Verb Ballets surveys the 20th century at St. Ignatius' new venue

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The way people express themselves with movement has constantly evolved through history, both in social dance — as hilariously explored in comedian Judson Laipply's "Evolution of Dance" video (which has racked up 127 million hits on YouTube since 2006) — and in concert dance. Verb Ballets surveys the evolution of modern concert dance this week with a program at the Breen Center, St. Ignatius High School's new $12-million performing-arts facility.

The program is "a wonderful experience for a dance-goer," says Verb rehearsal director and dancer Catherine Meredith Lambert. "It takes you historically through the evolution of modern dance." It starts in the 1930s with Martha Graham's 'Lamentations," a solo piece performed in a long cloth tube that helps create the effect of movement. Graham described it as stretching in your own skin.

That's the first of three dances representing major currents of 20th-century dance. Next on the program, and 30 years later in time, comes George Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," an example of neo-classical style, followed by a post-modernist turn — incorporating everyday movements and gestures into choreography — with the company premiere of Merce Cunningham's "Cross Currents."

Verb also gives the audience a taste of Cleveland choreographers. First, there's "Poverty Train," a solo segment excerpted from Ian Horvath's pop-music ballet, "Laura's Women," set to music by Laura Nyro. A Lakewood native, Horvath was a principal dancer with New York's American Ballet Theatre with Dennis Nahat before they came to Cleveland to found the Cleveland Ballet.

Our area's other major 20th-century company, the Ohio Ballet, is represented by founder Heinz Poll's popular "Bolero," which combines dancers and intensity in a way that parallels Maurice Ravel's famous music.

After all the history, the company gives a peek at the continuing evolution of Cleveland dance with "The Gathering" by Cleveland School of the Arts teacher and former Dayton Contemporary Dance Company member Terence Green. Lambert calls the piece "virtuosic" because of the range of technical demands it makes on the dancers. With a table and chairs as set pieces, it's a dance about relationships and family.

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