A spoonful of sugar lures first-timers to shows
"Have you ever seen a ballet before?"
I was struck speechless by the unexpected question, which was asked by a
member of the Ohio Dance Theatre audience during intermission at the Cleveland
Play House. We were standing in line awaiting the delicious desserts that were
included in the ticket price for the company's amusing murder-mystery ballet,
"Bullet for a Ballerina."
At first, I thought the bubbly patron was an actor doing a terrific job of
feigning naivete. After all, members of the cast had circulated in the lobby and
interacted with the crowd during the pre-performance cocktail hour.
But I was wrong. The woman was sincere. A ballet neophyte, she was living
proof that the company had achieved its goal of attracting a new audience to
Something similar happened a few weeks earlier in Oberlin, where Ohio Dance
Theatre presented "Born in the U.S.A.," a Fourth of July show preceded by a
picnic at the Oberlin Inn. People at my table had not previously seen the
company, and they had no idea what to expect. They had made the trip from
Sandusky simply because they liked the concept of the holiday
Unconventional programming and fresh marketing ploys are effective ways for
large and small performing arts ensembles to drum up more dollars. Whether it's
the Oberlin company spoofing the murder-mystery genre, the Cleveland Orchestra
having a little fun with Bugs Bunny or Verb Ballets auctioning off a
Harley-Davidson, the gimmick can boost business at the box office. But it takes
a high-quality experience in the theater or concert hall to bring the newcomers
If Ohio Dance Theatre hooked its first-time ticket-buyers, perhaps the
murder-mystery fans and patriotic picnickers will develop into real ballet buffs
who will support the company and take a look at other dance ensembles.
Volume doesn't always
An arts patron who attended Verb Ballets' exciting concert at Cain Park in
Cleveland Heights rightfully chastised me for failing to mention in my review
that the company had "ruined the music."
She was right. It was an embarrassing omission on my part, since
overamplification is an abomination that I usually disparage.
When I asked artistic director Hernando Cortez why he had played Verb's taped
music at an ear-shattering level, he said it was a way of commanding attention
in an al fresco setting where there are lots of distractions.
Outdoor crowds usually do take longer to settle down than audiences in a
darkened theater. But that was not the case with Verb's opening number. So
dazzling were the costumes, lighting, choreography and dancing that people were
immediately enthralled, and there was no need to bump up the music, Leonard
Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms."
For the rest of the program, the music was played at a tolerable dynamic
level. But the damage was done by the opening blast, which reportedly sent at
least one person with sensitive ears fleeing from the park.
A little art
in the great wide open
Sarah Morrison, artistic director of MorrisonDance, has not been seen onstage
since March, when she appeared with her company on the DanceWorks Series at
Cleveland Public Theatre. Seven months pregnant with her first child, she made a
Having given birth to Isabella Stokes Radke on June 9, Morrison is now
getting back to dance with "The City Is Our Playground," the summer project that
takes the company to Cleveland parks and neighborhoods for street performances,
workshops and outdoor rehearsals.
The performances feature choreography by Morrison and masks and costumes by
her husband, Cleveland artist Scott Radke. The workshops were inspired by
Morrison's childhood memories of recruiting family members and neighbors to
create and perform dances in her front yard.
The unannounced rehearsals "allow people to stumble upon something out of the
ordinary in places that they often associate with daily routines such as walking
their dog, jogging or just hanging out," Morrison said in a release. "An
unplanned discovery creates a feeling of participation and ownership that you
can't find in the theater or studio. . . . It's fun for us to get outside, and
we get to answer lots of questions about dance and watch kids show us their
amazing talents or simply imitate our movements with delight."
is where she'd rather be
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Gina Gibney's playground this summer.
Artistic director of her own contemporary company in New York, she is taking a
working vacation as the park's artist in residence. Besides basking in peaceful
surroundings, she is teaching students at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental
Education Center and choreographing a piece for GroundWorks Dancetheater.
Created in collaboration with Cleveland composer Ryan Lott, the work will be
premiered Friday through Sunday, Sept. 10-12, at Akron's Ice House and repeated
Friday through Sunday, Nov. 12-14, at the Cuyahoga Community College Metro
Campus Theatre. For details, call 216-691-3180.
for the future
Csárdás Dance Company has made the decision to change course and focus on the
development of its youth ensemble. The shift in mission is necessitated by "the
increased challenges regarding fund-raising for professional companies," founder
and co-artistic director Richard Graber wrote in an e-mail.
Since its debut 10 years ago, Csárdás has won international recognition for
its performances of traditional and contemporary works stemming from the
Hungarian heritage. The company has commissioned works from Hungarian
choreographers, toured to Budapest and acquired a fine collection of folk
The youth ensemble now consists of nine dancers, ages 8 to 15. The group has
appeared with the 12-member senior company and performed independently at a
variety of functions, including the International Children's Games Kick-off
Graber hopes to expand the training program, which is based on educational
concepts developed by Sandor Timar, former artistic director of the Hungarian
State Folk Ensemble. His technique resembles the Suzuki violin method of
teaching music like a language, beginning in early childhood. Timar compares his
work to that of composers Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, who collected thousands
of folk melodies to preserve and teach their rich musical heritage.
Children and parents interested in the Csárdás Youth Ensemble are invited to
an orientation meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Movement Arts Center,
the company's home in Medina. For information, call 440-668-6500 or go to www.
From Kent to Costa Rica
A seven-member ensemble from Kent State University performed Kimberly
Karpanty's "Urban Soul Blues" at the 2004 Leo's Jazz Dance Choreography
Competitive Dance Event last month in San Jose, Costa Rica. The event was part
of the Jazz Dance World Congress 2004, a five-day festival of performances,
classes and panel discussions.
Karpanty, associate professor of dance at KSU, was one of nine choreographers
chosen from around the world to participate in the competition. It was not a
first-time honor. She also showed a work at the 2001 World Congress in
Salisbury is dance critic of The Plain Dealer.
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? 2004 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.