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Mansfield's Neos Dance Theatre Expands Into Lorain

Bobby Wesner and Holly Handman-Lopez [courtesy Neos Dance Theatre]

Neos Dance Theatre has made a name for itself in both its hometown of Mansfield as well as in Akron since its founding in 2004. 

Now with the support of a major grant from the Nord Family Foundation, Neos is expanding into Lorain County as part of the Oberlin Center for the Arts in July.

Neos co-founder Bobby Wesner is excited about the opportunity to engage with the Lorain community and to work with dance students at Oberlin College.

"Our hope is to really look at the county as a whole and even beyond into the greater Northern Ohio region and see what's missing, what pieces of our culture can we help develop," Wesner said.

Holly Handman-Lopez is a member of the Oberlin College dance faculty who can barely contain her enthusiasm about the chance for her students to learn from a professional, modern dance company.

"I was going to play it cool for a second there, and then I thought 'no I can't even try.' [laughs] I'm totally excited!" Handman-Lopez exclaimed.

Neos will present a free, family-friendly performance on Oberlin's Tappan Square on July 29.  Then in the fall, the company plans to start community dance classes at the Oberlin Center for the Arts, following a national search for an education director.

"This opportunity came to develop a more, full-fledged school. So we're again expanding into another region of northern Ohio," Wesner said.

As Neos opens its doors to the Oberlin community, another company - Ohio Dance Theater - is closing its doors there.  After 25 years, ODT artistic director Denise Gula has retired and the company has ceased operations, in part because their funding from Nord ran out.

Wesner hopes to fill the void establishing a connection with the same Oberlin and Lorain community.

"We're starting with a project in Lorain city.  We hope that will work as a model to grow into Elyria and of course in Oberlin," Wesner said.

When the holiday season arrives Neos plans to stage its own version of a well-known dance production in December.

"It's our 1940's Nutcracker, which will be performed at the Stocker Center for the Arts.  It's our take on an old classic.  It's a little more contemporary but still uses that Tchaikovsky score," Wesner said.

Listen to the full interview here:



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