Akron Celebrates 44th year of Free Summer Dance Performances

The 11th Annual Heinz Poll Dance Festival
Free beginners’ classes for children and Sunday Symphonies extend the arts experience

Summer Dance

(Akron, Ohio. July 3, 2017) Akron area families will be treated to four weekends of free dance and orchestra performances in the parks again this summer, thanks to the support of the City of Akron and local foundations.  The 11th annual Heinz Poll Dance Festival is expected to attract ten thousand visitors for the 44th consecutive year.

The 2017 season is supported in part through an award from the Akron Knight Arts Challenge.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing funding to bring more professional dancers into Akron, and to support the professional musicians of the Akron Symphony.

Heinz Poll began the summer series in 1974 and his Ohio Ballet continued the summer concerts until it closed in 2006.  The City of Akron created the festival in 2007 to recognize the legacy of the founding artistic director of Ohio Ballet to keep the tradition alive.

“Akron is the only community in the United States that has established a free summer festival featuring the highest quality professional dance companies and sustained it for so many years.”  -Mayor Dan Horrigan

The dance programs are presented at 8:45pm on Friday and Saturday evenings.  The dates, the companies, and the locations for this year’s Heinz Poll Festival are as follows:

  • July 21 - 22 - Neos Dance Theater at Hardesty Park.  The regional company has performed in over 10 states, with over 8 major symphonies, and has collected a repertoire of well-known international choreographers.  The company is committed to taking dance everywhere, breaking barriers with new audiences while maintaining their faithful audiences!  Program TBA
  • July 28 - 29 - Verb Ballets at FIrestone Park.  The Cleveland-based company presents cutting edge choreography paired with classical balletic works that have moved audiences for decades.  The company in comprised of many Akron dancers and will perform a program containing several new works.  Program TBA
  • Aug 4 - 5 - GroundWorks Dance Theater at Goodyear Metro Park.  The Akron-Cleveland company is nationally recognized for making a unique contribution to the art form and enriching human experiences through the creation of original contemporary dance.  Program TBA
  • Aug 11 - 12 - Urban Bush Women at Glendale Cemetery.  The New York company presents the new full length work, presented around the country and at the Kennedy Center - "Walking with Trane" - to music by John Coltrane.  This new work explores the legacy of jazz musician John Coltrane, visualizing his life's work through dance and eye-catching multimedia components.

A children’s program begins at 7:45pm each night produced by the University of Akron’s Dance Institute.  Children are encouraged to have their first experience on the festival stage just before the professional companies perform.

The festival’s partnership with the University of Akron includes master classes by the visiting companies during the festival - offered every Saturday morning at 11am - and the weekly interactive programs for children.

Free Beginners’ Classes for Youngsters

As part of its outreach program to neighborhoods in which the performances occur each week, the City and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation are supporting free “Beginners Dance” classes in four community centers each week of the festival.

Instructors who have been part of Ballet Excel’s “Reach Out & Dance” program in the Akron Public Schools will use elements of dance foundations in ballet, jazz and hip-hop to create new dances.  Children eligible for the free classes are those going into the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.

The classes will be held during each week of the festival - Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:30 – 11:30 am:

  • July 18 - 20 Northwest Community Center
  • July 25 - 27 - Firestone Park Community Center
  • Aug 1 - 3 - Reservoir Park Community Center
  • Aug 8 - 10 - Balch Street Community Center

On their first day, instructors will build a dance vocabulary, and teach different methods of dance creation on days two and three.  Children will mimic the different styles and techniques they will see performed on stage.  During the weekend, the beginner dancers will get a backstage tour.  All classes are taught by professional dancers.  The sessions are free, and no prior experience or advance registration is necessary.

Dance Stage to be shared with Akron Symphony on Sundays

The schedule for 2017 is as follows:

  • July 23, Hardesty Park
  • July 30, Firestone Park
  • August 6, Goodyear Metro Park
  • August 13 Glendale Cemetery
All concerts feature the “Maestro’s Zone” for children, where they will have a chance to conduct the orchestra with the maestro.


A founding sponsor of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival is Akron Community Foundation, which manages endowments established for Ohio Ballet created by the Knight and GAR Foundations.

The festival also receives support from the Ohio Arts Council, and “Friends of the Festival,” individuals who have made contributions in Poll’s memory and in support of continuing the summer tradition.

For More Information: www.akrondancefestival.org

Jane Startzman, Director, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, 330.535.3179, janestartzman@gmail.com

Paul Jarrett, Manager, Akron Symphony, 330.535.8131

Dave Lieberth, 234.738.0003, david.lieberth@gmail.com