Tag Archives: Contemporary Dance Theater

Contemporary Dance Theater and MamLuft&Co. Dance to Merge to Form MUTUAL DANCE THEATRE

ML&Co. takes new name MUTUAL DANCE THEATRE first and announces new arts center, Modern Dance academy, and lead artists

June 22, 2020 CINCINNATI, OHIO — Contemporary Dance Theater (“CDT,” est. 1972) and MamLuft&Co. Dance (“ML&Co.,” est. 2007) will be merging by Fall 2021. MamLuft&Co. Dance will take the new name MUTUAL DANCE THEATRE first, effective immediately.

AW_Made Possibly byThe merged organization will be led by MamLuft&Co. Dance’s Artistic and Executive Director, Jeanne Mam-Luft. Contemporary Dance Theater’s founder Jefferson James will retire as Artistic Director Emeritus and continue to lend consultation. ArtsWave has made the merger possible through a $30,000 grant, supporting the idea that a merger between the organizations will lead to more sustainable advancement of Modern Dance.

Jefferson James says about the decision to step down and to pursue the merger:

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I thought the time was right. There is so much change happening in the field of live performance now that one more change seemed appropriate. I will miss the joys of directing my dance organization, but I’m confident I’m leaving the mission of CDT in the hands and heart of an equally dedicated and supremely talented leader. Her job will be to combine the organizations and make an even stronger dance presence in our community than we’ve had.”

Jefferson James founded Contemporary Dance Theater in 1972 in Cincinnati after leaving Juilliard and New York City, where she trained with the Modern Dance founders and legends José Limón, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Merce Cunningham. While CDT began as a performing repertory company, it eventually became the major presenter of Modern Dance in Cincinnati, as well as an arts service organization which has provided resources to many individual artists and fledgling companies, like MamLuft&Co. Dance, for 47 years. Contemporary Dance Theater was also a founding member of the now-extensive National Performance Network, which supports the presentation, creation, and touring of contemporary arts around the country while advocating for social justice and social equity. (Archival photography and more about CDT’s history can be found at vdc.ohiodance.org/exhibits/cdt.htm.)

MDT_CDT Park Dance

Contemporary Dance Theater in Park Dance at Fountain Square, 1980. Photo by Jan Van Dyke.

Contemporary Dance Theater and MamLuft&Co. Dance have a long history with each other, starting with ML&Co.’s very first company auditions held at CDT’s studio in 2007. Since then, James has been a mentor to ML&Co. founder Jeanne Mam-Luft, who also later served as James’ assistant director from 2010-2014. As the only self-described Modern Dance company in Cincinnati since 2007, MamLuft&Co. Dance has worked to encourage the presence and consistent work of professionals in Modern Dance.

Jeanne Mam-Luft says about CDT and leader Jefferson James:

“Contemporary Dance Theater — and, really, that means Jefferson — has been absolutely integral to MamLuft&Co. Dance. I’ve never met another person who has single-handedly held up a genre of art for an entire city for as long as Jefferson has. When people call her the ‘mother of Modern Dance in Cincinnati’ (and I know she hates the term), they do it with good reason. My organization — actually, the city — owes so much to her, and it’s an immense honor to be trusted with continuing her work. We both have a deep, deep love for Modern Dance and for Cincinnati, and I know that there is no other work that either of us want to be doing.”

Mam-Luft, a refugee of the Cambodian genocide, is one of only several Asians who are leading arts organizations in Cincinnati. Her vision centers on increasing access and the representation of people of color.

More merger details

  • The two organizations will complete the merger over the next season, to be completed by the fall of 2021.
  • Contemporary Dance Theater will continue to operate separately until the merger is effectively complete. MamLuft&Co. Dance will be known as Mutual Dance Theatre immediately.
  • After fall of 2021, the flagship program of CDT, the presentation of touring companies will be called The Jefferson James Contemporary Dance Theater Series.
  • The merged organization will expand and deepen its service to local artists.
  • Both CDT and ML&Co./MDT invite the public’s counsel. The organizations are looking for diverse community voices to help re-envision the future. The public can join the effort by visiting mutualdance.org/join.
  • Donations can be made at mutualdance.org/mergerdonate.
MDT_Arts Center Redering

Model by Andrea Fernando and David Eppele, rendering by Jeanne Mam-Luft.

