Bill Wade, Choreographer


As a young man, “art that moves” intrigued Bill Wade, Executive/Artistic Director of Inlet Dance Theatre.

He briefly considered pursuing animation, which would have required parking himself at a desk for long periods, making drawing after drawing.

“I’m too hyper and don’t sit well,” he comments. “I need to run around and climb on things and other people.”

He experienced a lot of movement in his childhood, as his father’s career in sales took the Wade family to nearly every corner of the US.

When Bill attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he had the opportunity to take modern dance classes with performers from world-class dance companies such as Jose Limon Dance and Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of the 20th Century.

True, he had had a blast performing in high school musicals, but now the moving art he sought emerged with crystal clarity. “I finally recognized that dance is three-dimensional, happens in time and space, and it’s theater, which is the most like life of all the I arts I’d experienced,” he says. “Also, when you paint or sculpt, it’s about capturing a moment, but in dance theatre, you can create experiences.”

After his sophomore year, Bill received a full scholarship to participate in Milwaukee Ballet’s summer internship training program. When the company asked him to stay for the season, the decision was easy because he had learned more than he had in two years of college courses. A year later, though, he realized his preference for modern over classical style was getting in the way. In 1984, he joined Footpath Dance Company in Cleveland, where he enjoyed being mentored by artistic director Alice Rubenstein and later served as Interim Artistic Director.

When the company closed several years later, Bill accepted an offer from the Cleveland School of the Arts to teach two weeks of master classes. That quickly morphed into an 11-year career as an artist-in-residence. He fell in love with working with the kids and helping them transform their often difficult lives through dance. “Those kids have real stories from their lives,” he says. “I knew I could use what I had learned as a choreographer and share my art-making process so they could tell their stories.”

To help them do just that, Bill created an after-school dance program, Youth at Risk Dancing or YARD. He formed a professional relationship with the famed Pilobolus Dance Company and co-artistic director Alison Chase, who frequently visited Cleveland to work with the students. Their reimagining of a classic ballet, An Urban Nutcracker, landed them an article in Time Magazine. In 1998, Bill found himself chatting with NEA Director Bill Ivey and First Lady Hillary Clinton at the White House, when he received the Coming Up Taller Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

In 2001, Bill started his own company, Inlet Dance Theatre, so he could focus on developing his inventive and evocative compositions to transform dancers and audience members alike through the dance performance experience. In 2007, the Ohio Arts Council, PlayhouseSquare Foundation and several other organizations selected Bill to conduct a multi-phase international artist exchange program with artists from Easter Island, including a two-week residency for Inlet on Easter Island in April 2008.

“Every piece of art Bill creates relates to real-life experiences of people,” says Joshua Brown, dancer for Inlet, who went on the trip. “All of it has meaning, content and truth, rather than being abstract without any center or soul.”

On Friday, November 16, 2012, Inlet will premiere a seven-movement dance choreographed by Bill and inspired by his company’s experiences on Easter Island, Te Pito o te Henua (Center of the World), at the Hanna Theatre. Also that night, as part of the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion artist exchange program, Inlet will participate in a world premiere of a dance by Kapila Palihawadana, founder of nATANDA, the first contemporary dance company in Sri Lanka, who will be in residence with the company for several months in the fall.

Inlet recently began doing regional tours, and Bill is contemplating national and possibly international tours as a next step. “I like the idea of exporting Cleveland-made art,” he says.

Cleveland Arts Prize
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