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I Believe I Can Fly

When you’re asked, ‘If you could have any sort of superhuman power, what would it be?’ Mine was always flying,” said Carly Wheaton. “Probably because it’s not possible. You see birds do it. You see other creatures that are so ethereal do it. But I don’t think any human really knows what that feels like.” [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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When you’re asked, ‘If you could have any sort of superhuman power, what would it be?’ Mine was always flying,” said Carly Wheaton. “Probably because it’s not possible. You see birds do it. You see other creatures that are so ethereal do it. But I don’t think any human really knows what that feels like.”

Wheaton (along with several other dancers) is about to find out what it really feels like to fly as she journeys to Neverland as Wendy in BalletMet’s production of Peter Pan. Along with a number of special effects, the ballet will feature extended sequences of choreographed flight.

“There’s a certain freedom to it; I think a lot of dancers feel we get close to it when we jump and we leap and we get tossed in the air by men, but nothing as close as this,” said Wheaton. “We’re all really excited to fly.”

Michael Pink, the artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet, created and choreographed Peter Pan in 2010. It was broadcast nationally on PBS and now comes to be restaged in Columbus with a spectacular entourage of pirates and lost boys amid ships, coves, and the twilit London skyline.

The illusion of weightlessness, and the effortless appearance of flight is the result of technical achievement—it is not a simple matter of moving or dancing in the air.

“We can’t create any force from our feet to turn,” noted Grace-Anne Powers, who will be doubling the role of Wendy with Wheaton.

“Everything we do as artists, whether you’re a performing actor or a singer or dancer or musician, takes a lot of training to get to the point of control, and being able to do things in a reliable, consistent way,” explained Pink. “And the same is said of flying. Everything about flying [on stage] is not intuitive. You do movements that you would not think you would have to do to control your spin, to control your turn.”

Flying also entails landing, and with the number of set pieces to navigate in each scene, there is no room for guesswork.

“You have to do the same things over and over again so when Peter flies into the nursery for the first time, and then flies around the nursery and steps onto the mantelpiece—he has to know how to do that absolutely every time,” said Pink.

Before it was a children’s novel, Peter Pan was a stage play. Pink’s direction, although rooted in classical dance, incorporates a large amount of that stage acting methodology: creating dialogue, finding objectives, and determining stage relationships—just as an actor would do with a script.

“Once you take the verbal aspects of that away, you have something that has a lot more honesty and depth of narrative. You’d be surprised at how much you can say without using a word,” Pink said.

Telling a story with the only thing a person completely possesses—the body—is the core objective of dance. A challenge to dancers is to be human and relatable onstage, despite the high degree of body training that makes their movement different from ordinary body language.

“As dancers, we know what angry looks like on stage. Or we know what sad or heartbroken looks like on stage,” said Wheaton, who pushes herself to respond to her stage situations in more “human” ways. “In my everyday life, what would I actually do if was upset or if I was excited or curious?”

“I think your eyes—your focus—is very important on stage. You can be doing a step and just by adding your focus at a certain point to make the step look completely different,” said Powers. “I’m sort of a person who nitpicks on everything until I create a character I’m happy with. I’m always sort of playing around, changing things so it becomes real, and it stays fresh.”

Peter Pan includes a certain amount of spectacle added to a classical art form, but balance is the key—that the lighting, costuming, and special effects will support the narrative rather than overshadow it. Pink hopes that the fantastical nature and familiar quality of the story will bring readers of all ages (and not just ballet-goers) to the Ohio Theater to see the written page brought to life.

“Coming to the ballet can be enormously rewarding and entertaining and exciting. And it can be educational in different ways,” said Pink. “So I think it’s an opportunity for people to really escape to Neverland with us.”

Peter Pan will be on stage at the the Ohio Theatre February 10 – 12. For more, visit balletmet.org.

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Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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