I think I am always a little shocked at what can transpire in a year at GroundWorks. But I also take great pleasure in remembering some of the many moments, places and faces that are a part of such a robust and active creative agenda.

In 2017 our world premieres highlighted new work by women choreographers, bringing their perspectives to the front including Drafting Foresight by Gina Gibney of Gibney Dance, Tonight’s the Night by New York-based artist Monica Bill Barnes, and Vade Mecum by GroundWorks founding artist Amy Miller, who presented her 12th original work for the company.

One of our core values at GroundWorks is to help empower the next generation through dance. Using movement concepts as a springboard, our desire is to provide a unique opportunity for students in Northeast Ohio to explore the creative process of dance. This year we reached 455 students in 10 different public, charter and private schools across the Greater Cleveland and Akron area. This also included a 12-week residency for all the 4th and 5th graders at Willson School in Cleveland, which has been wonderfully productive in integrating the arts into curriculum, making learning come alive for the students.

We are excited to be able to expand our partnership with The Rainey Institute. Working with Darnell Weaver, GroundWorks artists are contributing to the development of the Dance Program at Rainey, offering technique training to students who wish to focus on dance.

We are thankful for the continued opportunity to collaborate with our partners at Judson Park Residence through our innovative Action/Reaction program. In addition to our interdisciplinary approach, we are planning to include family members next season. We will also initiate a new 2-year Action/Reaction program in partnership with the Akron Art Museum.

We are always eager to reach out to new audiences throughout the region. This year we had opportunities to participate in the Akron Fringe Festival in partnership with Neos Dance, as well as collaborating with young artists in a performance held at Kent State Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center. We were also selected from hundreds of applicants for one of 18 Spotlight Showcase spots at the 2017 Arts Midwest Conference – the region’s top performing arts conference.

We are in awe of the phenomenal support of our annual It Takes Two Benefit at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which, with the help of guests and sponsors, netted over $120,000 this year in support of GroundWorks. Our 2017 cast of Celebrity Dancers from the community included Harlan Diamond, India Pierce Lee, Yan Maschke, Bob O’Brien, Ayesha Washington, Larry Zuckerman and Enid Rosenberg (the evening’s Grand Champion), paired with company artists Felise Bagley, Lauren Garson, Damien Highfield, Michael Marquez, Annika Sheaff, Mark Otloski and myself. It was a truly magical and unforgettable evening!

As we look ahead to our upcoming 20th anniversary season, we reflect on the resilience and continued evolution of the organization, this year welcoming the contributions of three new company members: Tyler Ring, Gemma Freitas Bender and Taylor Johnson. I am so grateful to the many individuals at GroundWorks who are committed to the idea of inspiring and empowering creativity in others through our performances, educational outreach and community exchange. We continue our work with enormous gratitude to all the partners, individuals, organizations and agencies who help us make our vision a reality.

Wishing you peace, love and good cheer this holiday season and for the New Year.

David Shimotakahara, Executive Artistic Director