Life at the College Town Hall

Children quickly move past a quartet of adult dancers. They glide across the floor and flutter their butterfly wings. It's a joyous sight. Life Cycle, local choreographer Linda Reiff's original dan

Mar 22, 2001 at 2:06 pm

Children quickly move past a quartet of adult dancers. They glide across the floor and flutter their butterfly wings. It's a joyous sight. Life Cycle, local choreographer Linda Reiff's original dance piece, is art at its most human level.

Life Cycle is about children experiencing dance and their parents who get to watch them. It's about local dancers having more opportunity to perform publicly. It's also a welcome opportunity to breathe more programming into the College Hill Town Hall. More importantly, Life Cycle offers Reiff a long-awaited chance to share her art with the Cincinnati community.

A recent Saturday afternoon rehearsal only hints at the scope of Reiff's dance piece. A small group of parents watch a cast of 22 adults and children explore various relationships between mothers and daughters.

It's impressive how the dancers represent all different shapes, sizes, ages and levels of expertise.

Reiff stands in the center of her assembled company. For Life Cycle, she plans to be a hands-on producer.

Writer Normandi Ellis helped polish the dancers' words into a finished script. Composer Kim Fitch sits at a folding table that functions as the sound board. Costumers David Warda, Lisa Schare and Carol Yarborough created the costumes. Later in the rehearsal, Yarborough visits to watch her daughter rehearse. Schare also has some costumes to mend.

Reiff is the artistic director behind Life Cycle, but she understands fully that it's a collaborative project.

There is plenty of work to do before the March 23-25 public performances. Still, it's already clear how Fitch's ambient music, Schare, Yarborough and Warda's costumes and Reiff's expressive choreography use the metaphor of a butterfly's life cycle to communicate its feminist message. Life Cycle combines movement and music in a cogent and creative manner.

"We're going to have to do a little fixing," Reiff yells to the dancers. Rehearsal resumes and the monologues spoken by the individual dancers are compelling.

One dancer, slowly twisting her body, says, "As an African-American woman, I was told I would have to work 10 times harder than the average white individual."

"I was told to keep my nose clean," says another. "I was told to do my best and that grades matter."

It's a struggle to hear the voices over the music. Then again, that's a problem rehearsals are meant to solve.

Like many independent arts performances, Life Cycle is low-scale. A simple white scrim is the backdrop. The sound board is on a folding table in the corner. Composer Kim Fitch sits huddled in a blanket. It appears that the building's furnace is malfunctioning again.

The College Hill Town Hall is miles from downtown's Aronoff Center. Located on a side street off Hamilton Avenue, one might say it's dramatically off the grid. Its off-center location helps keep rental rates affordable for individual artists like Reiff.

Basically, if it weren't for the College Hill Town Hall, Reiff isn't sure where she would have staged Life Cycle.

"I could never afford the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank or Jarson-Kaplan theaters," Reiff says, speaking a few days later at an O'Bryonville restaurant. "Besides, I want to support the Town Hall. Contemporary Dance Theater is based there. I've taught dance classes there. I want to see dance performed at the Town Hall on a regular basis."

Life Cycle's support came from in-kind donations and a city of Cincinnati grant. Reiff's goal is for ticket revenue to erase any outstanding debts.

Strong audience response will give Reiff and other local choreographers the encouragement to stage their own work more often. It will also breathe some much-needed energy into the College Hill Town Hall. The ultimate goal is for this run-down performance space to enjoy a life cycle of its own.

Life Cycle will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at College Hill Town Hall. Info: 513-591-1117.