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Leaping Off the Wall rehearsal image

‘Leaping off the Wall’ with MorrisonDance at IngenuityFest

In 1997, MorrisonDance was the first modern dance company to broadcast a performance live on the Internet. Now, in 2017, MorrisonDance continues to be a force for innovation in the dance community. At Cleveland’s IngenuityFest, held this year from Sept. 22 to 24, the company will unveil a new vertical dance performance called Leaping off the Wall.

So, what exactly is vertical dance?

Vertical dancing is a multidisciplinary dance style that merges traditional dance techniques with climbing.

 “Combining these two worlds, it’s going to start something,” said Dana Wasielewski, a dancer within the company.MorrisonDance company members earn their belay certification

Sarah Morrison, founder and director of MorrisonDance, said she has been inspired by the “wall” works of Trisha Brown of Project Bandaloop and even a solo wall-dancer at Cleveland Public Theatre’s “Pandemonium” event. She said she has used these as a “jumping off point” with the goal to create “a fully developed wall dance.”

In addition to the vertical dance elements, MorrisonDance’s IngenuityFest performance features video projects produced by Kevin Jackson. Performances of Leaping off the Wall are slated for September 22 and 23 at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. 

Morrison began her career in dance with Lee Harper and Dancers in Atlanta, Georgia, before being offered a scholarship from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Making her new home in Northeast Ohio, Sarah was a 2009 recipient of an Ohio Arts Council (OAC) Individual Excellence Award. She currently teaches classes at Baldwin Wallace University and Cuyahoga Community College.

MorrisonDance was featured in the first three years of Ingenuity Cleveland’s IngenuityFest in unprecedented collaborations with BrainMaster and NASA. Morrison said she looks forward to bringing more innovative performance work to the festival, especially after receiving an ArtsNEXT grant during the Ohio Arts Council’s initial and major FY 2018 funding round.

“This is a pioneering experience, (and) it was worth it to explore,” Morrison said of collaborating with IngenuityFest Director Emily Appelbaum and applying for funding from the OAC. 

Leaping Off the Wall rehearsal image. Salina Bartunek-Andrews training Mary PatThe OAC’s funding provided “the financial ability to get the training to take the next step,” Morrison said, adding that the company received training from climbing expert Salina Bartunek-Andrews in order to prepare for the vertical dance performance.

“We’re not just throwing up some eye candy,” Bartunek-Andrews said. “I’d rather do excellent work and take it back to the basics.”

Wasielewski said this approach has guided the overall process of learning the choreography.

“Simplicity is a key point in the performance,” she said. “It so different that anything I’ve seen done in the Cleveland community.”

Leaping off the Wall is aimed at bringing this type of collaborative dance to a broader audience, Morrison said.

“We’ve reached people in every city in Cuyahoga County. We hope to excite new communities and audiences with this performance,” she said. “There is the expectation of what dancing is, and our goal is to present dancing in a way that defies expectations.” 

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18  Social Media and Events Fellow
Featured photo: Leaping Off the Wall rehearsal image. Image courtesy of MorrisonDance,
Other photos: MorrisonDance company members earn their belay certification; Salina Bartunek-Andrews training Mary Pat. All images courtesy of MorrisonDance.

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