Artist-in-Residence: David Shimotakahara of GroundWorks

David Shim
David Shimotakahara

Every other year, Hathaway Brown welcomes a performing artist for a weeklong artist-in-residence made possible by the Patrons for the Performing Arts Endowment Fund. This year’s performing arts residency features Dance Magazine’s Top 25 Dancers to Watch, David Shimotakahara, an award-winning choreographer and founding artistic director of the Cleveland-based company, GroundWorks Dance Theater. The mission of GroundWorks is to create and present groundbreaking contemporary dance as a leader in engaging, educating and enlivening communities. GroundWorks has a deep commitment to creating meaningful experiences, and dedicated to unique and innovative artistry. Shimotakahara and GroundWorks company members will be in Residence at HB from Monday, November 30 through Friday, December 4, teaching classes in all divisions, offering a sharing of works during assemblies, and a community master class for all Upper School students and faculty.

Director of Upper School Dance, Falon Baltzell, explains more in our blog Q&A!

Q: How does GroundWorks Residency tie into the HB overall curriculum?
A: “We learn not for school but for life” is an essential part of the HB curriculum because it offers a well-rounded education that transcends the classroom. GroundWorks Dance Theater incorporates this motto by using the art form of dance as a platform for risk-taking, creating meaningful experiences and exchanges, building community, and serving as a regional arts leader.

Q: Why was GroundWorks for this prestigious Artist-in-Residency Program?
The performing arts department rotates the Patrons for the Performing Arts Endowment Fund each year, in which programs within the department (Choral, Theatre, Orchestra, Dance) receive the fund once every three years. The Dance program is elated to invite GroundWorks Dance Theater as our selection for the dance Artist-in-Residency because this group of outstanding artists introduces the audience to an experience that is unconventional, yet deeply human and resonating, and a lot of us can relate to the experiences they have onstage.

Q: What is the Upper School Dance curriculum?
A: Our modern dance program incorporates curriculum from my undergraduate studies in dance education and graduate studies in performance and choreography because I believe in offering the students an advanced education that fosters learning beyond the classroom and into our daily lives. The students investigate dance theory by learning a new language of Bartenieff Fundamentals, an approach to basic body training that deals with patterning connections in the body, and also Laban Movement Analysis, a codified system of describing, visualizing, and embodying movement. The students apply this somatic and theoretical knowledge to classroom experiences and daily movements. For example, I ask students to notice how they pick up their backpack; did they lift without using their legs? I invite them to soften their knees, yield and push into the floor with their feet, and lift the backpack with their scapula rather than their arm socket that could cause lower back pain. This imagery and body knowledge offers a safe approach to lifting an otherwise very heavy backpack, and the more the students incorporate classroom knowledge into their daily lives, the more the students will grow as artists. On the continuum of advancing skill sets in dance, the students learn about the history of dance and how the pioneers who came before them and paved the way for what dance is in the 21st century. The history of dance introduces us to dance critics and how their opinions influenced what was and is projected by the media, ultimately having an impact on the art itself. Throughout the year, students learn about pedagogy, the art of teaching, because the students teach one another during classes, workshops, rehearsals, and during community outreach. Through their application of teaching, the students create choreography for the classroom and the concert stage, making their art accessible to audience members. It is truly an honor to share my college and graduate education with the students, and to witness their individual growth throughout the school year.

In addition to this weeklong residency for dance students, Hathaway Brown will offer a free community dance program on Tuesday, December 1 at 3:30 p.m. No dance experience necessary!

Learn more about Performing Arts at HB!


Falon Baltzell is the Upper School Dance Teacher at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Falon Baltzell is the Upper School Dance Teacher at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s