, dance and more dance!

The area has had a healthy dose of dance in the last couple of weeks, with more to come. Since the past programs aren’t going to be repeated, here are some quick comments about each and then some previews of what’s next.


On July 31, POINTE OF DEPARTURE, Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez’s ballet company, took center stage at Cain Park. The duo, the former wunderkinds of the Cleveland San Jose Ballet, are local favorites. Several years ago they returned to the area for a summer concert with the promise of forming a permanent ballet company. Such a corps is needed as local companies are basically modern and contemporary groups.

The program, which was a series of duets, was danced to recorded music, and was well balanced as the classics blended with more modern pieces. The highlights included a delightful opening (COPPELIA, EXCERPT FROM ACT II) staring Gabay and Rodriguez. Also appealing was NUTCRACKER, GRANDE PAS DE DEUX, ACT II. Jing Zhang was lovely and the dynamic, high flying Damir Emric, displayed compelling stage presence. RAYMONDA, PAS DE DEUX AND VARIATIONS, ACT III, which showcased Gabay and the exciting Ramon Moreno, was another program highpoint. NUTCRACKER, SNOW PAS DE DEUX, ACT I, was exquisitely performed by Zhang and Emric.

The women dancers were generally good, the males with the exception of Moreno and Emric, were weak, doing more posing and walking then dancing.

Capsule judgement: The area needs a ballet company. It’s too bad the economy won’t support making POINTE OF DEPARTURE a local fixture.


On August 7, the stage of Cain Park lit up with the reinvigorated Verb Ballets. Having reorganized itself, adding new performers, and expanding its repertoire, the company took another forward step, though there were a few glitches.

The program opened with what appeared to be the under rehearsed URBAN STUDY, a mirror of the gritty and cold atmosphere of NYC, as choreographed by Ginger Thatcher. The unit timing was generally off, and the hand and body angles of dancers often not in sync. The highlight was a duet section performed by Brian Murphy and Jennifer Moll Safonovs.

ELEGIAC SONG, a Heinz Poll piece, as restaged by Jan Startzman, was a “wow” selection, with choreography perfectly matching the plaintive tones of Shostakovich’s music. Jennifer Moll Safanovs, again shone forth. Unfortunately, newcomer Antwon Duncan, as was the case throughout the evening, was flatfooted, not precise, and showed little enthusiasm. The women were excellent and Trad Burns lighting added greatly to setting the proper mood.

Safonovs and Murphy were strong in TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX as choreographed by George Balanchine. The duo works well together. Their partnering is precise, their moves fully executed, their talent shining through.

LADY BE GOOD, in its world premiere, closed the program. Choreographed by Gary Pierce to the music of George Gershwin, it was a well danced piece with formality, fun and smart moves. It was a pleasant way to end the evening.

Capsule judgement: The Cain Park Verb performance was a solid program. With the exception of several male dancers, the company did an excellent job of changing moods and dance style requirements.


The Blossom Festival will present ballet performances, for
the first time since the 1988 season. On August 22 and 23 The Joffrey Ballet will perform four signature works, accompanied by the Cleveland Orchestra. Place: Blossom Music Center, 1145 W Steels
Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223. For tickets: (330) 920-8040 or


On August 20, Dancing Wheels, will perform at Cain Park. The company is the first modern dance ensemble to integrate professional stand-up and sit-down (wheelchair) dancers. . For tickets call 216-371-3000.


Playhouse Square presents its seventh annual Dance Showcase on Friday, September 11 at 7 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre. Featuring eight of Northeast Ohio ’s professional dance companies, the performance highlights a wide array of dance styles from contemporary to ballet.

The companies performing are Antaeus Dance, Dance/Theater Collective, The Dancing Wheels Company, Foreground Dance, Inlet Dance Theatre, Ohio Dance Theater, Travesty Dance Group and Verb Ballets.

For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org.