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

Mar 05, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet going ragtime in Tom Gold dance

Posted by rdurbin

 Wrap your head around this – ragtime pianist and composer Scott Joplin and the classical ballet style of the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet. Sounds unlikely, right? But it’s not when put in the hands of choreography Tom Gold of Tom Gold Dance.

He will make the magical happen in his dance “Joplin Jamboree” (a current work designed for CVYP, a Knight arts grantee) when the company performs in the Akron Civic Theatre, a Knight arts grantee, at the middle of the month.

Tom Gold. Photo from


CVYP artistic director Mia Klinger said in an interview that she approached Gold (who has done work for the company before), asking him if he could come up with something “classical, technical, and challenging” for the young dancers, but that is set to “fun music.” That’s all it took, Klinger said, adding that Gold, whom Klinger says works amazingly fast, had the “whole thing done” in his head in about two weeks.

Klinger got what she wanted, as was apparent at a recent costume rehearsal. It’s surprising how well ragtime rhythms and colors mesh with classical ballet. The pep and vigor of the pieces fit nicely with quick piques, entrechats, fouettes and the like, making the liveliness in ballet line and form come to life in ways you don’t usually think.

Yet Gold is able to mine the quirkiness of ragtime end phrases with quick head tosses and foot wiggles that give “Joplin Jamboree” a period feel as well. Appropriately he tossed in some Charleston-dance moves and similar vintage social dance to root the work in the context of the music.

Aside from the clever corps de ballet work that maximizes the use of the stage and gives a kind of clean grandeur to the work, Gold choreographed four principal dance roles for some of the older dancers (in turn, Kirsten Linnen, Annie Carroll, Megan Klamert, and Ella Davidson). Each solo is decidedly different.

"Joplin Jamboree," Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet. Photo by Roger Durbin "Joplin Jamboree," Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet. Photo by Roger Durbin

According to Klamert, her section was originally conceived for a young man, which explains some of the extra energy and plentitude of jumps that underline her dance. The part created for Davidson, as another example, is the more teasing, flirtatious snippet.

Both Linnen and Carroll commented on the process of learning Gold’s choreography. They agree it was difficult at first, challenging them to step up to the technical requirements of the piece. Then, they said, they got used to it and started making it “their own” by adding personal flourishes to give the part their special character (with the choreographer’s permission of course).

“Joplin Jamboree” will be on the same bill with James Sewell’s “Miss Spider’s Tea Party,” a story ballet also created for this company. CVYP is well-known and hopefully much-lauded for contributing new choreography for young people’s ballets.

Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet will perform Tom Gold’s “Joplin Jamboree”at 2:30p.m.,  Saturday-Sunday March 15-16 and at 7:30p.m. on Saturday March 16 at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. 330-253-2488. or Tickets $10-$25.

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