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INLET DANCE educates in collaboration with Cleveland Museum of Natural History


INLET DANCE educates in collaboration with Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Roy Berko

(Member, Dance Critics Association)

Bill Wade, Artistic Director and Founder of Inlet Dance, is first and foremost an educator.  His unique approach to dance, and his role as a choreographer, are clearly evident at his rehearsals.  As an observer, I was quickly swept up between the difference between Wade’s approach and that of the traditional choreographer.  Instead of operating as the total authority and developer of a dance number, as is the pattern of most choreographers, Wade is an advocate of collaboration.

The approach is based on his philosophy of “utilizing the art form of dance to bring about personal development in the lives of individuals through training and mentoring.” He uses “dance as a vehicle to speak creatively about life and the issues we all face.”

Thus, rather than telling his dancers what to do, he has established a format of safety and security where the performers feel free to make suggestions about everything from dance moves, to costumes, to hair styles, and props, in order to allow the group to work toward a final product that is theirs, not his.

It takes a secure person to allow ideas to be questioned and to turn over control to others.  Wade is a model of compassion and purposefulness and creates a safe and probing place for his dancers.  They feel comfortable to make suggestions, solve problems as individuals or in groups, and even disagree.  The rehearsals are classrooms for learning creativity, problem solving, and a systems approach to developing the arts.

Wade founded Inlet after working as an artist in residence for the Cleveland School of the Arts where he founded the award winning YARD—Youth at Risk Dancing.  He was recognized with the Coming Up Taller Award

at the White House by the National Endowment for the Arts and the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities for his efforts.

Prior to his eleven year CSA residency, Wade served as Artistic Director and dancer with Footpath Dance Company, a more traditional dance organization.

NATURE DISPLAYS, the company’s recent dance concert, was developed in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  It reflects the museums current display, “Nature’s Mating games:  Beyond the Birds and the Bees.”  The exhibition was created with evolutionary biologists and animal behavior experts by the Natural History Museum in London, and offers a fascinating look at animal reproductive behavior.

Like the exhibit, Inlet’s program was a combination of beauty, humor and creativity, which combined selections from the company’s repertory with a display inspired piece.

Several of the repertory pieces had to be reimagined as one of the company’s lead dancers, Justin Stentz, recently left to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant.  This meant incorporating other company members into those roles previously portrayed by Stentz.

“BALListic” is a delightful piece which finds the blue unitard-dressed dancers bouncing on, and rolling over and under large red balls.  This was an audience favorite.

“DOPPELGANGER,” one of the first pieces developed by Inlet, is a composition which examines “the miracle of gestation, whether the creation of a unique individual, a work of art, or an organization.” As in any act of multi-participants, it requires a perfect balance of the parts to make for a functioning whole.  It’s a display of physical power, with gymnastic and body-controlled movements, which was impressively performed by Taran Brown and Dominic Moore-Dunson.

“WONDROUS BEASTS” uses structure and metaphors to “symbolize the challenges individuals face when disparate characters come together for a time and grow via new challenges and situations.”  The multi-racial and gendered group used agile moves and slow actions to represent the challenges and changes that take place on their life journeys.

“imPAIRed” grew out of an Inlet-Cleveland Sight Center 2003-2004 experience where the company conducted residencies for visually impaired and blind students.  A duet of blindfolded dancers partner in a trust pas de deux.  The compelling dance, performed to haunting music composed by Ryan Lott, was extremely well performed by Joshua Brown and Elizabeth Pollert.

The program concluded with NATURE DISPLAYS, a world premiere. Consisting of strong segments, some weaker interludes, and long pauses for costume changes, the composition is a work in progress.   Effective segments included “Desire,” “RAMbunctious (size matters),” and “Birds in a Field.”  Less successful were “Mouse Connections” and “Frog Tango.”  As a whole, though it was intended to mimic the multi-segments of the museum’s displays, there was a choppy, lack of smooth transitions, and no clear encompassing theme.  This is in contrast to Inlet’s usual clarity of purpose and organization approach.

Inlet can next be seen as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DANCEWORKS ’14, on April 10 -12 at 7:30 at the Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland.

Capsule judgement:  Bill Wade’s INLET DANCE COMPANY uses dance to educate and enlighten.  His proficient and creative dancers, and collaborative approach to performance, makes it one of the most exciting of Cleveland’s dance companies.