Bringing Ballet Back to Cleveland

New org underscores the importance of dance in “Mah City”

By Mark Horning

There’s a new cultural organization starting up in town. It’s called Ballet in Cleveland, and their goal is to provide the opportunity for top professional classical ballet companies across the country to include our fair city of Cleveland in their tour schedules.

Their mission is simple: to “revitalize the presence of classical ballet in Cleveland, Ohio, by presenting performances by the highest quality professional ballet companies as well as promoting the art through ballet-centered programming and events that not only foster interest but also educate and entertain the community.”

Ballet in Cleveland is the brain child of Jessica Wallis (herself a dancer and teacher of dance). She was inspired by experiencing a performance of Swan Lake by Cleveland Ballet at age ten, and decided right then to dedicate her life to dance. She sees the need to bring classical ballet productions to Cleveland and thus fill the void left by the departure years ago of local professional classical ballet companies such as Cleveland Ballet and Ohio Ballet.

In order to get the organization’s name out with a bang and to promote her cause as well as to add to the excitement that is building all over Cleveland, she has partnered with Maria Puglisi of Terpsichore Dance Club at the University of Akron to produce a unique dance video that highlights the upbeat and energetic vibrations that echo here on the north shore.

Using the song “This City” by Patrick Stump (formerly of Fall Out Boy) and wearing jerseys representing three of Cleveland’s top sports teams and shirts that proclaim “This City is My City… And I Love It”, the organization spent a warm Sunday morning in July filming on the East 9th Street Pier area of downtown Cleveland. The results are, to say the least, remarkable. View the video here.

On Thu 10/11 from 5:30 to 8:30pm Ballet in Cleveland will be hosting its first Cleveland intimate fundraiser at Alex Bistro, located at 2033 E. 14th Street right in the heart of the PlayhouseSquare District in downtown Cleveland. There will be raffles, 50/50 drawings and various other surprises. This new presenting company will also be unveiling the Cleveland premiere of its new video “Mah City” with choreographer Maria Puglisi. Also, members of the dance company will be on hand for a meet and greet. Ballet in Cleveland T-shirts will also be available for purchase.

Along with a complimentary gourmet buffet, there will be a cash bar featuring a full selection of beer, wine and specialty cocktails. Master bartender Danny Murray will be on hand to introduce ballet-themed cocktails which will surely delight your palate.

About the video: Ten months ago, Maria heard the original version of the song “This City.” Soon after, she heard the Cleveland version on local radio station 96.5 KISS FM and something clicked. She began work on choreographing the song as a performance piece for a group of dancers within Terpsichore Dance Club which is made up of University of Akron dance students. They titled the piece “Mah City” and first performed it as part of a show where members of the dance club showcased their various works at the Paul A. Daum Theatre on the main campus of the University of Akron.

Enter Jessica Wallis. She was in attendance at the April show and saw “Mah City” as the last performance on the bill and was instantly amazed and compelled to reach out to its choreographer. It is worth noting that Jessica and Maria had never met before. After the performance, Jessica was soon e-mailing Maria (who was visiting New York City at the time) with the go-ahead of videotaping “Mah City” on the shores of Lake Erie with the Cleveland skyline in the background as a way to touch the hearts of Clevelanders through dance.

Maria was thrilled at the idea (she leapt with excitement at the Starbucks in Manhattan when the e-mail reached her) and soon plans were put into motion to procure the necessary insurance, city permits, videographer and funding for the project. Maria’s openness to the project and the power of a shared dream to add to the revitalization of Cleveland through dance united them instantly. “We’ll always be in each other’s lives now,” affirms Jessica.

What was the result? The “Mah City” video is an extraordinary energetic piece that truly captures the energy and attitude of the city of Cleveland through hip-hop dance. Everyone involved with the video are local folks who have spent a lot of time, energy and money to help make the city better without thoughts of making any kind of personal financial profit from this venture. The core theme of the video is something that anyone who has spent any time in Cleveland can relate to — the small town feeling of our big city. The video captures the theme of how perfect strangers can come together and in just a few minutes be interacting and sharing with each other in ways not found in any other large metropolitan areas.

As for the funding of the “Mah City” video, part came from individuals who donated through Kickstarter (of which Jessica is slated to give a talk on Thu 10/4 for the Foundation Center about her fundraising experience with this crowdfunding website). The rest of the money came from Jessica’s own savings as well as donations from various friends and Ballet In Cleveland supporters.

It is the dream of Ballet in Cleveland to have “Mah City” appear on jumbotrons at various Cleveland sports venues and for the video to be picked up by various Cleveland organizations such as Positively Cleveland and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

If you are interested in using “Mah City” in order to promote the city of Cleveland, contact Jessica Wallis via the information provided below.

Mark your calendar for Thu 10/11 and make plans to attend this entertaining and enjoyable event designed to help a great cause. Ballet in Cleveland is a non-profit organization. If you would like to learn more, please contact them at 330-285-5779 or Find them on Facebook, Twitter and on their website.


Mark Horning was born in Columbus by parents who instilled a love of the fine arts at an early age. He moved to Cleveland after college and has been married 32 years and is father to two boys (both Eagle Scouts). An Adult Scout Leader for over 35 years, he began writing about fine arts, rock and roll and outdoor recreation three years ago and has been a professional photographer for over 35 years. Mark loves living in Berea and loves the cultural, sports and rock and roll scene in Cleveland.


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One Response to “Bringing Ballet Back to Cleveland”

  1. Such a great post about a fabulous company. I’m so excited for Thursday!

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