The Arts Centers: The Hart and The Hill
MamLuft&Co. Dance, in December of 2019 before the pandemic, purchased a 1.5 acre property in the Hartwell area. The organization, now to be known as Mutual Dance Theatre, announces the new arts center. Affectionately termed “The Hart,” the center allows the organization to fulfill its vision of becoming a neighborhood-based community arts center that also creates space specifically for Modern Dance. At the new headquarters, the organization will work to bridge neighboring communities (such Wyoming, Roselawn, Bond Hill, and Carthage) through creative placemaking collaborations and initiatives.

(The rendering above depicts a vision for the center’s improvements.)

Contemporary Dance Theater has been the city’s steward of the College Hill Town Hall since 1999. Under Mutual Dance Theatre management, this arts center (“The Hill”) will continue to serve Modern Dance as one of the very few spaces in Cincinnati appropriate for the genre.

The organization will raise $750,000, which will cover amongst other capital expenses, the creation of black box theater designed specifically for Modern Dance in the Hartwell center, as well as essential updates (including adding much-needed air conditioning) in the College Hill facility.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at mutualdance.org/mergerdonate.

Photo by Splendiferously FOTO&LTRPRS

The city’s first Modern Dance academy
Mutual Dance Theatre (as the former MamLuft&Co. Dance) is also proud to announce the establishment of the city’s first Modern Dance academy. The Academy will provide rigorous training for Cincinnati’s youth who seek college degrees in Modern Dance and eventual professional appointments. The Modern Dance academy will provide not only training, but mentorship, resources, connections, and invaluable experiences in preparation for university study. The Academy’s goal is to present racially-diverse, scholarship-worthy, exceptionally-talented cohorts of young dancers to university dance departments.

Artistic changes and appointments
Mutual Dance Theatre (as the former MamLuft&Co. Dance) also announces a transition to a repertory company who will restage works by national choreographers, while continuing support and collaborative opportunities for the Company Members. New Company Members will be announced later this summer, but the organization now announces several artistic promotions.

MDT_Snellen and Evans

Jasmine Snellen (Louisville, Kentucky) and Steven Evans (Dayton, Ohio) are promoted to Company Directors. The two will take Jeanne Mam-Luft’s place in daily rehearsal and company leadership, providing fresh lead choreography and exciting new creative direction. The two are extraordinary movement-makers who joined ML&Co. in 2019 and 2013, respectively.

A graduate of Wright State University, Hannah Williamson joined MamLuft&Co. Dance in 2017, but began studying in the organization’s summer intensives as just a teenager. Williamson is promoted to Rehearsal Director of the professional company, as well as the Academy’s senior ensemble, in recognition of her outstanding talent.

MDT_Susan Honer

Raised in Virginia and graduate of the Hollins University/American Dance Festival Master of Fine Arts program, Honer first danced with MamLuft&Co. Dance in 2010. Since then, Honer has been a luminous contributor of artistic vision and choreography. Honer, who led the professional company from 2016-2019, will continue on as a Resident Choreographer and Associate Curator of presentations.

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Dancer Auditions Announced for New Work in AREA CHOREOGRAPHERS FESTIVAL


For Diane Germaine’s new work in Area Choreographers Festival (ACF)

Performances at Jarson-Kaplan Theater June 7 & 8, 8:00pm

Sunday, Feb.17 from Noon-4pm
Initial audition is noon-1:30 with callbacks at 2-3:30

(CDT) Contemporary Dance Theater
1805 Larch Avenue
in College Hill (between Hamilton and Belmont).

Dancers must be over 18 with reliable transportation
Rehearsal period will begin early April and take place at CDT.

See flyer on Facebook event for more details.

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Cincinnati Ballet and Contemporary Dance Theater Partner to Present COLLIDE!


The unique collaboration celebrates the BLINK Festival through contemporary dance

 CINCINNATI. – In partnership with Contemporary Dance Theater (CDT), and with support from the Cincinnati Arts Association and ArtsWave, Cincinnati Ballet is pleased to announce Collide!with three performances on October 13 and 14, at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The Collide! performance series is a unique collaboration in celebration of the BLINK Festival taking place the same weekend, and offers an exciting opportunity to experience contemporary dance along the BLINK route.

