CLEVELAND, Ohio - Too bad it's impossible to be two places at once. The skill sure would come in handy Friday, when both Underground Classical and Verb Ballets and are holding intriguing events at the exact same time.
At least they're not similar in nature. One's the kickoff to a genre-defying concert series at Praxis Fiber Gallery. The other is an intimate dance showcase featuring the product of a research trip to Cuba.
Through Door No. 1 is Underground Classical, a contemporary concert series whose mission, in the words of director Jennifer Shaw, is to "bend the genres and redefine what chamber music can be."
Also high on the list of priorities there: highlighting local talent, offering concerts during the slower months of late spring and summer, and serving as a gateway to traditional classical music.
"My hope is that this will lead people to a greater appreciation for Western art music," Shaw said. "If we really want to program classical music, we have to consider allowing this crossover ..."
Jazz, too, has to be in the mix, Shaw said. Hence her choice to launch the 2017 series, not with a classical string quartet or piano trio, but with the Latin Jazz Septet. After that come Project Trio, a string group interested in everything from classical to metal, and Harpeth Rising, a classically trained folk trio.
It's these sort of acts, Shaw said, that made the first edition of Underground Classical a success, and encouraged her to go ahead and organize a second.
"We really packed the place and people really loved it," Shaw recalled. "People caught on, and they came back."
Door No. 2, meanwhile, leads to a new work by legendary choreographer Dianne McIntyre. Supported by the Cleveland Foundation's Cuba Fusion project, she turned the stories of three citizens of Cuba into biographical dances for Cleveland's Verb Ballets.
And that's just the Caribbean tip of the iceberg. In addition to the three dances born in Cuba, Verb Friday night also will present 11 other dances McIntyre crafted out of the stories of residents of Cleveland.
"The stories were just amazing," said McIntyre by phone from Washington, D.C. "With each person's story, [we're] learning quite a bit of history."
Consider her first Cuban subject, an employee at a Havana synagogue. Polish by birth, he came to the island nation as a child fleeing the Holocaust and went on to have what McIntyre described as a "quiet, easeful" life.
Another made a career out of what McIntyre said was her "calling" to preserve the traditions of Afro-Cuban dance, while a third rose out of poverty and became a nurse, fulfilling a dream that in most places would be regarded as perfectly reasonable, but in Cuba was "extremely far away, [like] a little girl dreaming of being a princess."
The moral of the stories? Transcending the time-space continuum may be impossible, but the ability to overcome enormous obstacles is hard-wired into the human spirit.
"People are so resilient," McIntyre said. "It's not like things are going to hold them back."
What: Performance by the Latin Jazz Septet.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 19.
Where: Praxis Fiber Gallery, 15301 Waterloo Road, Cleveland.
Tickets: Free. Go to undergroundclassical.org.
What: "Ballet UpClose Studio Series: Dianne McIntyre."
When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 19.
Where: Verb Ballets Studio, 3445 Warrensville Center Road, Shaker Heights.
Tickets: $15. Go to verbballets.org or call 216-397-3757....Read more