Sat 4/21 @ 7:30PM
Cleveland dance audiences are abundantly familiar with Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, but many don’t realize that one of Taylor’s best, most acclaimed dancers has been living and performing in Cleveland on and off since he left Taylor in 1985. We’re longtime fans of Tom Evert’s dance company, DANCEVERT, which presents a concert this Saturday. A low-budget affair, it nevertheless includes some accomplished artists as well as a showcase of Evert’s arts-in-education work.
We caught up with Evert by phone.
CoolCleveland: What’s different about this show?
Tom Evert: For many years it has been the mission of DANCEVERT to create original work and educational programing, but in the last five years I’ve been freer and more single-minded about that mission. Concerns about ambition and survival kind of got out of the way and that transformed the work. The school programming became really impactful. The kids lit up as curious learners feeling good about themselves.
TE: Being an artist, survival is always a challenge. Just to keep the cash flowing, you have to sell your work and that quickly becomes self-centered. My work. My voice. My ambition. My income. But when I shifted my attention to service and asked myself, “Where can I make a difference?” it was transformative.
Another way I think about it is, I got out of the way. You still have to show up at work and work hard, but you give up some control. For instance, instead of finding the best dancers, it becomes a matter of finding the best collaborators.
CC: Such as the gymnasts in Vibration?
TE: Part of getting out of the way is that these things just come up. (Laughs.) I have a good friend, Italo Gonzalez, who is a gymnastics coach at Lakeshore Gymnastics. For years he’s been saying he wanted to do something with us but he would say, “How do you just dance? I need a routine.” I was very interested because in dance anybody who can do a cartwheel is exceptional but these five gymnastics instructors [in addition to Italo, they are Artem Astafev, Bob Carlson, Kellie Jones and Olivia Trout] can do all kinds of aerial flips and things.
CC: So what does the result of this collaboration look like? Dance or gymnastics?
TE: It looks like a dance but instead of pirouettes they’re doing flips. What I did was to frame the whole thing — give it a beginning, middle and an end — so it’s a dance.
CC: How long is Vibration? What’s the music?
TE: About seven minutes. Glen Velez, Third Eye.
CC: Cool. Tell us about the other new dance, Nine: Witness of Emotion.
TE: Some years ago I met Sanjib Bhattacharya who was here as a guest of the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion program. Now he’s returned and we’ve decided to collaborate even though we barely know each other except through our dancing. So he brought on a couple of other Indian classical dancers, Nandini Mandal and Antara Datta. Also dancing in Nine are Joan Greenwood and Rafael Valdivieso. And you know my wife, Susana Weingarten Evert, and my long-time collaborator Megan Haas. Everyone brought their diverse artistic vision to this piece.
The title refers to the nine emotions depicted by Indian classical dance, but it also refers to the numerology of the number nine, expressive of completeness, fullness and power.
As it worked out, everyone had to compromise in order to express themselves in this fusion effort. In keeping with the theme of the concert, we all had to transform for the piece to work.
The student piece, Forces in Motion, uses 12 kids I’ve worked with at Arbor Elementary School in Euclid, studying scientific principles and fulfilling academic standards. And that’s transformative too. The kids are excited having their class and doing their show so it has changed their feelings about science, themselves and art.
CC: Yes, we’ve seen your students performing before. They’re happily engaged. Here’s another familiar name in the press kit, Hope Schultz.
TE: You know Hope’s background as a dancer. She took classes at our studio and appeared in a dance there when she was a teenager. Later she was active with SAFMOD. But she’s also a Pilates instructor as is the other performer in Opus Pilates, Molly Andrews Hinders. Molly is an actress at Cleveland Public Theater so they’re artists but they’re also Pilates trainers.
Hope and Molly are the same size with similar coloring. They look great together so I’ve taken the shapes and exercises of Pilates and some piano music by Chopin and made a very pretty, poetic dance on them.
CC: And how does Opus Pilates tie into the theme of transformation?
TE: Pilates is transformative. It’s the only reason I can get on stage anymore. (Laughs.)
CC: We’ve seen We Are Geometry in Motion before, haven’t we?
TE: That one was done in 2015. It too came out of my arts in education work. The kids kept saying, “Let’s see you do it.” So I went ahead and made a geometry-in-motion dance which is basically a lesson on angles. Is it a right angle or an acute angle or an obtuse angle? Megan and I are skeletons and we have props like crystal spheres and stretchy bands that we can configure all of three dimensional geometry with. It’s a ten-minute dance that’s theatrical and artistic and yet it’s a geometry lesson.
CC: Sounds great. Now, who’s dancing The President?
TE: Brian Murphy. He performed it a few years ago with Verb. I liked his performance and since he was interested in performing it again, we agreed to work on it together. It sort of wraps around. That was the first piece I made for my company in 1986.
CC: This concert is at Shore Cultural Centre Auditorium where there’s abundant free parking. The large auditorium is unlikely to sell out so our readers can buy their tickets at the door right before the concert with reasonable confidence.
For tickets to DANCEVERT’s Transformations, go to dancevert.eventbrite.com or get them at the door for $9.
[Written by Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas]