The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival continues its tradition of free, fully staged outdoor dance performances Aug. 8 and 9 at Firestone Park, featuring a new collaboration between the James Sewell Ballet of Minneapolis and local dancers.
A collaboration between the visiting groups and Akron has never been done—until now. When Neil Sapienza, an associate dean at The University of Akron, approached festival co-founder Dave Lieberth with a proposal to partner UA’s School of Dance with the Heinz Poll festival, Lieberth was interested.
The University of Akron’s Destination Dance program regularly brings out-of-town choreographers and dance companies to the school to work with students, and Sapienza wanted to continue in a similar vein over the summer. Says Sapienza, “I got the idea of partnering with the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival in having what I sort of refer to as a ‘pick-up company,’ selecting a choreographer who could come to Akron, hold auditions and select some local dancers.” If the choreographer had a company, some of its members could also perform in the resulting project. Minnesotan James Sewell was selected to create a piece; he was already known in Northeast Ohio as he had worked with the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet (now Ballet Excel Ohio).
Originally the festival featured only Ohio dance companies, but that’s started to change. “We recognized to truly have a festival, it needed to have a kind of national approach,” Lieberth adds. “So a few years back we began inviting and including a national company on one of the four weekends.’’
Sewell, whose company was founded in 1992, came to Akron in the spring of 2014. He selected dancers from an open audition to become part of the Akron Regional Dance Collective, a mixed ensemble of local dancers and members of Sewell’s company who will together perform a new piece that he created specifically for the Heinz Poll festival. The group of eight dancers have rehearsed together in Minneapolis, and also participated in a “high-altitude dance intensive” in Big Sky, Mont., while continuing to rehearse. In just a few days, Sewell and the Collective will be at The University of Akron’s Guzzetta Hall, preparing for their performances.
The performance takes place Aug. 8 and 9 at Firestone Metro Park, and begins at 8:45 p.m. each day.
The tradition of this summer festival dates back to 1974, with roots to the now defunct Ohio Ballet and its artistic director Heinz Poll. Jane Startzman, a former Ohio Ballet dancer and administrator, directs the festival, which is supported by the city of Akron.
With these shows, the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival will end its season. For further information, visit the festival’s website at www.akrondancefestival.org.