By Steve Sucato (with Kim Furganson)
Begun in 2004, Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual DanceWorks series is back in a big way this year with seven Northeast Ohio area professional dance troupes performing over seven weekends beginning with Part One of the series launching this Thursday-Saturday with MadJax Dance Company.
Over its history, the DanceWorks Series has come to audiences in various configurations including split bill programs with two dance organizations sharing an evening.
Coming out of the global pandemic that saw the DanceWorks Series on hiatus in 2021 and significantly reduced in 2022 with only Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” and Inlet Dance Theatre performing, CPT’s Executive Artistic Director, Raymond Bobgan says there has been renewed interest in the series by local dance groups.
“Pre-pandemic there appeared to be less and less demand from companies and we saw a decline in applications for DanceWorks,” says Bobgan. “Coming out of the pandemic we noticed a rise in the activity of new and existing companies. I was so impressed by the work of various groups at Station Hope (our annual event at St. John’s Church celebrating and advocating for social justice). Then, when Pandemonium [CPT’s annual Gala Fundraiser] came up, we again had more proposals from dance companies than ever before.”
The unusual choice to present DanceWorks 2023 in two parts this year, Part One, running February 23 – March 11, and Part Two, running April 20 – May 13, 2023, all came down to scheduling says Bobgan. “Programming the season is a complex web of factors and we felt having two different times would accommodate more companies.”
This year will be even easier for audiences to access the series with “Choose What You Pay” ticket pricing starting at $1. And yes, popular Free Beverage Friday will still be happening each Friday post-performance along with the newly instituted Covid-conscious Thursdays, where audience members are required to wear facemasks.
Here is a look at DanceWorks 2023 Part One:
Week 1: February 23-25
MADJAX DANCE COMPANY – Release
MadJax Dance Company presents Release, a collection of work that encapsulates the idea of vulnerability “juxta positioned” by power and strength in today’s society bridging together age, race, and sexuality into a platform of powerful, thought-provoking works. Release explores the roles of women carrying the weight of societal expectations while maintaining a sense of self-awareness, inner strength, and independence struggling to let go of painful feelings and memories from the past desperate for a connection to people or a higher power. The audience is invited to explore their own emotions through a visual smorgasbord ranging from fun, quirky, lighthearted shenanigans to deep sorrows that happen along life’s journey filled with choices, connections, and memories.
MadJax Dance Company (MJDC) was created amidst a pandemic in June 2020 by Artistic Director Madi D. Jackson. Furthering the community is as much a priority to MadJax Dance Company as getting on stage; making its mission to foster growth in others through training, performance, and interconnection. It is considered an all-level, multi-generational dance company allowing for inclusivity to all technical skill sets and abilities. Madi Jackson has a seamless way of bringing together performers interested in social activism and proudly boasts company members that lift the world around them through philanthropy. Civic engagement is a pillar for the company and often a muse for its movement. madjaxdance.com
Week 2: March 2-4
INLET DANCE THEATRE – Experiences: Lived and Imagined
Inlet Dance Theatre will present Experiences: Lived and Imagined as part of DanceWorks 2023. The first half of the concert focuses on repertory inspired by lived experiences and stories of community members gathered via collaborations with numerous organizations. The second half of the concert leverages creativity and imagination, exploring what might be.
Inlet Dance Theatre is one of the most unique professional contemporary dance companies hailing from the Midwest because Inlet’s ensemble-based culture, rooted in American Modern Dance, purposefully focuses on craftsmanship and mastery while employing a collaborative creative process in the development of new work. Founded in Cleveland (OH) in 2001 by Executive/Artistic Director Bill Wade, Inlet embodies his long-standing belief that a collaborative creative process is more inclusive than the traditional autocratic leadership hierarchy and results in work that is surprisingly diverse. Inlet’s repertory intentionally speaks creatively about human life issues in a life-giving manner. The company presents a wide aesthetic range of works, from abstract to narrative, that speaks to what could be, rather than only what is. Inlet develops and teaches people from the inside-out in all of the company’s design-centric programming, “using dance to further people.” inletdance.org
Week 3: March 9-11
REFLECTIONS DANCE THEATER: Silver Lining
Silver Lining is a dance piece that is based on redlining. Redlining is a discriminatory practice in which services are withheld from potential customers who reside in neighborhoods classified as “hazardous” to investment. These neighborhoods have significant numbers of racial and ethnic minorities and low-income residents. The piece focuses on the resilience of Black and brown communities to find joy against the odds.
Since 2022, Reflections Dance Theater, founded by Glenville native and The Juilliard School grad Nehemiah Spencer, has become nationally recognized for its “powerhouse performances” that reflect on issues affecting Cleveland communities, such as poverty, discrimination, and homelessness. Also, within its first year, the company entered and won the nationally renowned gospel music competition How Sweet the Sound 2022 in its inaugural year of featuring a dance category. reflectionsdancetheater.com
DanceWorks 2023 Part Two will feature MorrisonDance, Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet,” Mojuba Dance Collective, and Shri Kalaa Mandir. Details are to be announced later.
Of DanceWorks 2023 Bobgan says, “The work is strong, diverse in style and content, and thrilling to watch. It seems to me like something exciting is happening in Cleveland’s dance community right now!”
DanceWorks 2023 Part One runs 7 p.m. nightly, Thursday- Saturdays, February 23 – March 11, 2023, at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland. CHOOSE WHAT YOU PAY tickets starting at $1 can be purchased without handling fees online at cptonline.org or by phone through CPT’s box office at 216.631.2727 ext. 501.