The University of Akron and DANCECleveland will launch a new center for choreography – only the second in the nation – where national dance professionals will create new work. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide $5 million to support the center, under an agreement being finalized.
“The next generation of great American choreographers needs space and time to develop the craft and to explore the full potential of the creative process,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “The new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will fill that need, building on the resources of northeast Ohio to create the works that inspire tomorrow’s audiences.”
The new center, to be located on the university’s campus, will select national choreographers and dance companies, providing them full access to the facilities of the university’s Center for Dance and Theatre. The advanced technology available in seven dance studios and in E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall will provide dance makers with a full array of resources, from studio space to on-stage rehearsal time to create new work.
In addition, University of Akron students will benefit from the presence of professional artists on campus through creative and intellectual exchange.
The center builds on the success of the University of Akron and DANCECleveland’s long-standing partnership, which offers one of the strongest dance residency and performance programs in the country. Since 2006, they have provided extended campus and community access to acclaimed professionals and companies, including BalletX, Paul Taylor Dance Company, LINES Ballet, MOMIX and others.
This effort follows the recommendations of a Knight-funded Blue Ribbon Panel, and a subsequent feasibility study that addressed an industry-wide challenge: Where and how will the dances of tomorrow be developed? With significant input from the northeast Ohio community, The University of Akron and DANCECleveland have agreed to a memorandum of understanding for the creation of a center that seeks to strengthen the dance ecosystem of the northeast Ohio region and the nation. Knight has agreed to pledge $5 million to support the center once it is created.
UA President Scott L. Scarborough says he has committed the university to preparing students for the working world through career-focused, experiential learning. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron complements that vision by providing UA students the opportunity to interact with professional companies and learn firsthand about the process of creating dance works.
“The University of Akron is already known around the nation and the world for its excellence in areas including polymer science and engineering,” UA President Scarborough said. “With the addition of the choreography center, we will become one of few institutions with a national presence in both the sciences and the arts.”
Said Neil Sapienza, UA’s associate dean of fine arts and humanities: “With enhanced resources, we look forward to having many prominent choreographers in our studios, on our campus, on a regular basis, year after year. For our students, having that national presence is just enormous. It dynamically enhances their educational experience, combining classroom learning with real-world lessons from professionals.”
DANCECleveland, now in its 60th year, is one of eight stand-alone, dance-only presenters in the nation. It has presented performances by more than 200 dance companies, conducted more than 1,000 workshops and master classes and produced seven commissioned works.
“Dance makers in the United States are sorely underserved and lacking in resources,” said Pamela Young, executive director of DANCECleveland. “If dance is to thrive, it’s essential to have residency spaces coupled with a full range of support for choreographers. We first envisioned northeast Ohio with its enormous cultural, research and physical space resources, and The University of Akron with its state of the art dance studios, as having the potential to fill this gap. It is thrilling to see this vision take shape and help answer a critical need in the dance ecosystem.”
While the center is forming, dance making is already underway, with three pilot residencies in the works with selected choreographers John Jasperse (New York City); Carrie Hanson/The Seldoms (Chicago); and Camille A. Brown & Dancers (New York City).
“Our resident artists will be able to tap into a wealth of resources not only at The University of Akron, but also regionwide to support the creation of new dance works,” Young said.
When the Center becomes fully operational, DANCECleveland and The University of Akron and its EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall will work with choreographers to enhance their understanding of how to effectively communicate and work with presenters and venues, create opportunities for peer review of work in progress and advocate for the dissemination of newly developed work.