New Music for New Dance

Dancers Marcia Hetrick, Christopher Howard and Abby Phillips in Dayton Ballet's 'New Music for  New Dance.' Photo courtesy of sskphoto. Dancers Marcia Hetrick, Christopher Howard and Abby Phillips in Dayton Ballet's 'New Music for New Dance.' Photo courtesy of sskphoto.

Dayton Ballet’s newest production at Victoria Theatre

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Dancers Marcia Hetrick, Christopher Howard and Abby Phillips in Dayton Ballet's 'New Music for New Dance.' Photo courtesy of sskphoto.

Great pairs have consistently withstood the tests of everyday life, performing stronger side-by-side and turning out better results because of a common kinship.
These bonds are forever evident in some of entertainment’s most beloved couples: Thelma and Louise, Abbott and Costello, Cheech and Chong, heck, even Batman and Robin have it going on.
And with songs that tell us “it takes two, baby” or “it takes two to make a thing go right,” the verdict is clear: a winning combination can work magic when given the right tools.
Cue Dayton Ballet’s upcoming production, New Music for New Dance, where the company’s dancers will participate in performances generated by a collaboration between three up-and-coming choreographers and three original music scores created by selected composers. Finalists were chosen as a part of a national competition sponsored by the Miriam Rosenthal Memorial Trust Fund. The show, which will include live music with the Dayton Ballet Orchestra, will take place March 24-27 at the Victoria Theatre.
An overall winner of the choreographic competition will be announced, in a special ceremony immediately after the Saturday night, March 26 performances.
“There is simply never enough music crafted specifically for the intricacies of dance – there is definitely a need for it,” Dayton Ballet Director Dermot Burke said. “New Music for New Dance addresses that need as well as provides opportunities for composers and choreographers to expand repertoire and exposure. Because the Miriam Rosenthal Memorial Trust Fund chose to support this adventure, the project could have an exponential effect on the careers of the artists, on the Miami Valley community, and on the music and dance world.”
The competition for New Music for New Dance was a national one with anonymous submissions, but surprisingly enough all three of the choreographic finalists – Daniel Karasik, Susanne Payne and Cydney Spohn – have Ohio connections. As for the three composer finalists, Jesse Ayers and Jeff Olmsted have had music premiered in Ohio, including one of Olmsted’s compositions that was premiered by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. The third composition finalist, James Barry, is from New York.
“The Dayton Ballet dancers have been wonderful,” said Spohn, whose piece is titled Shaded Dimensions. “I am grateful for their energy and commitment to realize my choreographic vision. The dancers are versatile in terms of skill and imagination, and their technical and artistic capabilities have given me the freedom to create without a concern for how to execute movements.”
Since the end of February and throughout March, each of the choreographers has been given designated time in the Dayton Ballet studios to set their piece on the dancers and work through their creative processes.
“At first, [the process] was a real challenge,” said Payne, whose dance background and piece, Interactions is shaped around modern movement. “I am a modern dancer inside and out, and I didn’t realize it until I got into the studio [and recognized] how different our – meaning myself and the dancers’ – movement vocabularies really were. After some time, though, I think the dancers became familiar with my ‘style,’ approach, and process and thereafter submitted themselves to the new way of moving.”
For Karasik, his process of working with the dancers was a unique one given the fact that he is currently a dancer within the company.
“It’s been amazing to be a dancer in the Dayton Ballet and also have the opportunity to work with the dancers as a choreographer,” he said about working with his piece, Fixed Action. “Any concern I may have had about switching roles was immediately alleviated by their eagerness to learn new movement and adapt to the style of work I was hoping for. Seeing that from a different perspective and that any one of the dancers will do everything they physically can to satisfy the requests of a choreographer is so inspiring.”
On the other hand, the process for the composers has been much different in terms of working directly with the dancers. Instead, the conversations have been had between choreographer and composer, leaving the musical artists to excitedly anticipate their music coming to life on stage.
“I’m most excited to see the choreography Cydney Spohn has created from my music,” James Barry said of his piece, Expansion. “And to see and experience the entire production – the live orchestra musicians, dancers and lighting.
Jesse Ayers, who has been working with Payne and his piece, Mountain River Escapades, said he is most looking forward to hearing his music performed live and, of course, seeing the movement that will go hand-in-hand with it.
“[I look forward to] seeing how the audience reacts,” he said. “ I always find it exciting to be at a live performance of my works.”
Olmstead, whose piece Dervish came to him in a dream, said in addition to seeing Karasik’s choreography and hearing the other compositions, he is anticipating “seeing old friends in Dayton” after having lived in the city from 2005 to 2010.
Naturally, all of the choreographers are awaiting opening night as well, but taking a step away from the studio process is also a factor that makes the first curtain rising sound all the sweeter.
“Seeing the piece from a distance will allow me to view the work as an entire three dimensional moving canvas framed by a proscenium,” Spohn said. “It’s hard to get a good perspective on my choreography in the studio because I am too close to the dancers and spatial patterns.”
Payne and Karasik agreed, both adding that the culmination of artistic abilities is certainly something to anticipate: “I most look forward to seeing the result of the involved artists’ efforts come together,” Karasik said. “To see the choreography, costume design, dance, lighting design, stage crew and stage management, among other things – that is the most exciting.”
Proof, of course, that “it takes two to tango” is never to be underestimated.

Tickets are on sale now and start at $20. Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or visit online at

Reach DCP freelance writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik at

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