Kent State University School of Theatre & Dance Blog, December 6, 2010 by Shayna Fischer
Review of Verlezza Dance's performance at Kent State University to kick-off DisAbility Awareness Month. To read the article Click Here
The Daily Kent Stater, September 29, 2009: Dancing beyond boundaries by Nicole Hennessy
Preview of Verlezza Dance's performance at Kent State University to kick-off DisAbility Awareness Month. To read the article Click Here
The Plain Dealer; June 4, 2009 Article: Verlezza Dance is a family affair for artistic director Sabatino Verlezza, Barbara Allegra Verlezza and their children by Donald Rosenberg Plain Dealer Dance Critic
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The Plain Dealer; June 3, 2008 Illuminations Reviw: Members of Shaker Heights-based Verlezza Dance share the stage with students by Donald Rosenberg Plain Dealer Dance Critic
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Verlezza Dance named winner of the 2008 CCBMRDD Inclusion Award
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The Plain Dealer; March 14, 2008: Letter to the Editor- Celebrating Ludlow through dance and diversity by Loretta C. Pierce
The Sun Press; March 13, 2008: In Concert with Ludlow Article by Brian Trapp
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The Plain Dealer; March 10, 2008: Concert at Shaker Heights High School honors Ludlow neighborhood by Laura Johnston
The Daily Kent Stater, October 19, 2007: Enter the Dance by Alyssa Sparacino
Review of Verlezza Dance's performance at Kent State University DisAbility Awareness Week. To read the article Click Here
Jul 23, 2007 Mobile, AL National Dance Education Organization Conference
Dance Families: Magical or “von Trapp-ed” . . . or a Bit of Both? Sabatino Verlezza, who is one of four dancers within his immediate family, hosts a discussion as well as moderate readings of personal stories of dance families and how they make it work in their unique lifestyles. These families make brave attempts to figure out schedules for rehearsals, performances, injuries, egos and life. When you multiply that lifestyle with other dancers in the same family, the outcome can be both blissful and traumatic. Our “global dance family” has many magical circles and profound interconnections. Our personal dance family has an even deeper and different kind of richness from which there is much to learn.
The Plain Dealer; May 25, 2007: Project STAND creator back in area by Donald Rosenberg Plain Dealer Dance Critic
Jennifer Haynes, creator of Project STAND, will be in Shaker Heights this weekend to work with Verlezza Dance. Haynes, who lives in North Carolina, will team with artistic director and choreographer Sabatino Verlezza and company members to complete another section of a work that was begun last summer. A full version of the new piece will be presented Saturday, June 2, in Asheville, N.C., as part of the Southeastern Disability Culture Fest. Verlezza Dance presented early sections of the project last year in Kirtland at the Vintage Ohio festival. The dancers, with and without disabilities, were local company members and affiliates from North Carolina, Missouri and New York. STAND is an acronym for Survivors Transcending Abuse Now through Dance. The project's goal is to use dance as a vehicle to explore the social problem of abuse in society.
The Plain Dealer; December 24, 2006 Snow Tails Review: Embracing Dance by Donald Rosenberg Plain Dealer Dance Critic
Verlezza Dance, the small modern company directed by Sabatino Verlezza and Barbara Allegra Verlezza, gave a poetic and charming program recently at Shaker Heights Middle School. The Verlezzas, as well as assistant artistic director Tracy Pattison, contributed choreography that clearly defined emotion, character and physical brio. The most inventive piece was Allegra Verlezza's "Lunar Leap," which finds seven dancers with Pilates balls in sculptural and kinetic motion. The work never resorts to gimmickry. Each dancer is an extension of the Pilates ball, and vice versa, as lunar, star and earth vistas are evoked. Students from the choreographer's class at Kent State University gave a limber, expressive performance. The Verlezzas paid tribute to modern-dance legend May O'Donnell in "Coat Tales," a series of solos and duets about love lost and found. The couple, who danced in O'Donnell's New York company, are expert exponents of their mentor's absorbing art. Sabatino Verlezza's "Lasting Songs," set to one of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs, made a euphoric impression as danced by the choreographer and Pattison. Horizontal lifts, floor patterns and ardent interweavings beautifully complemented the music, performed with sensitive appeal by soprano Marla Berg and pianist Jennifer Heemstra. The program's big work was "Snow Tails," a romp about zoo animals cavorting in their off hours to Saint-Saens. The piece needs to be more seamless between sections, but what Sabatino Verlezza and Pattison have created gives company members and a slew of adorable children the chance to make art that is thoughtful and fun.
