Akron area families will be treated to four weekends of free dance and orchestra performances in the parks again this summer, thanks to the support of the city of Akron and local foundations. The 11th annual Heinz Poll Dance Festival is expected to attract 10,000 visitors for the 44th consecutive year.
The 2017 season is supported in part through an award from the Akron Knight Arts Challenge. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing funding to bring more professional dancers into Akron, and to support the professional musicians of the Akron Symphony. Heinz Poll began the summer series in 1974 and his Ohio Ballet continued the summer concerts until it closed in 2006. The City of Akron created the festival in 2007 to recognize the legacy of the founding artistic director of Ohio Ballet to keep the tradition alive.
“Akron is the only community in the United States that has established a free summer festival featuring the highest quality professional dance companies and sustained it for so many years,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan.
The dance programs are presented at 8:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. The dates, the companies, and the locations for this year’s Heinz Poll Festival are as follows:
July 21–22 Neos Dance Theatre at Hardesty Park
July 28–29 Verb Ballets at Firestone Park
August 4–5 GroundWorks Dance Theater at Goodyear Metro Park
August 11–12 Urban Bush Women (NYC) at Glendale Cemetery
Free Beginners’ Classes for Youngsters
A children’s program begins at 7:45 p.m. each performance night and is produced by the University of Akron’s Dance Institute. Children are encouraged to have their first experience on the festival stage just before the professional companies perform. The festival’s partnership with the University of Akron includes master classes by the visiting companies during the festival – offered every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. – and the weekly interactive programs for children.
As part of its outreach program to neighborhoods in which the performances occur each week, the city and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation are supporting free “Beginners Dance” classes in four community centers each week of the festival. Instructors who have been part of Ballet Excel’s “Reach Out & Dance” program in the Akron Public Schools will use elements of dance foundations in ballet, jazz and hip-hop to create new dances. Children eligible for the free classes are those going into the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.
The classes will be held during each week of the festival – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.:
July 18 – 20 Northwest Community Center
July 25 – 27 Firestone Park Community Center
August 1 – 3 Reservoir Park Community Center
August 8 – 10 Balch Street Community Center
On their first day, instructors will build a dance vocabulary, and teach different methods of dance creation on days two and three. Children will mimic the different styles and techniques they will see performed on stage. During the weekend, the beginner dancers will get a backstage tour. All classes are taught by professional dancers. The sessions are free, and no prior experience or advance registration is necessary.
Dance Stage to be shared with Akron Symphony on Sundays
The city of Akron will extend the use of its weekend dance stage to Sunday nights again this summer for a series of four free admission concerts by the Akron Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Christopher Wilkins. Each symphony performance begins at 7:30 p.m.
The schedule for 2017 is as follows:
July 23 – Hardesty Park
July 30 – Firestone Park
Aug. 6 – Goodyear Metro Park
Aug. 13 – Glendale Cemetery
All concerts feature the “Maestro’s Zone” for children, where they will have a chance to conduct the orchestra with the maestro.
SPONSORS: A founding sponsor of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival is Akron Community Foundation, which manages endowments established for Ohio Ballet created by the Knight and GAR Foundations. The festival also receives support from the Ohio Arts Council, and “Friends of the Festival,” individuals who have made contributions in Poll’s memory and in support of continuing the summer tradition.
For info, visit www.akrondancefestival.org .