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David Shimotakahara

David Shimotakahara
“These artists are so adept at creating and working together and I think that’s what keeps them alive as performers. The company has been successful in performances because there is that energy. The artists are not just repeating and trying to live inside my idea of perfection.”

Founder of GroundWorks DanceTheater, David Shimotakahara came to Ohio in 1983 as a dancer in The Ohio Ballet. “The Ohio Ballet was a really well run organization under Heinz Poll. He had a very clear vision about what he wanted to do with a small sized chamber ballet company.” Being at The Ohio Ballet really helped Shimotakahara become more disciplined. He learned a great deal about choreography and dance in general by watching other dancers and learning their approaches to creating work. He has an endless fascination with choreography because turning an idea into a movement can be such a complex yet beautiful process.

After his time with The Ohio Ballet, Shimotakahara started his own dance company and enjoys both the administrative and artistic sides of work. “The administrative work often allows me to feel like I have really accomplished something. It is very satisfying for me to work like that. Creativity takes a lot of time, effort, and energy and you don’t always even know when you’re making progress.” Though he is very methodical about his creative process, “there is no right or wrong way to create. There is just what works, and I think the same can be said for running an organization. Each organization is different and has a unique culture and way of evolving. You have to be strategic and respond to what is happening within your organization.”

Shimotakahara founded GroundWorks DanceTheater, a dance company that creates and presents contemporary dance works, in 1998 and is the Executive Artistic Director. Cleveland has been a great place for Shimotakahara to have his own dance company. He loves the fact that Cleveland is always trying to reinvent itself and that it’s an arts centric town in many ways. “For a city its size, I don’t think there’s a comparable city in the country that has the amount of philanthropic support for the arts.”

Though you would never guess it with the success that he’s had in his career, Shimotakahara did not start dancing until after high school, (relatively late in the dance world). After graduating, Shimotakahara started taking theater classes, and while he was enrolled in a movement class, he discovered that he enjoyed dancing. “Something came alive for me. As a result, I started taking dance classes and after my second week I decided that dance was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”