When the Ohio Ballet folded several years ago, it left a huge hole in the Akron dance world. The group performed year-round, primarily through its paid subscription series, but also (through the generosity of the City of Akron) during summers, first in a plaza in the downtown area, and then more widely for the city through the metro park system.
The city and Jane Startzman (one of the original dancers with Ohio Ballet) have kept the summer tradition alive by bringing four weeks of not just dance, but quality dance (as Startzman puts it) by way of the Heinz Poll Dance Festival. The city provides a significant portion of the funding, but the group has been working hard to get outside funding to keep the festival sound.
Cincinnati Ballet will end the festival this year with appearances in Firestone Park this Friday-Saturday.
CB is steeped in classical ballet and technique. One of its stated traditions is to keep the classical repertoire alive, while bringing new dances to the fore as well.
In the coming show, we’ll see just that mix.
First up will be “Don Quixote Wedding Pas de Deux,” which is an excerpt from the full-length story ballet (staged by Devon Carney, associate artistic director of CB) that was originally presented by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1869. It is one of the most famous duets in the classical ballet world, so it offers new audiences a chance to look back at the beginnings of the art form.
In a similar vein, there will be a duet choreographed by CB’s artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan. In her “Romeo and Juliet Pas de Deux,” Romeo appears unexpectedly outside Juliet’s bedroom and invites her to dance. That seems to me as good a way of wooing as reciting poetry.
For something altogether different, CB will groove to six tunes of gravel-voiced Johnny Cash in a work choreographed by James Kudelka called appropriately “The Man in Black.” The work is presumably staged as a suite of dances for three men and a woman, with cowboy boots and all – and nods to line, square, swing and step dancing.
Finishing up the program will be another contemporary work called “La Belle Danse” by choreographer Jessica Lang, to music by Arcangelo Corelli, Friedrich Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josquin des Prez. The work was originally commissioned for Richmond Ballet; it contains five sections in which the complex layers of the music get explored through physical movement.
Cincinnati Ballet will appear at Firestone Park, 200 N. Firestone Blvd., Akron during the Heinz Poll Dance Festival; 330-535-3179; www.akrondancefestival.org. Performances are Friday-Saturday, August 17-18, at 8:45 p.m. Admission is free.