Monday, February 18, 2013

GROUNDWORKS features two  premiers; future dance programs

Roy Berko
(Member, Dance Critics Association)

Since its founding in 1998, Groundworks DanceTheater, David Shimotakahara’s small dance company, has been dedicated to the theme, “imagination you can see.”  The company “explores the human experience through unique and adventurous choreography.”  They perform new works, imagine older works, while performing in a variety of venues which range from an old ice house in Akron to Trinity Cathedral to the Cleveland Institute of Art to the Glendale Cemetery.

The latest adventure for the company and its collaborators was at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts.  The same program will be repeated at 7:30 on March 22  at the Akron-Summit County Public Library.  The evening consisted of two world premieres and a revival.

LUNA, choreographed by Shimotakahara in collaboration with the dancers, is a physical exploration of polarities:  lost and found, give and take.  As with any set of opposites, the extreme ends of the spectrum overlap and reappear.  The composition was danced to the flat affect sounds written by Peter Swendsen. The quick gymnastic actions were well performed, the polar opposites delineated by moves and counter moves, repelling of touch, while unfolding in parallel sequences.  The highlight segment was a compelling duet by Felise Bagley, probably the best female contemporary dancer in the area, and Gary Lenington.  Like the music, the dancing was interesting, but not compelling.

INAMORATA, also in its world premiere, was the choreographic creation of Kate Weare, who is noted for her unique dance voice.  She intends, through her visual images, to “inspire its own world.” As per its title’s meaning—“a female lover or a woman who is loved”—the number, which was danced to the recorded sounds of such compositions as Processional Hymn, Nannou, Contrabaejeando, and No One Hurts Up Here, puts females in various loving situations. An exciting addition was a recently rare dance appearance by Shimotakahara.  The piece received deserved strong audience applause.

BRUBECK, a commissioned piece, was developed in 2012. Shimotakahara has given a physical snapshot of the sounds of the American jazz icon as physical movements by combining seven of Brubeck’s’ lexicon of compositions, including, Take Five, Bluette, Pick Up Sticks and Unsquare Dance.

Each section highlighted a different side of Brubeck’s’ experimentation with  moods and time signatures.  His style has been epitomized as “motion and commotion” as “creating infectious melodies and dynamic rhythms,” and this was well reflected in the dancing.

The dancers switched gears as the moods of the music changed from plaintive, to sassy, to happy, to sensual.   The overall effect was energizing, educational and often mesmerizing.

As I commented in my review of the original production, Kristine Davies’ costume design is confusing.  The female short shirt-waist pink dresses and then the varying styles of bathing suits didn’t parallel the musical moods and did little to create the needed visual image.  The men’s costumes added little to creating the visual moods.  If the piece is to be repeated again, consideration should be given to altering the costume design.

Capsule judgement: Groundworks continues to be a bright star in the area’s contemporary dance sky.  The well disciplined company, which strives to present new and interesting performances in audience friendly venues, deserves the strong audience support it is receiving.  

Coming up:  April 13 @ 8 PM at the EJ Thomas Hall the company will perform with the Akron Symphony Orchestra.

For information go to


Saturday, February 23, 2013, 8 PM, Breen Center @ St. Ignatius High  School
Three works by Chung-Fu Chang, who is in residency with Verb.  Program includes THE LILY, created for Verb, Chang dancing PHEASANT’S WRITING, a self-choreographed solo work, and the world premiere of Richard Dickinson’s ballet about loss and longing set to Richard Strauss’s haunting Four Last Songs

Saturday, March 2, 2013, Palace Theatre
Sponsored by Dance Cleveland
Affectionately known as “America’s dancer company,” Mark Morris Dance, which is both brash and profound, is acclaimed for its ability to make classical music visible through dance.  The last time they appeared locally, I wrote, “Morris, who is meticulous in his choreography, takes a piece of music and creates a movement for each note of the composition.”   Morris Dance sold out in its last local performance, so get your tickets now!

April 11-13, 2013, Cleveland Public Theatre
Experience the second movement of Bill Wade’s exploration of the 4 elements, AIR, along with selected pieces from the company’s repertoire.
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