Plain Dealer; December 8, 2006 Holiday-themed Snow Tails' shows troupe based in diversity by Donald Rosenberg Plain Dealer Dance Critic
Dance companies tend to go well beyond their human guises at holiday time. Rodents scamper across the stage. Birds take to the skies. We might even see leaping lions, terpsichorean tigers and balletic bears -- oh, my! More than a few of these four-legged or winged types show up in "Snow Tails," the holiday work Verlezza Dance will perform this weekend in partnership with the city of Shaker Heights. Since its premiere last year, the piece has undergone revisions by choreographers Sabatino Verlezza, the company's artistic director, and assistant artistic director Tracy Pattison. Whatever the changes, "Snow Tails," set to selections from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," reflects the troupe's philosophy of inclusivity. Along with Verlezza as the Zookeeper, Pattison as the Snow Angel and Verlezza Dance colleagues in other roles, the ballet about animal adventures after the zoo closes for the season includes youngsters from Dance on the Oval, the company's school at First Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights, and adults eager for dance experience. Sometimes we get so elevated that we forget the purpose of dance," said Verlezza. "It's dance for people. I call it folk dance -- dance for folks." Verlezza and his wife, associate artistic director Barbara Allegra Verlezza, have devoted themselves to a spectrum of dancers since they formed their company in 1989 in New York. At the time, they were members of the May O'Donnell Dance Company, whose director long was admired for her lyrical brand of modern dance. The Verlezzas extended the purview of their art when they moved to Cleveland in 1994 to become artistic directors of Dancing Wheels, the company for dancers with and without disabilities. For nine years, they taught and created works influenced by O'Donnell's "contraction-and-release" principle. The technique, and the Verlezzas' work, "is rooted in the strengthening of the torso," said Sabatino Verlezza, who was born near Naples, Italy. "It is good for wheelchair dancers. It's about the center of the body." After their Dancing Wheels posts were terminated in 2003, evidently for economic reasons, the Verlezzas bolstered their own company and opened a school in Shaker Heights. With Pattison, they teach several levels of modern dance and ballet. The inclusionary aspect of their art led to a collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. During the seventh year of the partnership, eight senior adults referred by the board take classes at the school. Several were set to appear as butterflies in "Snow Tails," but scheduling for this weekend's performances didn't work out. Even so, Sabatino Verlezza said these dancers have had an enormous impact at the school. "There's beauty in later life," he said. "That's them. These people are inspiring, what they give back to us. They teach young people not to grow old." Along with "Snow Tails," the weekend program includes two tarantellas for six dancers; an O'Donnell tribute, "Coat Tales," for the Verlezzas; "Lasting Song," set to one of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs" and danced by Sabatino Verlezza and Pattison; and Barbara Allegra Verlezza's "Lunar Leap." This last piece has seven dancers with Pilates balls evoking the movement of the Earth, sun and moon. It is set to ritualistic music by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera of New York's I Giullari di Piazza. Barbara Allegra Verlezza, a Kent State University faculty member, said her challenge as a choreographer is "to use the Pilates balls and incorporate them as a dance and not as part of a gymnastics exhibition." The Verlezzas and Pattison, who form the core of Verlezza Dance, are eager to perform with their students this weekend. But the crucial thing is the training. "It's about process and the creation of what happens in the studio," said Pattison. "The performance is: This is what we're up to."
