For some, modern dance seems incomprehensible. It lacks the disciplined format of ballet, really avoiding any easily recognizable structure. But that can also be the basis of its beauty. There’s a freedom from rigid categories and definition that defines this art form. It can then embrace many styles of choreography and movement under its umbrella.
As early as 1956, modern dance had support in Cleveland. Dancers attending a master class taught by Getrude Schurr, a dancer from the pioneering Martha Graham Dance Company, recognized the need to establish a home for the fledgling art form. At first the group, calling themselves the Cleveland Modern Dance Association, held classes in a tiny church. Within weeks of their formation the new organization co-sponsored a workshop with the Cleveland Institute of Music and Karamu House given by the great modern dance choreographer, Jose Limon. Within a year they presented their first dance performance: the Frankel-Ryder Dance Company of New York. One of the original members of the association, Miriam Glazer, is on the Board of Trustees of DANCECleveland today.
As DANCECleveland prepares for its 62nd season, it looks back on a significant history where its influence on modern dance has been substantial. More than 200 national and international dance companies have performed over the course of that history. More than a thousand workshops and master classes have been given and seven commissioned new works have been performed. As only one of a handful of presenters in the nation dedicated solely to the presentation of modern and contemporary dance, DANCECleveland continues to curate a dance series which brings world-renowned dance companies to northeast Ohio.
If you didn’t attend dance classes growing up or haven’t otherwise been exposed to modern or contemporary dance, it may seem difficult to understand or appreciate. It’s Sarah Hricko’s job to change that perception. Sarah is the marketing manager for DANCECleveland. “The hardest thing is getting someone in the theater at least once,” she explains. “Sometimes what attracts someone is a familiar piece of music or a piece of visual art that a potential audience member recognizes. We just presented the Ballet Biarritz performance of Cinderella. That’s a story line the audience knows, so it could provide just the spark of recognition that allows them access to the performance.”
“Sometimes it takes more than one time to become an admirer of modern dance,” Sarah suggests. “If one performance doesn’t appeal to you, maybe it’s too balletic, the next dance company we present may totally engage you with an athletic hip-hop inspired performance.”
DANCECleveland strives to present companies representative of the wide array of movement styles within contemporary dance. “Modern dance can take so many different forms - Paul Taylor can look so different from Che Malambo in terms of movement styles,” Sarah explains. “We’re fortunate to be able to access photos and video of so many dance companies, allowing today’s audience to find a performance they’re sure to enjoy.”
DANCECleveland takes its mission to promote the modern dance art form seriously. The Ohio Theater at Playhouse Square, where many of the performances take place, is small, just under 1,000 seats, so the audience doesn’t miss a thing. The ticket prices are accessible and promo codes and group rates make them even more affordable.
Next season’s subscription packages are currently available. Nine renowned dance companies are coming, including the classic modern dance favorite, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and the Argentinian stomping cowboys, Che Malambo, making their Ohio debut. New this year is the exciting American Dance Festival coming July 29th - August 5th.
Modern dance can be an amazing expression of the range of human emotion and the incredible ability of the body. Approached with an open mind, the experience of a single performance can inspire you to keep coming back for more. To learn about the upcoming 2017-18 season visit dancecleveland.org.
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