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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 & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion

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As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”

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Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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