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Verb Ballets Celebrates 30th Anniversary

[photo: Bill Naiman]

It began in 1987 as the modern dance company known as The Repertory Project under founding artistic director Susan Miller.  Thirty years later it's one of Northeast Ohio's oldest dance troupes - Verb Ballets.

Producing artistic director Dr. Margaret Carlson says since making the name change in 2003, the company has transformed from a modern dance company to a contemporary ballet company.

There's a lot of fusion happening in the dance world today, according to Carlson, with classical ballet companies signing cutting-edge choreographers to work with their troupes.  She admits that makes defining a dance company's mission challenging.

"But the clear distinction we have made is that we have moved in the direction of engaging dancers that are trained in ballet, who are versatile in a number of techniques," Carlson said. 

Having a troupe that can perform either a modern dance work or a ballet en pointe is a company signature.  

"Our brand is how eclectic our dancers are," Carlson said.

As she made the change from managing director to producing artistic director in 2008, when then artistic director Hernando Cortez stepped down, Carlson took on a lot.

"It takes up your life 24-7.  You're on call all the time but what was comfortable about it for me was having been in dance my entire life, on the artistic side of it, it wasn't a huge leap to take that on."

Carlson believes the strength of Verb Ballets is that it's created a structure allowing the company to transition leadership among three different artistic directors, over three decades and remain strong.

"You have to go back to the founder Susan Miller," Carlson points out. 

As a non-profit dance company with a small, hardworking staff Miller understood that, "you still have to have people who are experts at certain things, more from the business side than anything else, in order to keep things strong and stable," Carlson said.

Today Verb Ballets is the resident company at the Breen Center in Ohio City.  What began as a one-time engagement in 2009, has become a lasting partnership.

"It went so well they said, 'we've made a decision, we'd like to invite you to become the official dance company in residence here at the Breen [Center]," Carlson said.

This year Verb Ballets company celebrates its 30th anniversary with a series of concerts beginning Saturday, March 25 at the Breen Center in Ohio City.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.