Past and Future Dancers and Dances

We’re going to Verb Ballets’ upcoming free concert at Cain Park for a look at the past and a glimpse of the future. A look to the past because this concert looks back at the previous year of performance and restages the “Directors’ Choice” of repertoire. A look to the future because this concert is the public’s first look at Verb’s new dancers.

Well, almost the public’s first look. We watched their class work at last Friday’s in-studio event, Ballet UpClose, and asked them about themselves. They are a promising, attractive group with impressive educational credentials.

Benjamin Shepard is a recent graduate of Butler University, noted for its dance training. His choices of summer programs – among them the Kirov Academy in Washington D.C., which is a no-nonsense advocate of Vaganova technique, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, a feeder school for New York City Ballet – suggest his commitment to classical ballet. At 6’2” he’s tall and slim so those classical lines should read well from the stage.

Asked how he liked Cleveland so far, Shepard said, “Every interaction I’ve had so far with people here has been lovely; Emily (Dietz) and I went to a concert at Edgewater Park and saw people from every walk of life just enjoying it; there’s so much to do here and after D.C. the traffic is nothing.”

Daniel Cho is a native of San Francisco and a graduate of Swarthmore College, a highly ranked Liberal Arts College where he began to study dance. He’s also a graduate of the Alonso King LINES Ballet Training Program, a two-year program of which he says, “Alonzo King changed my life.” The LINES program and Cho’s choices for summer dance programs – Ballet X and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance to name two – suggest his commitment to contemporary ballet and contemporary dance.

Asked about his initial experience of Cleveland, Cho said, “I really appreciate how people here have helped me in the big move from San Francisco, how they’ve gone out of their way to make me feel at home. The pace in San Francisco can be so frenetic and everything there is so focused on the tech sector. As an artist there you really have to fight for recognition but in Cleveland there’s a public appreciation for art.”

Emily Dietz is also a graduate of Butler University. She attended summer programs with American Ballet Theatre – the gold standard for summer intensives – and the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet. Asked about Kirkland’s famous intensity, Dietz replied, “One look into those blue eyes of hers…”

Asked about Cleveland, Dietz said, “People here are really friendly and they’re engaged in the arts. I’m a little nervous about the winter though.” We see Dietz as hard-working, capable, and eager to show what she can do.

Also new to Verb though not present at Friday’s Ballet UpClose, Natalie Ilona Hollopeter is a recent graduate of the Ohio Conservatory of Ballet and first place regional winner and national finalist in the National Society of Arts and Letters for Classical Ballet: En Pointe.

We’ve seen and written about all the repertoire that Verb plans to dance at Cain Park so rather than repeat ourselves at length we’ll characterize the dances briefly here and provide links to relevant articles.

In Schubert Waltzes, one of many Heinz Poll ballets in Verb’s repertoire, we see Poll’s playful sense of humor and his penchant for tender emotion and Romantic music. For the Cain Park concert, Poll’s long time Music Director, David Fisher, plays the score live. Verb’s Associate Artistic Director, Richard Dickinson, MFA, long a mainstay of Poll’s Ohio Ballet, has supervised rehearsals. Poll passed away in 2006, the same year that Ohio Ballet folded, but his influence is still present in Northeast Ohio in his artistic associates and in his choreography. Read more about Schubert Waltzes ( HERE.

In Broken Bridges, choreographer Michael Escovedo tells the story of his grandmother, surrounded by a loving family but estranged by Alzheimer’s. In previous performances, Kate Webb and Christina Lindhout provided deeply emotional performances and six other Verb dancers formed a pitch-perfect chorus. Broken Bridges demonstrates Escovedo’s ability to choreograph with both craftsmanship and depth of feeling. Read more about the extensive backstory of Broken Bridges HERE ( and HERE (

Say what you will about the legacy of American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, his Grande Tarantelle Op.67 provides high spirits and propulsive tempos for choreographer Pam Probisco’s high intensity pas de deux, Tarantella. Which two Verb dancers will brave this playful but heart pounding competition at Cain Park?

Tommie-Waheed Evans’ Dark Matter has been a frequently performed part of Verb’s rep since it was first commissioned in 2013 but when we watched these clips we were reminded how much we want to see it again. (

The gates open at 7:00PM on Friday, June 29, 2018 for this free performance at Cain Park, 14591 Superior Rd, Cleveland, OH 44118.

Verb performs an entirely different program at Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival at Akron’s Firestone Park, 1480 Girard St, Akron, Ohio 44301 on Friday and Saturday, July 27 & 28, 2018. Like all the HPSDF performances, children’s activities start at 7:45PM. The performance starts at 8:45PM. Free. Bring blankets or a chair.

Verb performs to live music by the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra at 8:15PM Saturday, August 4, 2018. Lakeside Chautauqua is a gated community located at 236 Walnut Avenue, Lakeside, Ohio 43440, a 90 minute drive. The concert is free with a day pass, $23.50 for adults, free for children under 12 and adults over 90.

Verb performs another free outdoor show at 8:30PM Saturday, August 11, 2018 at Tremont’s Lincoln Park, located at W. 14th and Starkweather in the heart of Tremont. Bring blankets or a chair.

Victor Lucas






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