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Steve Sucato
Performance Reviews
Ballet
Modern/Contemporary
Cleveland Public Theatre
GroundWorks Dancetheater
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Cleveland, OH
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GroundWorks Dancetheater - Several truths revealed in DanceWorks series performance - For the Life of Me, Sweet, Several Truths Duet, Latitude

by Steve Sucato
March 30, 2008
Cleveland Public Theatre
Gordon Square Theater
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 631-2727

Featured Dance Company:

GroundWorks Dancetheater
GroundWorks Dancetheater (mail drop)
PO Box 18191
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
216-691-3180
www.notsoobvious.com

In its nearly decade as resident dance company at Cleveland Public Theatre (Cleveland, OH), David Shimotakahara's GroundWorks Dancetheater has shown consistency in the exemplary level of its performances as well as in its dancer lineup. In the company's 8th annual appearance as part of CPT's award-winning Danceworks series in March only the latter changed.

Longtime company member Mark Otloski — a former principal dancer with Cleveland San Jose Ballet — went into semi-retirement due to an injury and the company added dancers Sarah Perrett and former Ohio Ballet standout Damien Highfield to its modest ranks.

GroundWorks' program at CPT's historic and raw Gordon Square Theater space opened with the premiere of Amy Miller's "For the Life of Me". Set to music by singer-songwriters Ingrid Michaelson, Amy Borkowsky and others. The jaunty and mostly "feel good" piece saw its 5 dancers a la the hit television show Friends engaged in non-verbal banter and rotating romantic allegiances with one another.

The work featured a recurring motif where one dancer would tap part of an arm or leg of another like in a game of tag. Another section of the work was reminiscent of a game of musical chairs, while another had the dancers jogging backwards on and off the stage.

A leading dancer in the contemporary dance company, Miller has also become a regular choreographer for GroundWorks due in large part to the successful debut of her work "eleveneleven" in 2006.

The program continued with the Cleveland premiere of Shimotakahara's "Sweet". The intimate pas de deux set to Bobby McFerrin's "Sweet in the Morning" was created this past June for BalletMet Columbus's "30 x 30" anniversary celebration. Danced by Highfield and Perrett, "Sweet" had an ease to it that felt quite natural. In it the dancers curled their bodies around each other and ducked and dodged each other's attempts at embrace. The work's inherent charm was accentuated by the marvelously timed dancing of Highfield and Perrett whose onstage chemistry was, as the work's title states, sweet.

Another duet, New York choreographer Gina Gibney's "Several Truths Duet" (2001) featured Shimotakahara and Miller as two troubled lovers struggling to overcome an apparent rift in their relationship. The rift left the pair both longing for, and repulsed by one another. Danced to an eclectic mix of electronic music, Miller was captivating as a downhearted and drained woman who chased hope in fleeting acts of kindness offered by Shimotakahara's character. Transitioning from its melancholy beginnings, the second half of Gibney's duet turned into a track meet of post-modern dance movement. The choreography twisted, turned and came crashing to the ground with both Shimotakahara and Miller looking visibly exhausted for their efforts.

GroundWorks' program concluded on a light note with another premiere, Shimotakahara's "Latitude". The "simple-folk" work featured the mind boggling musical talents of Hal Walker. Walker, performing live, played a number of folk instruments including a pan flute, harmonica, and comb. His command of even the simplest of them like a rattle stole the limelight away from the dancing.

A work for the entire company, "Latitude" appeared to be not much more than a response to Walker's music. Lively and homespun, the dancers let loose in do-si-dos and other steps that hinted of choreographer Agnes de Mille's works.

One of "Latitude's" more memorable sections featured Shimotakahara and Walker in a "call and respond" duet where Shimotakahara moved like a tap dancer reacting to Walker's musical phrases.

Overall GroundWorks' 2008 Danceworks series program may not rank among their best. The works were solid and entertaining but lacked the kind of charisma and marvel the company has delivered audiences in the past.
GroundWorks Dancetheater's Amy Miller and Damien Highfield

GroundWorks Dancetheater's Amy Miller and Damien Highfield

Photo © & courtesy of Dale Dong

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