 Collectively curated by Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director Victoria Morgan and CDT Artistic Director, Jefferson JamesCollide! features three brand new contemporary works from choreographers Debbie Blunden-Diggs, James Cunningham, and André Megerdichian, danced by the Cincinnati Ballet Second Company. The collaboration honors Richard J. Collins, late artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet Company, 1990-1991.

 Debbie Blunden-Diggs is in her 11th season as Artistic Director of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), and performed with the Company for more than 20 years. She is also an accomplished choreographer, creating works for the company that have become part of their artistic blue print. Her notable works include Configurations, Kaleidoscope, Fragments, In My Father’s House and Traffic. Blunden-Diggs has also served as the company’s Associate Artistic Director and Deputy Director for Arts and Operations.  In addition to her role as Artistic Director of DCDC, she is an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton Theatre, Dance & Performance Technology department. She has assisted Central State University with their theatre and musical productions, and served as a co-director for a production of Crowns for The Human Race Theatre. Blunden-Diggs is on the board of directors for the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD).

 James Cunningham is a Soloist with Cincinnati Ballet and began choreographing at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music (CCM), through composition courses and yearly student choreographed showcases. Since joining the Cincinnati Ballet in 2008, he has been commissioned to create site-specific works for chamber orchestra group Concert:Nova and the Constella Music Festival. He continued to refine his craft and find his personal style through two Cincinnati Ballet Choreographic Workshop creations, Seven and Ancora, danced by the Cincinnati Ballet Second Company. His version of Peter and the Wolf has been presented as part of Cincinnati Ballet’s Ballet Toybox production and also through education and outreach performances.

 In the spring of 2016, BalletMet dancers and producers of The Benefit, a charity event for children with hemophilia, invited Cunningham to create Meandering Heartbeat in collaboration with the local rock group The Wind and The Sea and Columbus Symphony musicians. Later that year, Cunningham choreographed a brand new work for the students at CCM and his piece, Prohibition Condition was featured in Cincinnati Ballet’s main stage production of Director’s Cut. Steve Sucato from ArtsAir said, “Cunningham’s well-crafted choreography balanced clever movement with bravura ballet fireworks.” In January 2017, he choreographed a world premiere pas de deux for Cincinnati Ballet dancers, entitled Garcia Counterpoint, with music by Bryce Dessner, as part of the MusicNow Festival.

 André Megerdichian is an Assitant Professor of Dance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Born in New York City and raised in Beirut, Athens, and Geneva. He has performed for over a decade with esteemed companies and choreographers including the Jose Limon Dance Company, Janis Brenner and Dancers, the Mary Anthony Dance Theatre, Soundance Repertory Company, Reidel Dance Theatre, Daniel Charon and Sean Curran. He was a principal dancer with Dance Kaleidoscope, under the artistic direction of David Hochoy (former rehearsal director of the Martha Graham Dance Company) for seven seasons. During his time in Indiana, Megerdichian was awarded the 2003 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship by the Indianapolis Arts Council, for his sustained artistic contributions to the community.

 In 1995 Megerdichian was invited to create his first evening-length work titled Moving Light, performed in the Statkino Theatre in Salzeburg, Austria, by the Painted Lights Dance Project. Since then, his choreography has been produced by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts, the Deadulus Project, Dance Kaleidoscope, the Anderson Young Ballet Theatre, Ball State University and the University of Indianapolis.

 The Cincinnati Ballet Second Company is a group of up-and-coming professional dancers who come from around the world to study at Cincinnati Ballet and perform alongside Cincinnati Ballet’s Company dancers. Second Company dancers rehearse with the company on a full time basis, 9 am-6 pm every weekday, as well as serve as education outreach ambassadors for the organization. With a focus on engaging audiences of all ages, Second Company dancers bring the joy of dance to thousands of students and community members each year through schools, community centers, churches, nursing homes and more.



