DANCECleveland’s New Mainstage Season to Feature Familiar Favorites

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

By Steve Sucato

Entering its 65th season of presenting dance to Northeast, Ohio audiences, DANCECleveland has new leadership as former DANCECleveland Executive Director and local dance icon Pamela Young retired. Filling Young’s shoes are and newly promoted Artistic Director, Sarah Sumbrum and new Executive Director Theresa Remnick.

Young served as DANCECleveland Executive Director for the past 18 years pulling the organization out of financial life-support when she arrived and bringing it to now its highest level of fiscal stability and national visibility. She and staff transformed DANCECleveland into more than just a presenting organization. They now serve as a dance incubator, commissioning new dance works and offer a myriad of other dance programming and sponsorships to the Northeast, Ohio dance community and public that have included master classes, a recent partnership with the American Dance Festival, and sponsoring 10K Movement’s inaugural Lords of The Land (LoTL) summer dance festival in July. In addition, Young was instrumental in the founding of The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron (NCCAkron).

While Young retired to little fanfare during a pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, her imprint lingers in DANCECleveland’s 2021-22 mainstage season that features a diverse line-up of programs from familiar dance companies to area audiences. They include popular troupes Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, MOMIX and the Cleveland debut of MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Kyle Abraham’s company, A.I.M.

In putting together this upcoming season Sumbrum says she and staff first looked at rebooking dance companies and productions from last season cancelled due to the pandemic. “We wanted to honor contracts and relationships with those companies we had to cancel,” says Sumbrum. Not all those cancelled programs however could be rescheduled this season. To fill out the unfilled slots, she, like many other U.S. presenters because of ongoing pandemic uncertainty regarding travel restrictions and health and safety concerns, looked to domestic dance companies rather than those abroad to fill out the season.

Like Young before her, Sumbrum subscribes to a booking philosophy geared toward the dance works to be presented over just the company/artist presenting them. “I don’t like to necessarily book just a company because every work is so unique,” says Sumbrum. “I feel like these days [dance] companies have such diverse offerings that what you pick makes a big difference. You could have three pieces [the company is touring] that are all dark works. I don’t necessarily want an entire evening of dark works. I think our audiences are pretty seasoned here and they pay attention to what is being presented to them.”

For those planning on attending an in-person performance this season, Sumbrum says at this point there are no restrictions on audience numbers because of social distancing. She cautions that may change with changes in the COVID-19 pandemic and that they will be adhering to each venue’s policies regarding health and safety. Playhouse Square just announced requirements that include the wearing of masks indoors for all patrons as well as proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend its theaters. 

Here is how DANCECleveland’s new mainstage season stacks up:

Monica Bill Barnes & Company in “The Running Show”. Photo by David Wilson.

Saturday, September 25, 2021
Monica Bill Barnes & Company
The Running Show
The University of Akron’s E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall
198 Hill St., Akron, OH 44325

Co-presented by DANCECleveland & Akron University’s Dance Program  

New York-based Monica Bill Barnes & Company will present the post-COVID premiere of The Running Show. Choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes and written by Robbie Saenz de Viteri, The Running Show is an athletic, humorous and insightful dance-theater work/live documentary that features a local multigenerational cast and uses their personal stories to document the life of a dancer as sports figure.

Says co-creator de Viteri of the production, “It comes from wanting to give audiences an experience of dance they haven’t had before. So much of it is a story of how you fall in love with something at a really young age and you pursue it. And if you stick with it in all the ways that thing you fell in love with changes as you get older, that is a really relatable thing so many of go through.”

No stranger to area dancegoers, choreographer Barnes in 2017 created the equally adrenaline-fueled and athletic “Tonight’s the Night” for GroundWorks DanceTheater.  Of The Running Show, she says: “We had the idea of wanting to work with the community in a more substantial way and we had been working on a show that asked the audience to see dance as a sporting event and explore what makes sport interesting. That led us to try and create something that within a week we could incorporate local dancers into a show.”

Delivered with the high-energy of a sporting event, the hourlong The Running Show,“Is not a sit quietly and hold your program show,” says de Viteri.

A.I.M dancers Claude “CJ” Johnson and Tamisha A. Guy in “An Untitled Love”. Photo by Carrie Schneider.

Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 7:30 pm
A.I.M by Kyle Abraham
An Untitled Love
Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre
1511 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
Presented by DANCECleveland & Tri-C Performing Arts

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham makes its Cleveland debut in celebrated choreographer Kyle Abraham’s newest evening-length work, An Untitled Love. DANCECleveland previously co-presented the company in Akron in 2018.

Partially developed during a 2019 residency at The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron (NCCAkron), the hourlong An Untitled Love pays tribute to unity and love in all its facets. It is set to music from the catalog of Grammy Award-winning R&B singer D’Angelo and has a cast of 10.

World premiering this month in Chicago right before coming to Cleveland, Abraham describes An Untitled Love as being “inspired by wanting to honor not only my parents, but those aunts and uncles who aren’t really blood relatives, but who you grew up with and helped raise you. Just seeing the way they carried themselves and their joy and love, it’s really important for any young person’s development — it was very much so for me.”  

Abraham says he manifested all those feelings of unity and love that inspired the work into his choreography for it by playing with humor and text in a fun way. “There are also mannerisms and small gestures we threw into it… and even in the styling there is a photo of my mother included in the [stage] set in a jumpsuit that is reflected in one of the dancer’s costumes.”

While the work isn’t set in one specific time period, Abraham says there is definitely a nod to the 1980s.

MOMIX in “Viva MOMIX”. Photo by Max Pucciariello.

Saturday, February 05, 2022 at 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm 
Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre
1511 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
Presented by DANCECleveland & Tri-C Performing Arts

After a nearly 7-year hiatus, popular theatrical dance troupe MOMIX returns to Cleveland for two shows of Viva MOMIX (a.k.a. W MOMIX Forever), their mix-and-match highlights program from past evening-length works, Botanica, Alchemia, Remix, Opus Cactus and Lunar Sea.

Created for the company’s 35th Anniversary Celebration in Milan, Italy, MOMIX founder and director Moses Pendleton said in a 2019 interview I had with him, that the 2-hour, 2-act program has no story line or full-evening theme other than that of MOMIX. That being “a theme of surreal, vaudeville, visual and physical theater coming at you at a rapid rate. The show has a lot of variety, humor and poetryand is a nice cross-section of our aesthetic.”

Included in the production according to Pendelton are an excerpt from Lunar Sea, using black light to reveal only the dancers’ arms from which they create the image of a flock of snow geese and from Botanica, a giant man-fan from that Pendleton calls an extension of early 20th century choreographer Loie Fuller’s dances. The company will also perform a trio short works created for Viva MOMIX : “Light Reigns,” which takes its inspiration from a Colorado skiing trip Pendleton took where he saw strings of cascading Christmas tree lights that looked like it was raining light; “Daddy Long Legs,” a humorous piece featuring a trio of cowboys with increasing longer legs than the other, and “Paper Trails,” a work all done with paper and projections that Pendleton calls an “installation fantastique.”

Pam Tanowitz + Simone Dinnerstein, “New Work for Goldberg Variations”, The Joyce, Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 7:30 pm
Pam Tanowitz Dance & Simone Dinnerstein
New Work for Goldberg Variations

Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre
1511 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
Presented by DANCECleveland & Playhouse Square

High critical praise has been heaped on New York-based choreographer Pam Tanowitz’s works in recent years. In 2018 former New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay declared her dance work “Four Quartets,” to be “the greatest creation of dance theater so far this century.” Glowing reviews also followed the 2017 premiere of her New Work for Goldberg Variations that her company, Pam Tanowitz Dance along with Brooklyn born classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein will perform in Cleveland in March.

Known for her abstract treatment of movement ideas that often take form in post-modern movement that has roots in the classical modern styles of Merce Cunningham and others, the work is described as exploring “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations’ musical architecture in a delightful interplay of rhythm, style and idiosyncrasy.” Cleveland dancegoers got a taste of that movement aesthetic along with insight into how Tanowitz works as a choreographer in Body of Work: Dialogues on Dance with Pam Tanowitz Dance that DANCECleveland presented in 2018.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green and Solomon Dumas. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Friday, April 22, 2022 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, April 24, 2022 at 3:00 pm
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Playhouse Square’s KeyBank State Theatre
1519 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
Presented by DANCECleveland & Playhouse Square

Perhaps the best known and well respected name in touring dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns by popular demand to Cleveland for three shows. Last in town in 2019, the repertory they will bring this time round has yet to be announced. It is a safe bet however, audiences will see old favorites, new works, and of course their signature dance work, “Revelations” that closes most every show.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of   

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