Part Two of DanceWorks Series to Feature More of Cleveland’s Dance Stalwarts [PREVIEW]

By Steve Sucato (with Kim Furganson)

In welcoming back eager audiences to re-engage with its annual DanceWorks series again, Cleveland Public Theatre decided on a two-part approach. In Part One of the series that ran from February 23 – March 11, Cleveland mainstay dance company Inlet Dance Theatre was paired with two relatively new dance troupes to Cleveland’s dance scene, MadJax Dance Company, and Reflections Dance Theater. Part Two of the series, beginning this Thursday and running through May 13, takes things up a notch with four weekends of performances by four diverse local dance stalwarts, Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet,” Mojuba! Dance Collective, Shri Kalaa Mandir, and opening Part Two this weekend at CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre, MorrisonDance in “25 Years with MorrisonDance!” a program celebrating the company’s 25th Anniversary.

For the past quarter century, Sarah Morrison’s project-based MorrisonDance has been an innovator with such works as 1997’s groundbreaking “Leaping Into The Net!,” credited as beginning one of the first (if not the first) live-streamed dance performance presented in the United States, and a nonconformist with a myriad of site-specific and aerial works, collaborations with NASA, and an array of inventive, often quirky, but always entertaining repertory works. Read more about MorrisonDance’s history here and as part of OhioDance’s virtual archive here.  

What has been the secret to MorrisonDance’s longevity? “There really isn’t any, other than you get up and you keep going,” says Morrison. “Whether that is good or bad, insanity, or determination it is hard to say.”

A recent test of the company’s staying power, the global pandemic, says Morrison, meant pretty much starting the company over from scratch. “Many of the relationships and connections that were built with people and organizations are now gone as a result of the pandemic,” says Morrison. “But there is something so resilient about dancers and their love for what we do. We keep coming together to share and create and I keep trying to find ways to make sure everyone gets paid.”

MorrisonDance in “Egg”. Photo by Scott Radke.

In “25 Years with MorrisonDance!” audiences will get a healthy dose of the resiliency that has kept MorrisonDance going for the past 25 years while experiencing new takes on several familiar works from the company’s past as well as premiere works created for the landmark program.

Kicking things off will be “Sound Bath Sculpture,” a new improvisational piece for the full company created and directed by Morrison with concept and original music by Braden Pontoli. Other premieres on the program include “What is Dance?,” a work that features an original music soundtrack by Pontoli with recorded responses from members of the local community to the question, what is dance?

“It’s basically a mashup of ‘definitions,’” says Morrison. ” Along with bringing together all the things we love about dancing.”

Also new on the program will be former MorrisonDance company member Maree ReMalia making a special appearance in an excerpt from her new work-in-progress, “with ourselves, with each other” that will be danced to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” performed by David Bernabo.

The remainder of the jam-packed program will highlight ten Morrison-choreographed works from the company’s repertory including 1996’s “Out on the Town,” known by audiences as the “Rosie the Riveter” dance work, but this time featuring an all-male cast; 2010’s “EGG,” with its performers costumed as creatures in pointy black hats and tutus, and who are fascinated by eggs; 2019’s “Alice & Bob,” a work inspired by the theory of Quantum Entanglement and danced to music by UK experimental band, The Mostar Diving Club; and the dance films, “Steelyard” (2012) and “W.O.W. Walking on Other Worlds” (2007), with video created by NASA Glenn’s Imaging Technology Center.

If you are unfamiliar with MorrisonDance’s work, “25 Years with MorrisonDance!” is a crash course you won’t want to miss.

Here is a look at the rest of DanceWorks 2023 Part Two’s offerings: 

Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet’s” Lieneke Matte. Photo by Kolman Rosenberg.