Cincinnati Ballet Second Company
World Premiere: “Disconnected Fragments”
Choreography: James Cunningham

World Premiere: “Where Water Meets the Sky”
Choreography: André Megerdichian

World Premiere: “The Human Condition”
Choreography: Debbie Blunden-Diggs



  • October 13 – 8:00 pm
  • October 14 – 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm


Aronoff Center for the Arts
Jarson-Kaplan Theater
650 Walnut Street
Cincinnati, Ohio  45202


Call 513.621.5282, visit cballet.org or visit the Cincinnati Ballet Box Office at 1555 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45212

Tickets are $25

About Cincinnati Ballet
Since 1963, Cincinnati Ballet has been the cornerstone professional ballet company of the region, presenting a bold and adventurous array of classical, full-length ballets and contemporary works, regularly with live orchestral accompaniment. Under the artistic direction of Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet has become a creative force within the larger dance community, commissioning world premiere works and exploring unique collaborations with artists as diverse as Grammy winning guitarist Peter Frampton and popular, Ohio-based band Over the Rhine. With a mission to inspire hope and joy in our community and beyond through the power and passion of dance, Cincinnati Ballet reaches beyond the stage in programs that allow every person in the region to be part of the continued evolution of dance. To that end, Cincinnati Ballet presents exhilarating performances, extensive education outreach programs and offers top level professional ballet training at Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy.


Cincinnati Ballet 2017-2018 Season Sponsors: ArtsWave, Mercy Health, Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, PNC Bank, Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Frisch’s Big Boy, Rhonda & Larry Sheakley

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Contemporary Dance Theater presents Doug Varone and Dancers | Nov. 1-2 | Aronoff Center

Contemporary Dance Theater opens 41st season with the masterly Doug Varone and Dancers of NYC

Alchemy by Phil Knott

Alchemy by Phil Knott

CINCINNATI, OHIO — Southwest Ohio’s presenter of contemporary dance, Contemporary Dance Theater, opens its forty-first season with Doug Varone and Dancers of New York City, whom Newsday calls a “company of master dancers, performing masterly choreography.” The season-opening concerts will take place Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, 2013 at 8:30pm.

The grassroots organization—headquartered in College Hill, but presenting its Guest Artist Series in downtown Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center—is honored to present one of modern dance’s most venerable choreographers, described by The New York Times “a rarity among his generation.” Doug Varone is known for his vision for the stage (whether it be dance, opera, or theatre), his company’s versatility, and their technical acuity.

In Cincinnati, the dance company—who has performed in Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America—will perform the repertory: (subject to change)

Carrugi (2012), performed by eight dancers to “La Betulla Liberata” by Mozart. The thirty-minute work was inspired by the winding, narrow streets and alleyways of Italy’s Liguria region.

Able to Leap Tall Buildings (2012), a duet set to music by Julia Wolfe’s haunting score Cruel Sister. Varone used super hero action figure dolls in stop motion poses, yielding a roller coaster of entangled images propelling this oddly tender duet forward in awkward jarring ways.

Lux (2006), performed by eight dancers to “The Light” by Philip Glass and originally commissioned by the Daniel and Dianne Vapnek Family Fund. The piece is vibrant and energetic, optimistic and resilient.

Contemporary Dance Theater is pleased to offer meaningful and unique opportunities for the public to interact with the New York City company. Patrons are invited to a meet-the-artists Q&A reception Friday evening following the performance (suggested donation $5). There will also be an in-theater Q&A following Saturday’s show. Students of dance are also invited to the rare opportunity to take class with the company on Saturday, November 2 from 10:30-12:00pm at Contemporary Dance Theater’s studios in College Hill.

In addition, Contemporary Dance Theater will bring Doug Varone and Dancers to two area elementary schools with high populations of at-risk children. There, Doug Varone and Dancers will conduct workshops in which the children will explore creative movement, imagination games, and storytelling. The presenter will also collaborate with the Contemporary Arts Center and UC DAAP in offering Varone’s “Liquid Architecture” workshop, in which participants will explore spatial and temporal ideas through movement based problem-solving tasks.

More information about Doug Varone and Dancers’ presentation by Contemporary Dance Theater is available from cdt-dance.org. Tickets, $22-32, are available from the Cincinnati Arts Association at 650 Walnut St., (513) 621-ARTS (2787), or cincinnatiarts.org. Patrons can save money with one of several versatile season subscription options, cdt-dance.org/subscribe.

