Surfacing memories into movement

By November 3, 2017No Comments

Choreographer, Dianne McIntyre brings the stories of seniors to life  

Verb Ballet had the honor of working with guest choreographer and multi-award-winning artist Dianne McIntyre. Her career spans four decades with choreography for dance, theatre, television and film. Through the support of the NEA Challenge America grant Verb Ballets produced Dancing Memories: Lost & Found- a legacy dance project of a group of seniors at underserved assisted living facilities in Cleveland.

The project brought to life the personal stories of residents at, Eliza Bryant Village and Eliza Jennings Skilled Nursing Facility, in dance pieces celebrating the triumph of the human spirit. Dianne McIntyre met with the medical staff and went from room to room engaging in conversations with the residents. Dianne McIntyre was so moved by their stories, she decided to tell the stories of all eleven residents who agreed to be interviewed. Many hours of invaluable help with translations for the foreign speaking residents lead by Nathanael Santiago, a Verb dancer, also works as a professional translator for the Spanish, Portuguese, French and English languages. From these conversations she learned of their amazing history, ranging from someone who was a member of the original Black Panthers, to a woman from Scotland who immigrated to the US as a child, to a woman who ran a speakeasy from her house, to a woman who was 102 years old and had made light bulbs for GE her whole life.

Choreographer, Dianne McIntyre utilized the Verb dancers not only as dancers but also as singers and actors in the piece. McIntyre created an evening length work for their memories to come alive through dance and the end result was unforgettable. The dances were then performed by Verb Ballets dancers for the participants and residents at each assisted living facility, as well as in a one night only public performance for the community and family members. Families across multiple generations came together see the stories of their families in the studio. “My family was there to support my father. It was nice family gathering for the younger great grandkids of my father. Would love to come again”, daughter of Joseph Burton.

The staff was universally moved to tears by the performances and explained how one the resident since coming had never left her room or engaged in anything but rudimentary conversations with the staff. For the performance she came out of her room to see her story and burst to life singing and moving to the music. She also insisted on coming to the performance in the studio after not leaving the facility for two years. Her life was changed by this experience. She now leaves her room every day to eat in the dining hall, talks to everyone she passes and participates in the home activities. The dancers were deeply moved when they saw how important their work was to the lives involved and honor to have brought their stories to life. Verb Ballets is grateful for the support of The

National Endowment for the Arts in supporting this project that help to connect generations in a new way and bring legacy through dance.


Dianne McIntyre

Dianne McIntyre choreographs for concert dance, theatre, opera and film. Much of her work explores African American themes through dance, music and literature. Her many honors include a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award, John S. Guggenheim Fellowship, three Bessies (NY Dance and Performance Award), two Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees (State University of New York at Purchase and Cleveland State University), two AUDELCOs (NY Black theatre), Helen Hayes Award (DC theatre), Cuyahoga County Creative Workforce Fellowship, television Emmy nomination, three-year National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship and numerous grants. She has developed works for professional and university dance companies including Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, GroundWorks Dance Theater, Dancing Wheels, CSU, OSU and numerous others. Her own ensembles of dancers and musicians have performed throughout the US and Europe. She has worked with celebrated artists like Olu Dara, Lester Bowie, Ntozake Shange, Cecil Taylor, Hannibal, Regina Taylor, Des McAnuff, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Jonathan Demme, Don Pullen, Douglas Turner Ward, Peabo Bryson, Irene Lewis. Her screen choreography includes “Beloved”, “Miss Evers’ Boys”, Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper” and “Fun Size”. In 2015-16, Ms. McIntyre was the Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Spelman College. She was recently in residence at Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) in New York to begin development of a new work and, this spring, the process is scheduled to continue in the Alan M. Kriegsman Creative Residency at Dance Place in Washington, DC. Her mentors include Gus Solomons Jrr, Elaine Redmond, The Ohio State University dance faculty, Louise Roberts of Clark Center and Rick Davis in theatre arts.