Week 2: April 27-29
Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet”: Fresh Inventions
Fresh Inventions is an exciting evening of dance full of innovative ideas and creative expression created by company members. The dancers will be challenged by this unique initiative to push boundaries with their artistic vision by exploring innovative movements. By providing a chance to confront convention, this fresh opportunity is bound to inspire audiences. A powerhouse of talent and passion will bring you into a new world of imagination and possibility through every move on stage! Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” is committed to creating and showcasing performances that reflect our times.

Company Bio

Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet,” presents bold works and builds community through dance. The company honors the roots of pioneer ballet companies in the Great Lakes region. Today, the company is under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Carlson, former principal dancer for Cleveland Ballet, and Richard Dickinson, MFA, former Ohio Ballet dancer. The company strives to commission choreographers that elevate marginalized voices and reflect our times. Building community and offering opportunities to learn through dance are at the core of Verb’s mission. Verb aims to bring programs out to the public, meeting people where they live, work, and learn. The company’s children’s programs explore topics such as arts appreciation, literacy, STEM, and cultural diversity. Verb also offers programs for seniors that emphasize movement to encourage socialization and wellness. The professional company is comprised of dancers from across the nation and the globe. In addition to touring regionally, the company has toured internationally in Cuba and Taiwan and has built lasting partnerships that provide opportunities for cultural exchange. Verb Ballets aims to support art that is reflective of our current societal landscape and relevant to our dancers, communities, and dance enthusiasts in Ohio and abroad. More information can be found at

Mojuba! Dance Collective. Photo by Vedette Gavin.

Week 3: May 4-6
Mojuba! Dance Collective: Where The Light Enters
The work of transmuting trauma into triumph is an arduous, yet daily task for Black women. A celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit, Where the Light Enters is a demonstration of the power of choosing self-love, the promise of discovering connection and community, and hope which is catapulted by undying faith. It is a rallying cry for all of us to find our peace amongst the broken pieces.

Company Bio
Mojuba! Dance Collective (MDC) is an African contemporary dance company and platform dedicated to exploring spiritual and cultural dance traditions of the African Diaspora to restore community wellness, share and validate the Black narrative experience, and reestablish cultural connection. “Mojuba” is a Yoruba term that loosely means the art of offering reverence. In this way, we seek to celebrate, preserve, and explore the narratives and artistic contributions of Black America.

Shri Kalaa Mandir. Photo by Srini Ranganathan.

Week 4: May 11-13
Shri Kalaa Mandir: Samayam – A Moment in Eternity
Time is the only constant. This production will capture the journey of an individual as they negotiate their pursuit for the proverbial fountain of youth. Along the journey, we’ll witness time passing during the day, as seasons, in dreaming and waking states. As people fall in love, we see time slowing down. As people engage in war, we see time speed up. At the end of a long journey, we must live in the present to make the most of our world, relationships, and aspirations.

Company Bio
Founded by 2022 Cleveland Arts Prize recipient Sujatha Srinivasan, in 1993, Shri Kalaa Mandir (Center for Indian Performing Arts) is a leading Indian classical dance company in Ohio. It offers holistic training in Bharatanatyam that encompasses culture, knowledge of music, critical thinking, and adherence to the classical dance form and technique. Using traditional choreography, Sujatha has produced traditional and innovative dance productions to cater to a new landscape and audience. Taking the stage at various venues, from Playhouse Square, Cleveland Museum of Art, Akron Civic Center, and Cleveland Public Theatre to countless diversity events and festivals in major venues across the city. SKM company dancers transcend barriers of tradition, language, and scholarship to develop and showcase their nuanced understanding of the intricacies of Bharatanatyam. They bring home top awards from major festivals and competitions year after year. Several senior SKM dancers are the front-runners in the next generation of the North American Bharatanatyam scene, creating new paths for themselves.

DanceWorks 2023 Part Two runs 7 p.m. nightly, Thursday-Saturdays, April 20–May 13, 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 or by phone through CPT’s box office at 216.631.2727 ext. 501. Free Beverage Friday is still in effect along with the newly instituted Covid-conscious Thursdays, where audience members are required to wear facemasks.

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