The Akron Symphony, in collaboration with GroundWorks Dance Theater, will join forces on Saturday, April 13, 2013 to present Rite of Spring, the first full-scale production of an Akron Symphony Classics Series concert. Rite of Spring is the first true partnership between the Akron Symphony and GroundWorks Dance Theater. More than 100 musicians and 23 professional and student dancers from around Akron and throughout Summit County, will come together to bring Stravinsky’s controversial masterpiece to life in honor of the 100th anniversary of its debut performance.

According to David Shimotakahara, Artistic Director of GroundWorks, “Eight of the dancers will be with GroundWorks and the remaining fifteen are what we call the student ensemble. We auditioned at nine different locations in Summit County – universities, dance training programs, and public high, middle and elementary schools. So there is a wide range of training and experience levels. But that was by choice. We wanted there to be a wide range of participants.”

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was a tidal wave that changed history, and it still holds that kind of power. To be able to put the music together with the art form it was created to support provides a remarkably powerful experience for the audience in and of itself. But to do it with a community of professional and student dancers and to put them on-stage with the full Akron Symphony Orchestra is a special kind of challenge that requires passion, vision and a willingness to be bold.

“I’ve been excited about doing The Rite of Spring as a dance work for as long as I can remember, and to this day, I’ve still never seen the work preformed live by a dance company,” said Akron Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor, Christopher Wilkins.

Wilkins said this project came about because of a desire to create a shared community experience between two leading performing arts organizations in northeast Ohio. “The Akron Symphony wanted to take The Rite of Spring and use it as a platform for inviting community participation, which is something we’ve done with Porgy and Bess and Titanic and some many of our educational programs and projects with the museum and theatre projects and so forth,” said Wilkins. “So with strong encouragement from The Knight Foundation, we created an original production involving community without compromising artistic quality.”

Wilkins has also been a fan of Shimotakahara’s since he came to Akron. “I heard about David’s works since my first days in Akron,” said Wilkins. “We also share patrons and supporters, first among them Dave Lieberth, who serves on both boards. Dave [Lieberth] had had urged me to first find a project with David [Shimotakahara] and when I asked about The Rite of Spring project, he said, ‘absolutely.’ So I called David and asked if he would be interested in doing it, and he was.”

“I went into this project fully aware of the parameters and challenges,” said Shimotakahara. “I don’t think I would have even attempted it if Christopher [Wilkins] hadn’t suggested it. I have to thank him for forcing me to take on a challenge that I don’t think I would have even considered. I didn’t have expectations. I just figured we’d see what they can do. And the students have totally surpassed my hopes, especially in their ability to retain. We’re only rehearsing once a week because of everyone’s schedules; these kids are involved in a lot of different things. We’ve been meeting every Sunday for three hours since the beginning of February, but that only gives us about 9-10 rehearsals before we go into the theater. That’s not a lot of time. And the student ensemble is in, I think, 8 of the 14 movements. It’s not like they are just on and off. They are full participants in this production.”

“I think the audience is going to encounter something unlike anything they have encountered before, because I expect to…and I go to a lot of concerts. I see a lot of dance.” said Wilkins. “What they’re going to encounter is the music and dance being all made in full view, which is very unusual. You’ll see the whole orchestra and all the dancers. That’s exciting. I think people will come away with an experience they will always remember. And I know the dancers and orchestra will never forget it.”

“My hope is that they somehow are brought into the music in a different way; that they hear the music differently than if they just heard the orchestra playing; that in some way it will spark new connections to Stravinsky’s music for them,” said Shimotakahara. “Hopefully that will add to their appreciation and understanding and enjoyment of this masterpiece.”

Tickets for Rite of Spring are on sale and range from $22-$52 each. Discounts are available for students, seniors and groups of ten or more. To purchase tickets, call the Akron Symphony at 330-535-8131 or visit to order online. You can also order through the EJ Thomas Hall box office by calling 330-972-7570 or ordering online at Visit the Akron Symphony website for a complete concert calendar and additional program details.

The Akron Symphony appreciates its sponsors, including concert sponsor the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, media partners 89.7FM WKSU, Akron Life and Akron Beacon Journal/, Previews from the Podium sponsor, Audio-Technia, and the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund Akron Symphony concerts with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

The Akron Symphony will also present a run-out performance of Rite of Spring at 3 pm on Sunday, April 14, 2013 at the Medina Performing Arts Center. This is a benefit concert sponsored by the musicians of the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Medina County Arts Foundation. It will not feature GroundWorks dancers, but it will include a mystery overture that was selected by patrons at the Medina Holiday Pops concert in December. Tickets are $25 each and no discounts. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 330-535-8131 or online at

(Editor’s note: This was from a press release from the Akron Symphony.)