Dance and Contemporary Music Join to Close This Year’s NEOsonicfest

Sun 4/7 @ 5PM

We don’t always get out and support Northeast Ohio’s wealth of contemporary music composers and performers but if we learn that dancers are somehow involved, we’re there in a heartbeat, drinking in sights and sounds alike. This year’s NEOSonicFest wraps up on Sun 4/7 with a free concert that includes collaborations with dancers and choreographers from Verb Ballets and the Cleveland School of the Arts. We got on the phone with Michael Escovedo, who is choreographing for the Verb dancers.

CoolCleveland: What music are you choreographing to?

Michael Escovedo: Alegrias for Chamber Orchestra by Margi Griebling-Haigh. There’s a piano, accordion and other orchestral elements like strings and horns. It’s pretty exciting with the different instruments coming in and leaving throughout the piece.

CC: Who’s dancing?

ME: I’m trying to use all the available Verb dancers except me. I don’t do so well when I’m in my own pieces. We’ve had some injuries, so it’s Daniel Cho, Kelly Korfhage, Christina Lindhout, Lieneke Matte, Antonio Morillo, Ben Shepard, and Kate Webb. Three boys and four girls.

CC: Tell us more about the music. What are the meters?

ME: From what I can count it’s a lot of eights here and there, a few sixes, maybe a nine. All over the place. To me it sounds almost like a tango but it’s a tango that’s been tilted on its side. There are intense moments and sometimes there’s a driving, fierce force but overall it’s a very whimsical, very happy, very fun piece of music. It was definitely a lot of fun to create movement for because there were so many dichotomies within the song.

CC: Tell us about your process. Cleveland Chamber Symphony sent you a recording?

ME: Yes, they sent me a recording in October or November and I’ve had all that time to start formulating it on my own before I started working with the dancers.

CC: So you listened to your music a lot.

ME: Yes. In the weeks leading up to the time I start working with the dancers I’ll usually spend two or three hours every single night listening to the music, figuring out how I want to count it in order to fit the movement I’m creating. And then I slowly and meticulously start putting together movement in my one-bedroom apartment. Counting it. Writing down phrases. It takes me a very long time outside of the dance studio. Hopefully everything is choreographed and ready to go by the time we get to the studio but then it’s still a process of trial and error. I say, “Here’s what I came up with in my apartment. Let’s try it.” Sometimes it looks awesome and sometimes it looks really, really bad and we have to come up with something new.

CC: The questions from the audience after a dance concert sometimes suggest that people are unclear on the difference between choreography and social dancing. What was your intention for this piece?

ME: Well, I definitely wanted to play off the fierce, whimsical nature of the music. I played around with a lot of different ideas but what I landed on was this loose idea. A question, really. When you’re in a social setting like a party, why do you see groups of three people instead of groups of two people or five people? So playing along with the idea of a tango and the whimsical nature of the music, I created three different thruples if you will, and each one represents a different group of people that you might see at a party. Without giving too much away — because obviously we want everyone to come and see it and be surprised — the first group is two people battling over the affections of the third person and kind of pulling back and forth. Doing a little bit of flirting. Doing a little bit of dancing. A little bit of this and that.

CC: That tells us a lot. Fascinating premise. Sounds like a fun piece. Any chance that Verb will include your piece in its Fresh Inventions program at Cleveland Public Theater DanceWorks?

ME: Right now it’s definitely on the program: Thu 5/16-Sat 5/18 @ 7:30pm.

CC: Awesome. For tickets and to learn more go to

ME: Also on the program at Maltz Performing Arts Center, the Cleveland School of the Arts Dancers will be performing choreography by Amanda Clark, Emily Jeffries and Jalen Black. They’ll be dancing to Gabriel Novak’s Listen to ‘em, commissioned and premiered by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. Learn more on Novak’s website.

Learn more about Cleveland Chamber Symphony and NEOSonicFest at Learn more about Verb Ballets at, Cleveland School of the Arts at

Reserve your free tickets and purchase parking passes HERE.

[Written by Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas]


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