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GroundWorks DanceTheater to sunset this summer

Choreographer looks on as dancers rehearse in dance studio.
Dave DeOreo
Ideastream Public Media
David Shimotakahara works with GroundWorks DanceTheater dancers during a rehearsal in 2023.

David Shimotakahara plans to shutter his GroundWorks DanceTheater after a series of 25th anniversary concerts in Akron and Cleveland Heights this August.

The founding executive artistic director said that after serious consideration he and the board decided to “sunset operations.”

“It was really hard for me. The company is in such a good place in terms of the kind of work we’re doing, the quality of the work,” Shimotakahara said. “I just hate to see it go away.”

Shimotakahara said the decision came down to resources.

“In order to be viable financially, a sustainable operation and not compromise the kind of work we believe in and the quality of [that work], the numbers just weren’t adding up,” he said.

Shimotakahara and the board were in the process of hiring a new executive director to support the operation and used pandemic relief funds from the government to hire a search firm.

“We had been looking for an executive director to split some of my responsibilities and roles administratively. We weren’t successful in identifying a viable candidate for that,” he said.

The pandemic created other obstacles that derailed the company, such as difficulty regaining audiences.

On top of that the rising cost to pay technicians, stage crew, staff and dancers proved too daunting to continue, he said.

Shimotakahara and his team have been busy preparing for a series of summer concerts to celebrate GroundWorks’ 25th anniversary season.

However, now those concerts are billed as Grand Finale Performances.

“We’re creating a program of three premieres. One by myself, one by our resident artist Antonio Brown and one from a guest artist that we’ve recently commissioned, Olivier Wevers from Seattle,” he said.

The finale concerts take place at the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival in Akron Aug. 2-3 as well as at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights Aug. 10. These concerts are free and open to the public.

Shimotakahara said it’s been an amazing journey.

“The fact that GroundWorks was able to do it here in Cleveland for 25 years, I think that’s amazing,” he said. “I don’t feel disappointed at the end of the day, just grateful.”

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