From a church basement to the glittering lights of the renovated theatres of PlayhouseSquare, few organizations have a history as rich as DANCECleveland.
In April 1955, Gertrude Schurr, a dancer from the trailblazing Martha Graham Dance Company, was brought to Cleveland to teach a master class. The class was organized by Marian Holmes, a physical education and recreation instructor and was open to anyone with an interest in dance. Thirty participants, dancers from all areas of Northeast Ohio, attended. Many were unacquainted with each other, but they all had a keen interest in the fledgling art form of modern dance. Hungry for communication and further class opportunities, two of the dancers, Lillian Weisberg and Joy Kane, contacted the other class members and proposed the establishment of an association to stimulate interest in modern dance as an art form in Cleveland.
Nine women from the class, Lillian Weisberg, Joy Kane, Marian Holmes, Miriam McCollom, AND Iris Kleinman Feuer were joined by four other interested women, Thelma Brock, Patricia Jewitt, Viviene Krupkin and Dorothy Mozen to explore forming an organization. It was decided to hold an open meeting in January to organize the Cleveland Modern Dance Association (CMDA) in January 1956. Of the many attendees who became active members, Miriam Glazer, twice president, is still on the Board of Trustees. Beginning with classes in a tiny church undercroft, these local pioneers sought to bring to Cleveland the radical ideas and techniques that were quickly reshaping the way the world perceived dance. Master classes and lectures were also given by visiting artists from around the country who were invited by the Association to come to Cleveland. Six weeks after being formed,Â the new Association co-sponsored with the Cleveland Institute of Music and Karamu House, a workshop by modern dance choreographer Jose Limon, and within a year, they would present their first dance company the Frankel-Ryder Dance Company of New York, in concert.
The triumph of this organization has been resounding. With presented performances by more than 200 national or international dance companies, over 1,000 workshops and master classes and seven commissioned new works, CMDA/DANCECleveland has served both northeast Ohio and the field of modern and contemporary dance through its perseverance and unwavering dedication.
By the end of the 20th century, DANCECleveland’s influence could be felt nationwide. Graduates of its workshops and class programs had created their own radical breakthroughs from their positions on the faculties of major universities as well as the ranks of the world’s great modern dance companies.
Today, as one of only a handful of stand-alone-dance-only presenters in the United States, DANCECleveland continues to curate a dance series that brings world-renowned dance companies to northeast Ohio for performances, master classes, educational residencies and lectures. Programs have included such greats as The Paul Taylor Dance Company, Murray Louis & Nikolais Dance, Pilobolus, Elizabeth Streb Ringside, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Urban Bush Women, Doug Elkins, Sean Curran, Rennie Harris Puremovement and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, among a host of other dance luminaries.