Plain Dealer; July 16, 2006 "La Dolce Vita II by Wilma Salisbury Plain Dealer Dance Critic
The Verlezza Dance performance Saturday night at the Dunham Tavern Museum was a perfect complement to the wine-tasting that preceded it. The program of short pieces exemplified the company's commitment to age-appropriate choreography, dancers with disabilities, live music and the legacy of modern dance pioneer May O'Donnell. Like the wines that were graciously presented by dancer-sommelier Tracy Pattison, each work was distinctive and delicious. Artistic director Sabatino Verlezza and his wife, Barbara Allegra Verlezza, paid tribute to their mentor, O'Donnell, in a poignant duet, "September Song." The choreography made subtle allusions to O'Donnell's works, including a motif from "Pursuit of Happiness," a suite choreographed to Big Band music. The maturity of the Verlezzas, who continue to dance beautifully in their early 50s, contrasted warmly with the youthful innocence of their 15-year-old son, Sabatino A., and his partner, Kent State University senior Alysse Ferranto. The young couple gave a charming performance of "Moonglow," a vibrant duet from O'Donnell's suite. While the Big Band music was played on tape, "September Song" was performed live by soprano Marla Berg and pianist Loretta Pierce. The duo also presented entertaining interpretations of classic American songs by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Jerome Kern. The melodies bloomed in the resonant acoustics of the museum's rustic wood barn, and the dancers glowed in the light-filled space. The squeaking of their bare feet on the polished floor created amusing and unexpected accents, and sit-down dancer Marcie Ryan added another sound when she made quick turns in her wheelchair. Ryan had worked with the Verlezzas during their tenure with Dancing Wheels, and she recently participated in a workshop they led in New York. She joined Sabatino Verlezza and Pattison in a lively excerpt from "Koto Vivaldi," and Sabatino partnered Allie Friedrich in a duet from the same piece rechoreographed to music by Bach. Friedrich, who has cerebral palsy, travels from her home near St. Louis to study with the Verlezzas. Her ability to perform artfully with Sabatino's gentle support was nothing short of amazing. The informal concert culminated with the premiere of a duet choreographed by Sabatino to an excerpt from Bach's Partita No. 3 for solo violin. Gino Raffaelli, a retired member of the Cleveland Orchestra, performed the Loure movement as a solo. Pattison then joined him, playfully turning a page of music, borrowing his bow and returning it with a graceful gesture. In the Gavotte, which followed, she flirtatiously circled the violinist, dancing buoyant phrases as he played. For an encore, the Verlezzas whirled around the barn to the accompaniment of "I Could Have Danced All Night," exuberantly sung by Berg. The imaginative program provided a delightful finale to "La Dolce Vita II," a benefit for Verlezza Dance and its Shaker Heights school, Dance on the Oval.
Shaker Life Magazine; Jan/Feb Issue; Pg. 38.
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The Plain Dealer; December 12, 2005 Can't dance? Troupe dispels that beautifully by Wilma Salisbury Plain Dealer Dance Critic
Sabatino Verlezza believes that everyone can dance, and he proves it by choreographing delightful works for people of all ages and abilities. Performers in the Verlezza Dance concert Saturday night at First Unitarian Church of Cleveland ranged from a 9½-week-old infant to an 80-year-old cancer survivor. The smiling baby, L.J. Kramer III, balanced on a hoop while cradled in Verlezza's arms. The plucky octogenarian, Nancy Kruck, took center stage in a chair surrounded by colleagues from the Euclid Adult Training Center, which is sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. The first part of the family-oriented program featured excerpts from the repertoire of Verlezza Dance, the company the artistic director founded in New York City before coming to Cleveland in 1994 as artistic director of Dancing Wheels. The ensemble now consists of Verlezza; his wife, associate artistic director Barbara Allegra Verlezza; artistic assistant Tracy Pattison; wheelchair dancer Chris Vartorella; and four apprentices. Vartorella showed a daredevil spirit in "Dead Can Dance," an athletic trio involving tricky balances and risky rides on exercise balls. The Verlezzas struck an emotional chord with their beautifully danced tribute to the late May O'Donnell, one of their mentors. Pattison portrayed a fiery witch in a trio based on a traditional Italian folk dance, and she glowed as a barefoot ballerina in a poignant duet with Sabatino Verlezza. The duo enjoyed the luxury of live music, a haunting Richard Strauss song performed by soprano Marla Berg and pianist Linda Jones. After intermission, students and teachers from the Verlezzas' new school, Dance on the Oval, performed "Snow Tails," a clever story ballet set to Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." Verlezza, resplendent in a red uniform, played a zookeeper who kept watch over a colorful array of animals. Pattison, a lovely snow angel, glittered in a white unitard with chiffon wings. Apprentice Kendra Dushac created magic as the gorgeous phoenix who gives brilliant feathers to the animals. Apprentices Stephanie Iervoline and Tori Tedesco had fun as humorous thieves who steal the feathers. Presented in an intimate space that was too small for the choreography and the crowd (extra chairs were set up onstage), the ambitious production was plagued with lighting problems, musical miscues and other technical glitches. But Verlezza handled all malfunctions with aplomb, and the flawed but pleasing performance communicated the joyous spirit of the holiday season