To launch the DanceCleveland season for the sixth year in Akron, presenters decided it was time to shift from an evening-long program featuring the work of single-choreographer companies to a dance company that focuses on a mixed repertory from numerous choreographers — BalletX.
The contemporary ballet company from Philadelphia, founded by former Pennsylvania Ballet dancers Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, will make its Northeast Ohio debut Oct. 5 at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall. A five-day residency preceding their performance will include BalletX teaching advanced UA ballet classes as well as Dance Institute, high school and community master classes.
BalletX also will have its own company class and rehearsal daily, continuing to create a new dance by Neenan that will premiere in November. UA students will be invited to observe their creative process.
The 7-year-old company has been prolific, adding 35 works to its repertory since the company was founded. The world-renowned Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo was the first choreographer BalletX worked with. Cox and Neenan had previously worked with him through the Pennsylvania Ballet, just as he was catapulting onto the international dance scene.
In Akron, BalletX will perform Anna Lopez Ochoa’s Still@Life, Alex Ketley’s Silt and Neenan’s The Last Glass. Still@Life, set to the music of Bach, is inspired by the Renaissance paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo. In this fantasy about paintings that come to life, the dancers use apples as props that they put in their mouths.
“It’s more the playful side of Michelangelo,” Neenan said.
Silt, on the other hand, is very dark and slow, with a mysterious tone. According to Neenan, the dance speaks to the trials of life.
Finally, Neenan’s The Last Glass, has been described by the New York Times as “infectious,” featuring the company’s 10 dancers performing with “startling spontaneity and urgency.”
The 2010 dance, set to the indie-rock music of the band Beirut, also employs some methods of clown acting.
“This is a piece I did to experiment with creating characters,” Neenan said.
Cox, who now has two children ages 5 and 7 months, transitioned from dancing with BalletX to running the company full time in 2009. She danced with BalletMet in Columbus for five years before joining Ballet Hispanico as a guest dancer and then dancing with the Pennsylvania Ballet from 1993 to 2006.
Naming their company BalletX felt natural, Cox said: “We liked the ‘X’ because it was really simple in terms of the flow of the letter — it never ends.”
Here’s the remainder of the DanceCleveland 2013-2014 season:
Paul Taylor Dance Company — Nov. 9, Ohio Theatre, PlayhouseSquare. The company will return to Northeast Ohio after performing in 2009 in Akron. Taylor, whose dances have been renowned since 1954 for their movement invention, athleticism, cultural commentary and musicality, is known as the last living member of the American modern dance pioneers.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet — Jan. 25 and 26, Ohio Theatre. The New York company, founded by Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie, will make its Northeast Ohio debut. Cedar Lake is known for its exceptionally talented corps of 16 dancers that performs a wide spectrum of repertory.
Trisha Brown Dance Company — March 8, Ohio Theatre. The company is presenting its final tour of the legendary artistic director’s major stage works. Brown, who choreographed her last dance last year, is known for her many collaborations with the late American painter and graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Jessica Lang Dance — April 12, Ohio Theatre. The company, which made its full debut in 2012, was founded by a former member of Twyla Tharp’s company THARP!. Lang has created 75 dances for numerous companies over the last 14 years.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.