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GroundWorks and Inlet Dance prove dance is alive and well in Cleveland

When, eleven years ago, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, due to poor artistic and financial management, snuck out of town to become the San Jose Ballet, the doomsayers predicted that that was the end of dance as a Cleveland area art form. Nothing was further from the truth.

No, the area has no large ballet company, but that void was replaced by some small, vibrant modern and contemporary dance groups. Included in the list are Verb Ballets, Dancing Wheels, GroundWorks Dance Theater, Ohio Dance Theatre, Greene + Medcalf Movement Project, and Inlet Dance. The latter two just had very different, but outstanding programs, so, not to slight any of the others who will get future coverage, here is a quick view of Groundworks and Inlet.


Founded in 1998, Groundworks is the creative child of David Shimotakahara, who serves as the company’s Artistic Director. The excellent five person company (Felise Bagley Damien Highfield, Gary Lenington, Sarah Perrett and Kathryn Taylor), along with Artistic Associate Amy Miller and Music Director Gustavo Aguilar, have made it their goal to not only create creative and proficient programs, but make the entire Northeastern Ohio area their home.

Groundworks has no home of its own, but performs in various venues, going to the people, rather than having the people, per se, come to them. Performances have been held at Trinity Cathedral, dancing on a stage erected between the gothic spires, The Akron Ice House, performing in the vast vertical space that once served as an ice block and storage site, Cleveland Public Theatre, in a black box space, and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

Under the banner “Imagination you can see”, the company enters its second decade, having been called “one of Cleveland’s cultural gems,” “one of the country’s leading contemporary dance companies,” “one of the year’s 25 to watch in the dance world,” and, “a company that is setting the standard for small dance ensembles in Northeastern Ohio.”

Beyond performances, the company does education outreach to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, connecting to over 1000 students each year. Outreach and Educational Coordinator Mark Otloski was recognized with the Yaneo 2010 Sunshine Award in recognition of his commitment to arts education in the community.

The company’s next public presentation will be Groundworks at Breen Center on February 3 and 4. The program will include the world premiere of a commissioned work by Ronen Koresh, and Hindsight, Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s homage to Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Breen Center is located at 208 West 30th Street in Cleveland.


Founded in 2001, Bill Wade’s Inlet Dance Theater operates under the goal of “creating life affirming new work, often pulling our topic based choreography from the communities we serve.” They are also a company without a permanent home, reaching out to the community by performing in schools, parks and dance festivals.

The company works with such community organizations as The Nehemiah Mission, which, based on the biblical Nehemiah who rebuilt Jerusalem, has the purpose of rebuilding the lives and homes of the physically and fiscally challenged of Cleveland by bringing in over 1000 volunteers per year to complete around 100 projects in private homes and churches.

Wade’s company, which has two of the area’s best male dancers (Joshua Brown and Justin Steintz) has fine female company members, Makenzie Clevenger and Elizabeth Pollert, an apprentice, Dominic Moore-Dunson, and six trainees.

Several years ago the company did a dance exchange with the residents of Easter Island (a commonwealth of Chile), one of the most remote islands of the world. The Inlet company traveled to Chile to learn dances and customs of the Rap Anui people and several members of that culture travelled to Cleveland. The local company created a series of dances, which were performed to authentic music and costumes designed to imitate the cultural pattern of the island residents.

Wade’s philosophy embodies a longstanding belief that “dance viewing, training and performing experiences serve as tools to bring about personal growth and development.”

Inlet’s education programming includes teaching dance at The Music Settlement, an annual Summer Dance Intensive, which attracts students from as far away as Central America, and residencies throughout Ohio as part of the Ohio Arts Council’s Artist in Residence Program.

Inlet’s next performance will be at 7 pm on Friday, February 24. Entitled An Intimate Evening with Inlet Dance Theatre, it is a fundraiser to be performed in the third floor ballroom of a South Park Boulevard landmark home. Attendance is limited to 40. For information go to

Yes, dance is alive and well in the Cleveland area.