By Steve Sucato
Fresh off a successful tour to Cuba in March, Cleveland’s Verb Ballets travels a bit closer to home to make its debut at the University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall this Friday, April 27.
Their Spring Series program will showcase three works from their repertory plus the Northeast, Ohio premiere of Princess Grace Award-winning choreographer Adam Hougland’s ballet “K281”.
Originally created for Cincinnati Ballet in 2007, “K281” takes its name from Mozart’s “Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat major, K. 281” that the ballet is set to. The 14-minute piece for 3 men and 3 women says repetiteur and original cast member, Jill Marlow Krutzkamp is full of quirky contemporary dance movement a la choreographer William Forsythe.
The ballet also assigns each of its 3 couples their own personalities. The first couple says Marlow Krutzkamp, has a fun, free relationship, the second couple’s music is slower and the mood is somber, and the third couple, the music gets faster and they have a funny relationship where the woman moves like a rag doll.
“The biggest challenge with this piece is the partnering and the transitions between couples,” says Marlow Krutzkamp.
Joining “K281” on the program will be a reprise of the Heinz Poll masterwork “Eight by Benny Goodman” (1992).
Choreographed by Ohio Ballet founder Poll during a time period he referred to in his autobiography, “A Time to Dance” published posthumously in 2008 as “Ohio Ballet’s Golden Years,” the ballet, set to orchestral music of the 1940s arranged by Goodman including the songs “I’m Nobody’s Baby,” “My Old Flame” and “How High The Moon,” the ballet had an unusual genesis for a Poll work says Verb Ballets’ ballet master Richard Dickinson who staged it for the company and was an original dancer in it.
Dickinson says during the creation of the ballet Poll did something he never did, bringing in visual aids in the form of photos from the 1930s of Hollywood actresses such as Marlene Dietrich to provide the dancers with reference points for the glamour and demeanor of the characters he was creating for the ballet. In addition, says Dickinson, Poll invited the dancers to his home to watch old Dietrich movies and others such as 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain where he singled out the tap extravaganza “Good Morning”.
The 25-minute “Eight by Benny Goodman” for 10 women and 4 men with original lighting by Thomas R. Skelton, adapted by Trad Burns (who incidentally created the lighting for all of the other works on the program) was bequeathed to Dickinson by Poll when he died in 2006 and remains one of Poll’s most popular and enduring feel-good ballets.
Also on the program will be a reprise of Pamela Pribisco’s rendition of “Tarantella” (2005) to composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Grand Tarantella for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 67 (ca. 1866)”. The lively and technically demanding classical ballet duet will be performed by Verbs’ Christina Lindhout and Omar Humphrey.
Rounding out the program will be former Philadanco dancer Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “Dark Matter” (2013). A company and audience favorite, the 20-minute athletic and street-styled modern dance work for 11-dancers is, says Evans, a reaction to the driving original music for it by Philadelphia composer Greg Smith along with additional music by Bach.
Verb Ballets Spring Series will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, April 27, The University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall, 198 Hill Street, Akron, Ohio. Tickets are $17-35 and can be purchased by calling the EJ Thomas Box Office at (330) 972-7570 or online at www.verbballets.org.
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.