Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dance (Verb), Dance (Groundworks), Dance (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet)

DANCE (Verbs), DANCE (Groundworks), DANCE (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet)

There’s been a lot of dancing going on in Cleveland, with a lot more to come.

VERB BALLETS’ ‘HOMEGROWN” leads to audience enjoyment

Verb Ballets, performing before a Sunday afternoon family audience at the new Breen Center, on the campus of St. Ignatius High School, went back into their repertoire and pulled out some of their most audience friendly pieces. No premiers here, just tried and true pleasers.

The well selected program included an opening mini-lecture by Dr. Margaret Carlson, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Officer, who gave a capsule summary of each piece. It was an excellent device for this audience, who, it appears, were mostly dance neophytes.

‘LADY BE GOOD,’ a ballroom theatre piece, was a reminder of the new rage of dance shows on TV. The jazz and scat music of George Gershwin was well interpreted by choreographer Gary Pierce, and the dancers.

‘LE CORSAIRE PAS DE DEUX’ exposed the audience to classical ballet. Beautifully performed by Brian Murphy and Jennifer Moll Safanovs, its highlights included excellent toe work, proficient leaps, strong coupling, and sprightly music and movement.

The music to ‘SPEED, THE ICARUS PROJECT’ brought squeals of delight from the children in the audience, familiar with the character of Speed Racer. A little static in movement, complete with some stumbles by Antwon Duncan, the piece did not hold the same fun power as previous enactments by the company. Katie Gnagy and Danielle Brickman were fine as the Wings.

‘VESPERS,’ with music by Mikel Rouse, was a visual enactment of passion and spirituality. The dancers stood and sat on, moved under, crawled beneath, and used chairs as the center point for their emotional feelings. A tribute to Martin Luther King, Ulysses Dove’s intricate choreography, as restaged by Dawn Carter, was filled with symbolism. This is one of the company’s signature pieces, and justifiably so.

The program ended with Pamela Pribisco’s ‘PETER AND THE WOLF. It was charmingly danced to the music of Sergei Prokofiev. The children in the audience verbally reacted to the familiar story and actions.

Verb’s next offering will be ‘CLEVELAND COMPOSERS, CLEVELAND CHOREOGRAPHERS, which is part of Dance Works 2020 at Cleveland Public Theatre from April 8 to the 11th. For information go to or call 216-631-2727.

GROUNDWORKS presents world premiere as part of Breen Center program

The Breen Center was the home to Groundworks DanceTheatre’s most recent concert. Made up of three pieces, the program again highlighted the uniform dancing excellence of the company. The six company members were nearly flawless in interpreting the works of three different choreographers.

‘POLARITY,’ staged by David Shimotakahara to atonal music composed and recorded by Gustavo Aguilar, created an abstract work centering on the internal and external impulses and forces of the performers. Though a little long, the dancers, dressed in striking orange costumes, used angular body moves, straight and bent arms and intertwining of bodies to create visual images of connections and disconnections of thought and action. Highlights of the piece included a mesmerizing solo by Kelly Brunk, who has developed into a premiere dancer since he joined the company 2008, and a duet coupling Brunk and powerhouse Amy Miller.

‘DELAYED,’ another abstract piece, was performed to the atonal sounds of Terry Riley. Supposedly developed as a movement piece which created a distinctive dance vocabulary. The dancing was well performed, but the repetition of movement and theme became somewhat tedious.

‘JUST YESTERDAY’ was an unusual piece for Danceworks. A combination of speaking, singing and dancing, with an excellent concept, some of the impact was lost because the vocalizations by the dancers were not always easy to hear. Too bad there wasn’t a way to individually mic the performers. The general idea came across, but with better audio, the effect could have been greater. Choreographer Dianne McIntyre did an excellent job of creating movement to parallel to the recollection and lasting family impressions of the dancers.

A benefit for Groundworks will be held on Saturday, March 13, at Windows on the River. The company will at the Philomethian Center in Chagrin Falls on February 20 at 8 p.m. and will be at the Cleveland Play House as part of Fusion Fest from April 22 to the 25th. For information go to or call 216-691-3180.

ASPEN SANTA FE BALLET to perform at the Ohio Theatre

Dance Cleveland and Playhouse Square Center presents the ASPEN SANTA FE BALLET on Saturday, February 27 at 8 PM and Sunday, February 28 at the Ohio Theatre. This fresh young company has established itself as one of America's leading contemporary ballet companies with their eclectic repertoire, musicality, athleticism and all-out dancing. For tickets and information call 216-241-6000 or go to