|(04/04/07) - Mayor Don Plusquellic announced
today that the City of Akron will continue a 30-year tradition of presenting free dance
performances in its parks during the summer; and at the same time the city will honor the
legacy of the legendary founding artistic director of Ohio Ballet - Akrons first
professional dance company.
of children have experienced the joy of watching ballet on an outdoor stage on an August
night," said the Mayor. "Were especially pleased to offer these
performances for all of the families in the Greater Akron area in memory of Heinz
This summer, the City of Akron will sponsor The
Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival - - four consecutive weekends of ballet featuring
four professional dance companies: Ballet Theatre of Ohio, GroundWorks Dancetheater, Verb
Ballets, and Ballet Met. The programs will be presented July 27- August 18, and will
include a nightly interactive presentation for children. The University of Akrons
Dance Institute will present the childrens program on three of the four weekends.
The German-born Heinz Poll came to Akron in 1967 and offered classes to promising
students. In 1974, with lighting designer Thomas Skelton, he founded Akrons first
professional company, which eventually became Ohio Ballet. Poll died in April, 2006.
The new Akron dance festival is the result of an effort initiated by the Mayor last
year to determine the future of the Ohio Ballet, which gave its final performance on
August 6, 2006 at Goodyear Metropolitan Park. The volunteer board of trustees of Ohio
Ballet was unable to muster the resources necessary to stage a 2006-2007 season.
The committee convened by the Mayor examined options for retaining the free outdoor
summer performances unique among American cities and dating back to 1975. The
group recommended that a new summer dance festival utilize the talents and choreography of
the regions other professional dance companies.
"Akrons most important link to the international world of dance has been
Heinz Poll," said the Mayors chief of staff Dave Lieberth who chaired the
committee. "Poll made important contributions to Akron over a period of almost 40
years, and it is fitting that we remember his legacy - demanding the highest standards of
Performances for the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival will begin at 8:45pm on Friday
and Saturday evenings, with a childrens program starting at 7:45pm each night:
- July 27, 28 - Ballet Theatre of Ohio at Hardesty Park.
(Akrons Art Expo)
- August 3, 4 - GroundWorks Dancetheater at Cascade Plaza
- August 10, 11 - Verb Ballets at Goodyear Metro Park
- August 17, 18 - BalletMet at Firestone Park
Also part of this years festival are an Ohio Ballet photo exhibit and a panel
discussion on July 25 at the Francia Albrecht Studio at the University of Akrons
dance center at Guzzetta Hall. The Festivals founding committee will discuss
"The Poll Legacy."
Each of the four companies have rights to perform works created by Ohio Ballets
founder, and some of Akrons favorite Heinz Poll works will be included in the summer
GroundWorks Dancetheater will stage Polls "Tristeza." Verb will include
"Wings and Aires" by Poll. Ballet Theatre of Ohio will choose from "Adagio
for Two Dancers" and "Summer Night," and BalletMet expects to re-stage
"Besides creating a professional dance company of national stature and taking it
to New York City for five seasons, Heinz Poll created this special summer
experience," says Jane Starzman, director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival.
" Everyone told him that he was crazy, but he was accustomed to accomplishing what
others thought impossible. This years festival is a perfect tribute to Heinz
legacy and a wonderful gift to the community."
Other Founding members of the steering committee include:
- David Shimotakahara, founder and Artistic Director of /GroundWorks Dancetheater, who
danced with Ohio Ballet from 1983 until 1998. He became a ballet master and began his
choreographic career while dancing for Heinz;
- Christine Meneer, Artistic Director of Ballet Theatre of Ohio, who as a young student,
danced for Ohio Ballets first performances at Cascade Plaza in 1975, and later
founded Childrens Ballet Theater, predecessor to the present group;
- Dr. Margaret Carlson, Executive Director of Verb Ballets, a former student of
Polls who worked with the late choreographer in obtaining five of Polls works
for Verbs present repertoire;
- Lana Carroll Heylock, Head of the Dance Institute at the University of Akron, also one
of the original students and dancers of Ohio Ballet; and,
- Startzman, director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, who danced with Ohio Ballet
from 1969 to 1989 and later served for 10 years as Artistic Administrator and Company
Manager for Ohio Ballet.
Other founding members of the Festival steering committee include Lieberth, Deputy
Mayor of Akron; Neil Sapienza, Acting Director of the School of Dance, Theater, & Arts
Administration at the University of Akron; and Christine Amer Mayer and Leslie Nelson of
the GAR Foundation.
Since 1975, the City of Akron has invested over $1.5 million in summer performances of
Ohio Ballet. This years festival is also supported by Akron Community Foundation, and, through
dance endowments they established years ago, the GAR Foundation, and the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation.
Additional Biographical/Program Information
Dave Lieberth, Deputy Mayor/Administration, 330.375.2345
Jane Startzman, Director, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival 330.990.5263