For many Cincinnati area audiences, dance means classical ballet — annual Nutcracker performances or perhaps Swan Lake.
But Mario de la Nuez and Meridith Benson, co-artistic directors of de la Dance Company, are trying to change all that with performance evenings like DanceCincinnati2011, running for the next two weekends at the Aronoff’s Jarson Kaplan Theater.
The lineup is solid, including 12 companies, over a dozen choreographers and more than 50 dancers. Styles range from classic and modern ballet to modern and experimental dance. To make it all fit, there are two alternate programs.
Benson, ballerina extraordinaire, will appear on stage in Swan Lake’s ravishing Black Swan pas de deux and with real-life partner de la Nuez (both are veterans of Cincinnati Ballet, in addition to many other credits) in Ben Stevenson’s award-winning Three Preludes. It’s a love story that echoes their own meeting at the ballet barre.
Cincinnati Ballet brings “The Man in Black” by global choreographic power James Kudelka. This Country dance-flavored tribute to Johnny Cash was a surprise hit at the company’s recent Kaplan New Works Series. Independent choreographers Diane Germaine and Ka-Ron Lehman have each contributed a work. From Germaine comes the intensity of a dark bloody romance set to Astor Piazzaolla's “Dos Gallos Y Una Dulzura.” Lehman’s “The Soul of Grace” explores the power of women.
Heather Britt, an enormously popular local performer, teacher and choreographer on faculty at Northern Kentucky University and Cincinnati Ballet, brings a rush of movement to the NKU Dance Troupe in her athletic and exuberant “The Invention of Nuclear Power.”
Also on the bill opening night: the School for Creative and Performing Arts (Frederic Franklin’s “Tribute,” staged by Patricia Rozow), MamLuft&Co. Dance, Tevlin Ballet Company and Columbus Dance Theater. Finally, an ongoing video installation by Pones, Inc. features dancers interacting with and filming audience members before, during and after the performance.
Lindsey Jones of Pones, Inc. says the project meshes well with DanceCincinnati2011. Filmed over six months so far with 100 different people, the piece has given her a fascinating insight. “Actually, everyone has a connection to dance or movement — whether it be a wedding, prom night, The Nutcracker, or a recital,” she says. “Dance is a shared thing that can be intimidating to some. Our goal is to create a dialogue, to find out what people want to see, to bring dance to the average citizen, to connect their existing social life to artistic dance.”
“We want to make the dance scene better in Cincinnati,” says de la Nuez, echoing the sentiment. “In bringing all these people together, we are not just hiring a theater. In addition to established companies and schools, there are many smaller groups and independent choreographers trying to make headway. With another venue, we are trying to make dance a little more relevant to the cultural scene here.
“With DanceCincinnati2011, we are meshing our resources — so we each don’t each have to re-invent the wheel,” de la Nuez continues. “It’s a traditional setting in a traditional city — Cincinnati — but I don’t want to isolate anyone who is outside of the mainstream. We want as much of what exists in the community as possible.”
“I think Mario and Meredith want to share Cincinnati’s rich and varied artistic dance culture with the community,” Lehman says. “And choreographers and companies are hungry to be seen.”
Benson says, “It’s neat to be able to share our resources. You can’t just stay in your own little corner with your own people. In the dance world, you have to experience others. That’s how you grow. We’ve always felt that’s how dance should be. We created this vehicle to express the real meaning of dance.”
DANCECINCINNATI2011's Program A is 8 p.m. Friday and Oct. 1; Program B is 8 p.m. Saturday and Sept 30. Both programs take place at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.