DanceWorks shows you what's new on the NEO dance scene

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At a time when most local dance companies depend on festivals as a performance outlet, Cleveland Public Theatre's DanceWorks series has become a reliable bright spot, re-appearing every spring in the same place, like daffodils. This year, six companies use the series to show off new works. The series reveals something else too: a substantial amount of interaction between the companies. The swapping of choreographers and dancers shows a strong sense of community among the many small companies keeping dance vital here.

VERB BALLETS opens DanceWorks with a program they're calling Cleveland All Stars. Nine choreographers, most of whom have their own companies, are trying out new dance ideas — like visual artists making sketches before committing paint to canvas. The result will be presented in Verb's annual Fresh Inventions series, but this weekend you can get an early look at what choreographers Lynn Deering, Joan Meggitt, Sarah Morrison, Michael Medcalf, Lisa Lock, Troy McCarty, Catherine Meredith Lambert, Mark Tomasic and Robert Wesner are dreaming up. (April 16-19)

INLET DANCE THEATRE will also bring forth a roster of premieres, including one based on recent world travels — like the company's trips to the mysterious Easter Island off the coast of Chile. They'll also remount artistic director Bill Wade's 2001 dance "Memoriate," which honors the elderly and the people who care for them. (April 23-26)

ANTAEUS DANCE director Joan Meggitt makes dance out of jam sessions, videotaping "months of pure improv" which she mines for ideas. She was still working on her evening-length Molt when we spoke about it. It's a piece in five sections, each with different soloists, with molting as a metaphor for shedding bad habits and moving on with life. She's conceived the soloist in each section as a person looking in the mirror, which counterintuitively leaves most of the dancing up to the rest of the company. Antaeus tried out one section recently at Cleveland State University's spring dance concert, but the DanceWorks performances are the premiere of the complete work. Music is by Greg D'Alessio. The set, which includes a big nest, is by James Longs. (April 30-May 3)

OHIO DANCE THEATRE makes its DanceWorks debut, though the company performed at CPT about a dozen years ago. Artistic director Denise Gula is premiering her multimedia work, Silent Witness, inspired by an exhibit of the same name presented by Genesis House, the Lorain County shelter for victims of domestic violence. The life-sized red silouhettes, which Gula saw at Lorain County Community College, represent slain women. "It was startling to see," says Gula. "Each one represented a victim of domestic violence with a woman's name, age and the very bleak circumstances surrounding her death." Janet Strukley stars as the woman and Kyle Primous is the abusive man. Strukley dances live, but Primous is present only in video, like a memory she interacts with. Music for the 40-minute piece is compiled from several sources, including the Beatles' "Mother," and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Also on the program is Gula's Spindrift, a portrait of nature's raw energy set to excerpts from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.(May 7-10)

DOUBLE-EDGE DANCE will present a mix of new work, improvised dance and repertory pieces, a program they're calling XspanD. Artistic Director Kora Radella says it's imagistic rather than narrative and emphasizes collaboration. Some of the pieces feature integral costumes, including "Re-tracing," which has a "very long piece of silk" designed by textile artist Rebecca Cross. The silk starts off around the dancer's waist, but gets pulled in circles around her throughout the performance. In "Laden," the costume has "tons of pockets" stuffed with fabric. Radella says it's loosely based on the idea of hoarding, with the dancer pulling fabric out of the pockets, making the costume smaller and smaller. There is also a completely improvised piece by Kirstie Simpson. Radella says improv is an important aspect of Double-Edge's work: "It's composition in the moment, an art form in itself." Additional collaborators on the program include music director Ross Feller, choreographers Julie Brodie and Balinda Craig-Quijada, violinist Dorothy Martirano, bassist Armand Beaudoin and artist Adele Mattern. (May 14-17)

OPEN WINDOW DANCE COMPANY, led by Bowling Green State University dance instructor Tammy Metz Starr, presents the premiere of Coloring Pages, along with other works from the company's repertory. "I'm fond of children's books and popup books," says Starr. Coloring Pages reflects that, with four sections using the seasons as a metaphor for stages of life. "The winter section has an older lady reminiscing, the spring character is youthful and quirky. In summer, there's a girl on stilts." Music varies from section to section, including bits of Bach and Chopin, as well as an original score for Balinese gamelan by Starr's Bowling Green colleague David Harnish. (May 21-24)

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