The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Aug 08, 2012

GroundWorks Dance Theater coming to Glendale Cemetery

Posted by rdurbin

One of the most interesting features of GroundWorks Dance Theater, a Knight Arts grantee, is its ability to stage performances just about anywhere.

Historically, GroundWorks had a series along the idea of dance in unusual settings, like museum lobbies, libraries, an old-fashioned icehouse. It holds to that tradition by appearing regularly during the Heinz Poll Dance Festival in Glendale Cemetery in the West Hill area of Akron. And they make it work.

GroundWorks DanceTheater dancers during an appearance. Photo by Mike Cardew

This group looks great in a concert/stage venue. It looks just as wonderful smack dab in a graveyard. For some strange reason, it just seems right.

GroundWorks Dance Theater artistic director David Shimotakahara with dancer Felise Bagley in background. Photo from

GroundWorks will appear there again Friday-Saturday, August 10-11, and will be  bringing a couple of brand new works to premiere – namely, artistic director David Shimotakahara's "Brubeck," which is a tribute to the music of American jazz icon Dave Brubeck, and associate artistic director Amy Miller's "Current Frame," which explores the "dramatic interplay between the formal structures" of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's "Passacaglia" and the "emotional undercurrent found in response to the music's themes and cadences."

The two pieces tend to the unusual in musical history, making their modern takes on them in dance all the more special. Biber's work was composed for violin solo, which apparently was novel for the genre, but also because his "Passacaglia" explores the limits of the violin as instrument itself. The short work was part of a series in the "Mysterious Sonatas" and their connection to devotions to the Rosary.

GroundWorks Dance Theater associate artistic director Amy Miller. Photo from

Shimotakahara's take in "Brubeck" looks at highlighting "several of Brubeck's classic recordings that epitomize his career long experimentation with unusual time signatures," among other things.

GroundWorks clearly doesn't shy away from the arcane. It reinvents pieces and makes them concrete in dance terms. The company also knows how to have dance fun and celebrate other passions.

Ronen Koresh's "CoDa," which was created for GroundWorks, is a highly musical and exuberant work requiring tons of energy and freshness from the dancers. It's the kind of stuff audiences eat up, as they did when I saw them not long ago. Several recognizable folk dance traditions emerge in the piece underlining the roots of social dance that inform this work. Koresh is director of Koresh Dance Company located in Philadelphia.

Shimotakahara's "Sweet" lifts the music "Sweet in the Morning" by Bobby McFerrin of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" fame, and indulges in a driven duet where the dancers explore a kind of uplifting sensuality while maintaining unyielding closeness.

GroundWorks Dance Theater dancer Felise Bagley. Photo by Dale Dong


GroundWorks Dance Theater will perform at Glendale Cemetery (150 Glendale Ave., Akron) as part of the Heinz Poll Dance Festival on August 10-11 at 8:45 p.m. Admission is free. For information about the Heinz Poll Dance Festival, call 330-535-3179 or visit For information about GroundWorks Dance Theater, call 216-691-3180 or visit


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