Akron Houses the Second Center for Choreography in the Country
by Sierra Allen
Feather-like footsteps, ethereal spins and elongated limbs capture the audience, as heads follow the bodies that move effortlessly across the stage. The water based fog and transitioning lights add a different feel to each piece, as colors reflect the moods of the dances. While the dancers tell stories with their bodies, the room is at ease. All eyes are on the stage as members of Malpaso Dance Company demand all attention, though not much demanding is necessary.
I once heard that the average attention span is eight seconds, a statement I truly believe. I personally tend to measure the success of an event or item of entertainment based on how attentive I am and this performance lured me in and I wasn’t released until the last bow.
As a fairly new establishment, founded in 2012, Malpaso Dance Company has already become one of the most sought after Cuban contemporary dance companies. Based in Havana, its 11 members relay the messages and feelings that dance is supposed to, illustrating a subjective idea, but common understanding as well.
Out of the three pieces performed, “Ocaso,” “Under Fire” and “The Indomitable Waltz,” my favorite is the latter. Through the choreography of Aszure Barton, the dancers portray the idea of pain and healing, as well as emotional balance.
“It’s an exploration, an approach to the soul under extreme or intense emotional circumstances,” Aszure says in a behind-the-scenes recollection of “The Indomitable Waltz.”
Throughout this piece, the dancers’ delicate, yet strong movements embody the representation of wilting flowers with hunched shoulders and loose, yet controlled arms. Their intense eye contact in this partner-based dance feels intimate in a dark, twisted way, as violins echo in the background. It reminds me of how Tim Burton’s spin on dance would be: bleak, yet beautiful.
Christy Bolingbroke, Executive and Artistic Director at NCCAkron, decided to join DANCECleveland’s presentation of Malpaso Dance Company in the Ohio Theatre of Cleveland Playhouse Square in hopes of gaining the attention of dance lovers and those who are interested in dance. It was NCCAkron’s first event.
As the country’s second National Center for Choreography, NCCAkron was founded in 2015 in response to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s question of transformational ideas for Akron. Compared to France’s 19 National Choreographic Centers, the United States only had one and Pamela Young, Executive Director of DANCECleveland thought Akron would be the perfect location for the second center.
“There’s something here. Research and development and innovation is in the city’s DNA,” Christy says.
As a Texas native and former L.A., D.C., New York City and San Francisco resident, she expresses her fondness of Akron, not only because of her new job position, but the feel of the city as a whole.
“It feels like a renaissance,” Christy says. “So how do we let that come to the surface and percolate more, not only in dance but in a number of art forms and disciplines that can come through here?”
As a former competition kid and freelance dancer, Christy holds a dance degree from UCLA and a master’s in performance curation from Wesleyan University. She not only knows how to dance, but she knows how to “think and talk and write about dance,” which is one of her main priorities as executive and artistic director.
“It is not just art for art’s sake, but it is part of the unique vision to locate it [NCCAkron] with a university environment and a university research environment,” says Christy.
In other words, supporting the structure and research of dance is equally important as the artistry of the dance itself, which is often overlooked.
“I feel it’s my responsibility to [communicate] that a choreographer in the studio is the same as a scientist in the laboratory,” says Christy. “We don’t always ask scientists what their end product and application will be, what they study or what they create. But for choreographers, they’re often asked to write a grant or predict a piece that they haven’t made yet before they’ve done some of the research. Or what I call positive failure. We offer a space or offer opportunities for rigorous play and positive failure.”
As told by “Dance Magazine,” Christy is one of the most influential people in the industry. She aims to use her influence towards creating a solid backing for dance’s infrastructure, all while uniting the community.
“My hope in growing this is not necessarily the international focus, but the plan is to offer up a social experiment and create an informal environment,” Christy says. “That’s how we get to know each other. Whether we’re actual neighbors, I hope to create that sort of support for dance.”
More information about NCCAkron and its upcoming events can be found at nccakron.org.
Sierra Allen: senior journalism major at Kent State University, contributing writer for TDS and Ohio Magazine, self-proclaimed interior designer thanks to HGTV.
(All photos by Nir Arieli)