Review: GroundWorks Dance Theater is more than just a performance, it’s a story.

By Danielle Leonard


GroundWorks have encouraged new choreography and challenged perceptions about dance since they started in 1998. Artistic director, David Shimotakahara, provides the vision of these productions.

The GroundWorks 2017 Fall Concert Series is at the Allen Theater in Playhouse Square in partnership with Cleveland State University. GroundWorks has been the professional dance company with the university since 2012.

The performance started with the World Premiere of  ‘Vade Mecum,’ which in Latin means ‘go with me.’ The choreography was done by Amy Miller, in collaboration with the performers and the music composition came from Peter Jones. The compassionate dancing of Felise Bagley, Gemma Freitas Bender, Taylor Johnson, Damien Highfield, and Tyler Ring made the audience go with them through a story of interwoven relationships. As one dancer would perform the others would follow synchronizing their movements as if to show how people learn from others experiences.

The performers wore purple pants and a plain top which kept focus on the performance itself. With only five dancers there was still so much to focus on. The performers took control of the stage. At one point there were two dancers in the front while three were in the back gracefully dancing together. However, there were also times where a performer would be left alone to show their talent, and they delivered. Their movements were slow and controlled. The dim lighting and hormones music was the perfect touch to this piece.

‘Salt to Sea’ followed as the other world premiere, choreographed by Shimotakahara. There were many composers chosen for this performance. ‘Salt to Sea’ is about loss and losing one’s way.  The music was very depressing and went with the slow movements of the dance to make the audience feel what it is like to lose something. The performers successfully showed depressed facial expressions. When Highfield expressed hopelessness through his facial expressions Johnson danced her way over to him as to comfort him and show that through hard times we have each other.

In the last performance of the night, Brubeck picked up the beat and the audience. The performance was choreographed by Shimotakahara and the music was by Brubeck. The women came out in fun color dresses, and the men came out in trousers and green tops. Humor was added into this piece by the performers acting as if they were hitting each other to the beat of the music, which made the mood feel much like an entertaining play. The performers made a quick change into swimsuits and the atmosphere turned into a beach party. The dance ended in all the performers falling to the ground which ended the night in a big laugh.

GroundWorks Dance Theater entertains and tells stories through their performances which turn into a fun memorable night. The audience goes through a wide range of stories through a unique way. The duration of the show is perfect and leaves the audience wanting to come back for more.     


Rating: 10/10