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BWW Review: DIRECTOR'S CHOICE: VERB BALLET at Breen Center For The Arts



BWW Review: DIRECTOR'S CHOICE:  VERB BALLET at Breen Center For The Arts

Friday, June 26, after a Covid-induced period of Zoom-only dance recitals, Cleveland's "classical ballet with a dash of American modern dance" company, joined the world of the living with a performance of three pleasing pieces, at the Breen Center.

That's not to say Verb is abandoning streaming. The Director's Choice" program was filmed and was streamed locally, nationally and internationally to an audience it had developed during the last year and a half. A group of viewers who, not only bought tickets to the company's electronic programs, but also became donors.

As Dr. Margaret Carlson, Verb's Producing Artistic Director stated before the opening curtain, it was those ticket sales and donations that kept the company financially solvent during the angst filled "we can't perform live" days.

The program opened with a video interview featuring Richard Dickinson, the company's Associate Artistic Director. A former member of the Ohio Ballet, he explained why that Akron based company was the "grandfather of Verb."

Ohio Ballet was founded by Heinz Poll, a German-born dancer who left the country in 1951 for political reasons. After periods in France and New York, In Akron, he founded the Chamber Ballet, later Ohio Ballet, at the University of Akron in 1968. Over a span of 31-years he choreographed 60 ballets and created a reputation that led to a local rivalry for excellence and audience between OBT and the Cleveland Ballet. Unfortunately, due to what local dance aficionados would call errors in judgement by the companys' boards, both organizations ceased to be.

In 1999, when he retired, Poll left the rights to some of his works to former dancers and company. Dickinson, who was given the rights to Triptych, the opening selection of the evening, explained the influence that Poll had on dance.

Triptych, in its company premiere, was first performed in 1988 and has been restaged from Poll's original choreography by Dickinson.

Set to Mendelssohn's piano concerto #2, the classical ballet with contemporary overtones, was danced on point in smooth, flowing movements. Highlights of the number were a lovely pas de deux performed by Cleveland native Kelly Korfhage and Butler University graduate Benjamin Shepard, and strong solo segments by Emily Dietz, also a Butler grad.

The mood for the number was developed through Lighting Director Trad Burns' warm lighting, which accented A. Christina Giannini's costumes.

Stephania Martinez, the conceiver and choreographer of World of Another, a new ballet commissioned by Verb, was filmed explaining her philosophy of dance conception and how this piece was conceived. She explained that using a computer and a wide-angle GoPro camera to enable full viewing of the studio, the ballet was created. Martinez explained that she was inspired by "kinetic momentum, a versatility that expands the boundaries of contemporary ballet movement."

Filled with visual interactions and creation of living images, World of Tomorrow is a showcase for displaying the breath of Verb's multi-cultural company, with everyone, including Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni, and International Cultural Exchange Artist and Somlya Schirokauer, a Junior Trainee, taking the stage.

Before one of the company's favorite pieces, Bolero, was presented, Xochiti Tejeda de Cerda, who Poll gifted the rights, did a video interview. Set to the sensual and exciting music of Maurice Ravel, Heinz Poll's original sizzling choreography exploded amidst controlled movements, swirling capes and enticing dancing, featuring Antonio Morill.

It was a perfect ending to joyous hour and twenty minutes of dance.

Capsule Judgment: Audiences are emerging from the days of angst. Live dance is back! Verb Ballets is back! Bravo!

Join Verb Ballets for free summer performances on July 30-31 for the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, on August 13 for Tremont Arts in August, August 20 for Ballet Under the Stars, and September 3 at Cain Park. For details go to

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