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Verb Ballets has been part of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival since its beginning eight years ago. It seems like the contemporary dance group has been in all the participating metro parks where troupes perform, but this year Verb will headline at west side Akron’s Hardesty Park.

The venue is a good one for any dance group, since the park will house the 34th annual Hardesty Park Arts Expo on the same weekend. Visual arts and crafts by day will segue into an evening of dance performance.

It’s also good for dance lovers as well, for Verb has been a continuing and more widely known presence in the Akron area of late. Recently the group performed at the Akron Civic Theatre in a program honoring Heinz Poll, for whom the dance festival is named.

Although ostensibly based in Cleveland, the company has strong artistic and personnel ties to Akron. Most of the dancers come from Akron, and one (Brian Murphy) danced for Heinz Poll as part of the Ohio Ballet, as did choreographer and ballet master Richard Dickinson, who also served as Poll’s ballet master.

In keeping the connection ever closer, Verb will perform Poll’s “Eight by Benny Goodman” as part of its line up. Even the New York Times acknowledged that this work is an exuberant big-band sounding work that successfully combines ballet and ballroom dancing into a single artistic expression.

Heinz Poll, "Eight by Benny Goodman." Photo by Mark Horning and courtesy of Verb Ballets

Heinz Poll, “Eight by Benny Goodman.” Photo by Mark Horning and courtesy of Verb Ballets

The work collectively comes across as naughty elegance as far as I can tell. The titles of some Goodman songs – “I’m Nobody’s Baby” and “Someone Stole My Gal” hint at the emotional pastiche at play.

Verb Ballets will also present ballet master and choreographer Richard Dickinson’s “Four Last Songs,” a work based on the music of Richard Strauss and the poetry of Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff. The four sections – or songs – deal with loss and reconciliation.

Richard Dickinson, "Four Last Songs." Photo by Mark Horning and courtesy of Verb Ballets

Richard Dickinson, “Four Last Songs.” Photo by Mark Horning and courtesy of Verb Ballets

Lastly, the company will perform a recent work set on the group by native Clevelander Antonio Brown, who danced for the famous Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

Brown created several pieces for Verb, but the one selected for this performance is “Passing By,” a work for eight dancers (in solo parts and various combinations). The work has been described as a kind of foray into dance expressionism, with dancers acting/dancing out intense passions and feelings.

Antonio Brown with Verb Ballets dancer.

Antonio Brown with Verb Ballets dancer.

Verb Ballets will perform as part of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival at 8:45 p.m. on Friday-Saturday, July 26-27 at Hardesty Park, 1615 W. Market St., Akron; 330-535-3179; www.akrondancefestival.org. Admission is free.

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