Mayor Horrigan Announces the 2023 Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival

Internationally acclaimed, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company returns along with exceptional Ohio dance companies

For Immediate Release
Contact: City of Akron Press Office or 330-375-2754
Jane Startzman, Director, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival or 330.990.5263

Akron, Ohio, May 31, 2023 - Today, Mayor Horrigan announced that the City of Akron will continue its 49-year tradition of presenting free professional dance performances in city parks. The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival will once again offer three weeks filled with dance experience opportunities from July 28 through August 12.

Internationally acclaimed, Dayton Contemporary Dance Co., plus respected Northeast Ohio dance companies Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” (formerly Verb Ballets) and GroundWorks DanceTheater, shape the core of the festival this year, with Inlet Dance Theatre adding a new performance at the Akron Art Museum. The city will offer free Friday and Saturday night performances in Akron area parks augmented with educational and community performances in the city’s neighborhood community centers, and in collaboration with new partners, Akron Art Museum and Shaw JCC, building on expansion from last year.

Heinz Poll began the summer series in 1974 with his company of dancers that became Ohio Ballet, and continued the tradition until the company closed in 2006. The City of Akron created the festival in 2007 in recognition of the legacy of the internationally-recognized choreographer and founding artistic director of Ohio Ballet.

Featured Dance Companies and programs

Weekend One – July 28 and 29 – Forest Lodge Park – performances at 8:45pm

  • The festival opens with Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” on July 28 and 29 at Forest Lodge Park (260 Greenwood Ave). The program will feature a rare opportunity to witness the company's participation in the Centennial Celebration of Gerald Arpino, Co-Founder and former Artistic Director of the renowned Joffrey Ballet. Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” has the distinct privilege of being the only company, other than Joffrey, to ever perform Arpino's iconic work, Celebration. This extraordinary opportunity allows audiences to experience the awe-inspiring artistry and captivating choreography synonymous with Arpino and the Joffrey Ballet. The program will also feature Artistic Associate Director Richard Dickinson's creation, Four Last Songs. This poignant ballet explores the theme of loss through emotionally charged movement and powerful storytelling. The performance, accompanied by a mezzo-soprano singing the lush poetry of Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff, is set to Richard Strauss' hauntingly beautiful music. To complete the program, the company will present the world premiere of Bacchanale, choreographed by Robert Gardner. It will be a new conception of the work by that name, originally choreographed by Anna Pavlova for Sergei Diaghelev's Ballets Russes. Verb, “Ohio Contemporary Ballet” continues to honor the rich history of ballet while commissioning new works that are reflective of our times.

Weekend Two – August 4 and 5 – Firestone Park – performances at 8:45 pm

  • The festival will close week three on August 12 and 13 at Goodyear Heights Metro Park (2077 Newton St.) with world-renowned Pilobolus, turning fifty this year! The remarkable company that secured an iconic place in American culture in the early 1970s is still wowing audiences with its irresistible mix of wit and stunning physical acumen. Now, to celebrate fifty amazing years, the BIG FIVE-OH! tour brings audiences a mix of pieces ranging from the vintage and visionary to the fresh and electrifying. And in the paradoxical Pilobolus tradition of breaking with tradition, the tour presents works dynamically reimagined for a never-before-seen Pilobolus experience.

Weekend Three – August 11 and 12– Goodyear Heights Metro Park – performances at 8:45 pm

  • The festival will close week three on August 11 and 12 at Goodyear Heights Metro Park (2077 Newton St.) with world-renowned Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. (DCDC). Grounded in the African American Tradition, celebrating its 55th Season, DCDC kicks off its touring season with a return performance to the Heinz Poll Festival, telling the stories of humanity in ways that are accessible to all viewers through dynamic displays of athleticism and heart. The magnificent and diverse voices of the choreographers from within the company are displayed. Traffic by Debbie Blunden-Diggs is a timeless work emphasizing people's everyday encounters in the world's chaos and order. Shonna Hickman-Matlock's Moments of Indecision reveals the tumultuous emotions of a relationship on the verge of change. A gripping and driving work, Deep/End, by Elizabeth Ramsey, places communal despair and a sense of hopelessness on display for all to see. Rounding out the concert is a fan favorite. The Story Unfolds, set to the music of Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, and Chaka Khan, is a nostalgic tribute to women's love choreographed by the late William B. McClellan Jr.

All three companies will offer master classes for advanced dance students at The University of Akron on Saturday mornings at 11 am during the festival weeks. Registration is required. See website for details.

Festival director, Jane Startzman emphasizes the importance of presenting new work as well as established choreography. “It is part of our mission to present our audiences with dance that may be familiar as well as the new and unexpected. We offer diverse programming, presenting excellent, respected professional dance companies to everyone, free of charge, as a gift to the community. This dance festival is unique in the US in that we move from neighborhood to neighborhood. We are considered one of the top four outdoor dance festivals in the nation.”

New partnerships and expanded programming!

This year, the dance festival continues to reach into new venues with educational and community performances. Inlet Dance Theatre, whose core strengths reside equally in performance and education, will present narrated performances including sections of Inlet’s repertory, a new all-male work collaboratively created with Ghanaian dancers/choreographers, and Polynesian dancers from Pacific Paradis Entertainment who will share traditional Polynesian dances. Educational performances will take place on August 1 at Patterson Park Community Center at 10:30am and at Joy Park Community Center at 1:30pm.

NEW this year, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, partners with the Akron Art Museum to present Inlet Dance Theatre at the museum on August 3 at 6:30pm and with Shaw JCC presenting Inlet on August 9 at 2pm.

The University of Akron remains the dance festival’s residency partner, providing studio space and residency activity support for all artists, and young dancers who attend the master classes. The University of Akron’s Dance Institute, in collaboration with ArtSparks, offers their popular pre-show interactive program that allows young children to learn a bit of dance and experience what it is like to be onstage.

The festival continues to work with partners Summit DD and Direction Home to explore new ways to improve accessibility to the free park performances and improve inclusivity for everyone, supplying sensory bags, information and programs with larger print.

The City of Akron sponsors and presents the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, receiving major support from generous funders including but not limited to, founding and sustaining sponsor, Akron Community Foundation, along with Peg’s Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, and Hilton Garden Inn.

Please refer to for a full schedule and details on dates and times.

The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival relies solely on the assistance of generous funders and sponsors, as well as donations from friends and individuals of the festival. Anyone interested in donating can do so via the website or by contacting 330-990-5263.

For more information, please visit