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Ohio Ballet co-founder’s legacy to be honored by Verb Ballets

2/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Kara Madden and Brian Murphy are shown in a scene from Verb Ballets’ “Eight By Benny Goodman.”
Photo: Mark Horning
DOWNTOWN AKRON — There’s a rare and nice dance treat coming for audiences when Verb Ballets presents “Honoring Poll” March 8 at 8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Over the years some local ballet companies have reprised the late Ohio Ballet co-founder Heinz Poll’s works during the annual summer Heinz Poll Dance Festival. Verb Ballets has been among them. This time, however, it is creating an evening-long presentation of dances that show the range of Poll’s dance vocabulary and thematic interest.

The show will feature the big-band piece by Poll, “Eight by Benny Goodman.” Organizers have noted this is the first time the piece has been done in its entirety in Akron since it was created for the Ohio Ballet in 1993. Portions have been reconstructed for various other dance concerts.

Richard Dickinson, Verb Ballets’ rehearsal director, was with the Ohio Ballet for 12 years as a principal dancer and the ballet master. He danced every male role in the piece during his career with Ohio Ballet, and for this reason, Poll granted the rights of the piece to him. As Dickinson said, “Heinz Poll loved Marlene Dietrich and that whole period of her movies,” so much so that “Eight by Benny Goodman” became “a response to his love of the glamour of the times.”

As contrast to this work, Verb Ballets will stage Poll’s 1979 classic technique oriented “Duet.” Poll choreographed the piece in the neoclassical style of George Balanchine, a man who has been regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in ballet. Poll’s use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Adagio” from his Organ Toccata in C, arranged for cello and piano by former Ohio Ballet Music Director David Fisher, showcases Poll’s musical mastery. This work was a staple of early performances of Ohio Ballet, while the ending served at one time as the ballet company’s poster shot for publicity.

Also on the bill is fan favorite “Bolero” from 1996. This ballet has been rightly described as a visual masterpiece wherein Poll delivers on the “drive, propulsion and intensity” of Maurice Ravel’s music that inspired it. The ballet blends Poll’s fascination with East Indian influences and his usual modern dance styles.

Marrying the past and the present in the performance will come through the presentation of a new work by choreographer Dickinson (who danced for Ohio Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Boston Ballet). His work, set to Richard Strauss’ compositions “Four Last Songs” (where Dickinson’s work takes its name), “will interpret the haunting melodies of Strauss’ last work and the writings of poets Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff.

There is a video on YouTube.com featuring Dickinson speaking about this new work at youtu.be/abXM-IiOB3o.

Also to be shown in the evening is a brief documentary of Poll’s life and accomplishments titled, “Soaring.”

“Heinz was an important icon in dance history in Northeast Ohio,” said Margaret Carlson, director of Verb Ballets, who added that he “helped build the dance community with works that spoke to the public.”

Tickets are $25 and are available at the Civic Box Office, by calling 330-253-2488 or online at www.akroncivic.com.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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