Our Mission Statement

GroundWorks DanceTheater creates and presents groundbreaking contemporary dance as a leader in engaging, educating and enlivening communities.


Our Vision

GroundWorks DanceTheater is a vibrant and sustainable organization, nationally recognized for making a unique contribution to the art form and enriching human experiences through the creation of original contemporary dance.


Our Values

GroundWorks DanceTheater is dedicated to:

  1. Unique, Original, and Innovative Artistry
  2. Excellence
  3. Collaboration
  4. Fiscal Responsibility

GroundWorks DanceTheater has a deep commitment to:

  • Risk-Taking
  • Creating meaningful and intimate experiences and exchanges
  • Building community
  • Serving as a regional arts leader

About GroundWorks DanceTheater

GroundWorks DanceTheater is IMAGINATION YOU CAN SEE. Critically celebrated as an “artistically significant” ensemble, GroundWorks explores the nuances of the human experience through unique and adventurous choreography. This exciting, eclectic work brings audiences face-to-face with fresh, fascinating performances of passion, intellect and humor.

From its Northeast Ohio base, this group of outstanding artists has introduced dance lovers and neophytes alike to an experience that is unconventional, yet deeply human and resonating. From performing in unusual settings, collaborating with composers of new music, and featuring live musicians onstage, GroundWorks enriches its work with subtle layers of meaning that deepen the impact and enjoyment for the audience.

GroundWorks’ repertoire includes works by selected guest choreographers and interdisciplinary artists. GroundWorks has commissioned 27 premieres from nationally and internationally acclaimed choreographers – some of the most creative voices in the field – as well as 36 new works by Shimotakahara and 11 by Artistic Associate Amy Miller.

GroundWorks believes in developing its repertoire with work that challenges the range of its exceptional artists and in establishing a working relationship with guest choreographers interested in creating new work with the group.   It is also interested in creating an audience that supports this work, through an understanding of its influences and sources built over time and learned from a variety of experiences with GroundWorks.

Additionally, GroundWorks is committed to enriching the community through inspiring education outreach programs for which it has been recognized with funding from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

By never settling, by stretching even its own definition of what’s possible in dance, the company, now in its 17th season, continues to grow and attract new audiences.

In January 2002, Dance Magazine named Shimotakahara “one of the year’s 25 to watch” in the dance world, and Wilma Salisbury from The Plain Dealer described the company as “setting the standard for small dance ensembles in Northeast Ohio.” In 2003, Steven Sucato wrote in the March issue of Dance, “With this program, GroundWorks DanceTheater reached a landmark of its own development, moving it ever closer to becoming one of the country’s leading contemporary dance companies.” Cleveland Scene voted GroundWorks, “Cleveland’s Best Dance Company” in 2008.

In 2009 GroundWorks celebrated its 10th anniversary season and the company’s New York City debut was a smash success. NY critic Chris Atamian described the experience as a “unique mixture of subtle humor, intelligent choreography, and vigorous movement.” In May 2009 Northern Ohio LIVE honored GroundWorks with a Special Award of Achievement for its 10 years of innovative cultural contribution to the region.

Now nearing the end of its second decade, GroundWorks looks toward its future, having earned solid support and a growing audience base as more and more people discover what Donald Rosenberg in The Plain Dealer has described as the “smoldering brilliance” of one of “Cleveland’s cultural gems.”

Meet Our Artistic Directors

David Shimotakahara
David ShimotakaharaExecutive Artistic Director
Amy Miller
Amy MillerArtistic Associate
Gustavo Aguilar
Gustavo AguilarDirector of Music
Dennis Dugan
Dennis DuganLighting Designer - Technical Coordinator

Meet Our Dancers

Felise Bagley
Felise BagleyDancer
Gemma Freitas Bender
Gemma Freitas BenderDancer
Taylor Johnson
Taylor JohnsonDancer
Damien Highfield
Damien HighfieldDancer
Tyler Ring
Tyler RingDancer

Meet Our Staff

Beth Rutkowski
Beth RutkowskiGeneral Manager
Mark Otloski
Mark OtloskiEducation Outreach Coordinator
Yvette Hanzel
Yvette HanzelDirector of Development