By Steve Sucato
It is a bit ironic that the ballet company now looking to be a serious contender to fill the void left by the long departed Dennis Nahat led Cleveland Ballet (a.k.a. Cleveland San Jose Ballet) as Cleveland’s resident professional ballet troupe has decided to adopt the same name. Nevertheless that is the plan for former Cleveland Ballet dancer and artistic associate Gladisa Guadalupe’s new company. It will actually be the third organization to adopt the Cleveland Ballet moniker, the first being a group of Russian emigres in the 1930’s.
Guadalupe says this new company is not trying to recreate the troupe founded by Nahat and Ian Horvath that was an institution in the city for nearly 25-years beginning in the mid 1970’s and became one of the nation’s top ballet companies before departing to Silicon Valley in 2000 because of financial woes.
“I am not doing this to enhance my career,” says Guadalupe. “I am doing this because I see how much talent Cleveland has. There are a lot of good dance companies here and I feel there is room for a phenomenal resident ballet company. The city deserves it and I hope we can become that company.”
Board Chairman Michael Krasnyansky says the name “Cleveland Ballet” was in the public domain for anyone to trademark and that he and Guadalupe wanted to follow the lead of other great organizations in the city that use the city’s name in theirs such as the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Clinic.
Guadalupe and Krasnyansky say that the building of the new troupe will be a carefully paced and fiscally responsible process. Currently the company has six paid dancers hailing from Michigan, New York and the greater Cleveland area. One of those dancers is Bath native Lauren Stenroos, a former dancer with Dayton Ballet.
“I am excited to be a part of new company that is just starting up in my home town,” says Stenroos. “The environment is very positive and Gladisa is wonderful to work with. I feel she knows how to bring out the best in each individual dancer.”
Guadalupe’s vision for the company is to steadily build it to 14-18 dancers that will perform a repertory of downsized versions of classic story ballets, new contemporary ballets and classic masterworks. That vision also includes maintaining her thriving School of Cleveland Ballet (formerly known as Cleveland School of Dance) in Bedford Heights to train future generations of professional dancers that might one day join the professional company’s ranks.
Long range plans for new downtown studios/headquarters and a black box theater are in the works along with possible future collaborations with the Cleveland Orchestra and others.
For the company’s inaugural 2015-2016, which they are terming as their “preview season,” Guadalupe and company have entered into a season-long collaboration with fellow Northeast Ohio dance troupe Neos Dance Theatre. The two stylistically compatible troupes will share dancers, repertory, facilities and performances this season.
“What is really wonderful is Gladisa is hungry for her dancers to dance,” says Neos artistic director Robert Wesner. “She wants them on stage and to give them experience. She is providing them opportunities to continue to rehearse with us and to dance wherever we go this season.”
In addition to the two joint performances this season including Past. Present. Future this Saturday, October 3 at PlayhouseSquare’s Ohio Theater and May 12-14, 2016 for the ballet Coppélia, Cleveland Ballet’s dancers will take part in Neos’ Count … The Legend of Dracula, October 17 at the Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield and October 30 at the Akron Civic Theatre.
The two companies will take a wait and see approach to the continuation of their mutually beneficial collaboration beyond this season. Says Wesner: “We are two different companies with two different goals combining for one common goal this season. What happens after that? We will have to see.”
For Saturday’s debut in the 90-minute Past. Present. Future, Cleveland Ballet and Neos will present five stylistically diverse ballets beginning with two Neos premiered this past July as part of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival in Akron.
Choreographer Joseph Morrissey’s “Suite for Strings” (2015), set to music by Leoš Janáček, is a 15-minute ballet for eight dancers Wesner describes as “grand and uplifting.” The neo-classical/contemporary ballet contains some meaty sections with virtuosic dancing.
Next, the Wesner choreographed “Searching For The Find” (2015) is a thoughtful, precise and well-crafted contemporary ballet that will show off both troupes’ talented dancers.
A common arm movement she noticed amongst a group of dancers in class became the inspiration for Guadalupe’s “Schubert.” The first of two premiere ballets on the program, the ballet for five women on pointe has the feel of a Degas ballet painting come to life. It will be danced to live accompaniment by pianist Gerardo Teissonnière.
Wesner and wife Brooke will then perform the premiere of his pas de deux “necessary.negatives.” Set to music by Bach, also performed live Teissonnière, the 5-minute pas de deux was inspired by the idea of looking at old photo negatives and by the couple’s 25-years of dancing together,” says Wesner.
The program will conclude with “Glazunov.” Staged by Guadalupe and fellow former Cleveland Ballet dancer Cynthia Graham, the classical ballet capper is essentially excerpts from Marius Petipa’s ballet Raymonda set to music by Glazunov that will be played live by pianist Jee-Won Oh.
Launching a new professional ballet company is no easy task even without adopting the name of a cherished predecessor organization. From all indications Guadalupe, Krasnyansky and company are on the right track to make a go of it. With a healthy respect for the name’s past and those who used it, they are about building a new Cleveland Ballet for today’s audiences in the hopes of making their own lasting mark on the city of Cleveland and the dance community.
Cleveland Ballet and Neos Dance Theatre perform Past. Present. Future, 7 p.m., Saturday, October 3. Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. $20-$49. playhousesquare.org or (216) 241-6000.