Local dancers had an opportunity March 6 when they showed their skills at a special event hosted by Ballet Western Reserve.
Each dancer was specially selected by Artistic Director Richard Dickenson to try their hand at creating a dance under the supervision of a mentor. Guest choreographer Rich Livesay, also a part of BWR, was included in the celebration, titled ''Building Art,'' to celebrate the activities at the Morley Arts Building.
"This is a true celebration of what has become one of the Mahoning Valley's most nurturing and most productive creative locations," Dickenson said. "This building's original renovation was a gift and it's time for us to show what a worthwhile investment this was for the community."
Dickenson was given the opportunity to choreograph at age 15 for the Pasadena Dance Theater in California and was given a National Endowment for the Arts Emerging Choreography Award for his work. He wants to give a similar opportunity to his dancers at Ballet Western Reserve.
The interactive evening included a bit of all the traditional arts: dance, theater, music, song and painting. Those attending were able to choose among a variety of simultaneous and consecutive participatory and lecture-style workshops that included a historical look at the role of the Morley Arts Building by Bill Lawson, Mahoning Valley Historical Society; Ballroom dance lessons taught by Travis Manero, Fred Astaire Studios; Original choreography by BWR students and Dickinson, who presented a discussion on the artistic process of choreography. Also included were sittings for painted portraits by local artist Gary Taneri; a performance by Michael Gelfand, Youngstown Symphony principal cellist, and his son, Nate, of classical cello and violin sonatas; voice recital by former Miss Ohio Amanda Beagle and several of her vocal students accompanied by pianist Anthony Ruggiero; and a sneak preview of "Dinner with Friends" by members of the Oakland Center for the Arts.
To the dancers and other artists, the Morley Arts Building, which is home to Ballet Western Reserve, Ballet Western Reserve Center for Dance Education and the Oakland Center for the Arts, the building is more than just a shell where they operate. It is the structure that sets the tone for what they do.
An event reception included hors d'oeuvres catered by Michael Alberini's Restaurant and Wine Shop, with beverages donated by Rulli Bros.
During the event, students were paired with a faculty member of Ballet Western Reserve Center for Dance Education. The teachers acted as mentors for the choreographers. The students, members of Ballet Western Reserve's Company Dancers, range in age from 13 to 26.
Guest choreographer Rich Livesay, 26, has hemiparesis paralysis on the left side of the body as a result of a traumatic injury to the right side of the brain in 1984. He began daily dance classes in 2006 as part of his recuperative therapy and is working with BWR's faculty as a way of improving his condition.
For the event, Livesay was paired with Modern Dance instructor Karen Westerfield. The choreography was to "Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho" by Kai Robert Johansen and the dance was performed by Arona Mostov and Gaia Dusz as well as Livesay.
The Morley Arts Building, the former Elks Building, was renovated and dedicated in 1997 primarily with funds donated by Boardman real estate developer Michael Morley and was named to honor his parents, Judge Charles and M. Kathleen Morley, lifelong Mahoning Valley residents and patrons of the arts. It is made up of three floors, five studios, a board room, and a theater.
All funds raised at the event will go towards repairs and renovations of the Morley Building, most especially the restoration of the east wall of the structure which became exposed after the State Theater was demolished.
Call 330-744-1934 for tickets or more information.