When asked what inspires him about being a part of GroundWorks’ Action/Reaction endeavor, Poet & John Carroll University (JCU) Professor Philip Metres isn’t short on enthusiasm: “I’ve always found creative collaborations to be generative and exciting, taking me to new creative places, and challenging me to translate the gifts of other art forms into poetic language.” His former collaborations have included partnerships in the worlds of music, painting, and sculpture. This is his first time working with dance,” and it won’t be the last,” he ensures.
This Action/Reaction partnership began when David Shimotakahara visited Metres’ poetry writing class at JCU, performing a demonstration module and according to Metres, “…taking us out of our seats (and our staid comfort zones!).” Together Shimotakahara and Metres helped students to explore the basics of dance as well as ways to talk about human movement. “It was fun to see the students laughing at themselves as they mirrored a dance partner or tried to embody a poetic image,” says Metres. Following this experience students visited the GroundWorks studio to observe a rehearsal where they witnessed the rehearsal process, many commenting on the dancers’ incredible skill and focus. “There was something raw and intimate about seeing the dancers so close,” says Metres, “to feel at once their powerful skill and their vulnerability. The
Metres brings a deep love of his craft to the project. He says that he writes poetry to “enter into the mystery of being alive. Ever since I first began reading poetry, I found myself rocked in its rhythms, taken into its field, haunted by its embodied voices and vivid landscapes.” His subject matter varies – tackling topics of politics, spirituality and the human experience – but constant is his belief that “we need arts that suture the abstraction of distance,” his constant striving to bridge gaps between us.
Metres will use his passion, in partnership with GroundWorks, to mentor students on this cross-medium journey. “The students are writing response essays to each component of the project, but the final one will include an essay that describes and interprets the dance performance and a poem that engages it artistically. We have read a selection of ‘dance poems’ that will act as our literary inspiration, alongside the dance itself. We may produce short video readings of the poems, depending on length.”
This partnership is uniquely Cleveland, though relevant on a universal level. Metres loves creating art here in Northeast Ohio. The Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, of which Metres is a 2014 fellow, “is another reason why it’s great to live in Cleveland…Receiving the Fellowship was a blessed affirmation of my work as a writer and artist. I’m still working out what it means on a daily basis, though it’s certainly granted me time and a chance to think about how to reach the broader Northeast Ohio community.”
David Shimotakahara, our Executive Artistic Director, was awarded the Creative Workforce Fellowship in 2010 and 2014. So it’s no wonder that Shimotakara and Metres are amazing collaborators and brilliant artists.