The presentation of Doug Varone and Dances will be followed by the expressive and articulate Koresh Dance Company (from Philadelphia, co-presented by the Mayerson JCC, February 1 & 2, 2014), the theatrical and intelligent David Roussève / REALITY (from New York, March 21 & 22), the awe-inspiring hip-hop youth troupe Rennie Harris RHAW (from Philadelphia, May 2 & 3), and our region s Area Choreographers Festival (June 13 & 14).

The Contemporary Dance Theater Guest Artist Series is sponsored by the Otto M. Budig Family Foundation and is supported by the thousands of people who give generously to the ArtsWave Community Campaign. Support also comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Contemporary Dance Theater is also supported by The Ohio Arts Council, a state agency that supports public programs in the arts. Media sponsorship provided by CityBeat.


EVENT: Contemporary Dance Theater opens 41st season with the masterly Doug Varone and Dancers of NYC

VENUE: Aronoff Center for the Arts’ Jarson-Kaplan Theater, 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

DATES: Friday and Saturday, November 1 & 2, 8:30pm with meet-the-artists reception following Friday’s performance (suggested donation $5)

Also: dancers’ masterclass on Sat., Nov. 2 10:30-12:00pm (cdt-dance.org/masterclass)

TICKETS: $22-32 from (513) 621-ARTS (2787) or cincinnatiarts.org

MORE INFO: Visit cdt-dance.org/13varone

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Contemporary Dance Theater presents PERFORMANCE AND TIME ARTS SERIES October 21 and 22 at College Hill Town Hall

Choreographer and dancer Tricia Gelmini.

A project of Contemporary Dance Theater, Performance and Time Arts (PTA) is Cincinnati’s longest-running performance art series showcasing new work in dance, music, theater, spoken-word and multi-media. In the laboratory setting of the 1890s College Hill Town Hall, both seasoned and emerging artists are given the opportunity to share innovative work and experiments with Cincinnati audiences.

The first installment of Performance and Time Arts 2011-12 series will take place October 21 and 22 at College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45224. Both shows begin at 8:00pm.

Advance tickets may be purchased online at cdt-dance.org/pta through Thursday, October 20 for discounted rates at $12 general admission and $8 for students and seniors. After October 20, tickets are $15 general admission and $12 for students and seniors. Contemporary Dance Theater may be reached at (513) 591-1222.

The October program is curated by poet and performance artist F. KEITH WAHLE and features new work by Mr. Wahle, SCOTT DENNIS, TRICIA GELMINI, COLLEEN LEONARDI, PAUL SCHUETTE, KAZUAKI SHIOTA AND KAREN WISSEL SHIOTA.

– Scott Dennis, a cross-disciplinary artist living in Covington, Kentucky, will present poetry from his current manuscript, Season Finale.

– Tricia Gelmini will create a new dance piece for Performance and Time Arts. She is a freelance choreographer hailing from Yellow Springs, Ohio and a frequent contributor to both Performance and Time Arts and Contemporary Dance Theater’s area choreographers’ concerts.

– Colleen Leonardi is a writer, editor, choreographer and teacher based in Columbus, Ohio. She will perform a dance solo entitled “The Go In Her.”

– Musician Paul Schuette will use the unpredictability of mobile-making to create unique physical and sonic combinations for Performance and Time Arts. His music often incorporates computer software, homemade electronics, and video.

– Choreographers and composers Karen Wissel Shiota and Kazuaki Shiota return to Cincinnati from Japan to present their newest work with his interactive sound system, Human Motion Wind Chimes. The system allows her music to trigger new enchanting sounds.

– F. Keith Wahle is a widely published poet who holds and MFA degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He will perform a dramatic monologue entitled “The Things That I’m Afraid Of,” which takes place in an imaginary country that has recently undergone a brutal civil war.

For more information on PTA, please visit cdt-dance.org/pta or facebook.com/TimeArts.

Contemporary Dance Theater may be found online at cdt-dance.org, or on Facebook: facebook.com/contemporarydancetheater.

Contemporary Dance Theater receives general operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and the ArtsWave.

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