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Published: Thursday, 3/18/2010

Toledo Ballet's ‘Press One' interprets our times

Like most Americans age 18 and up, dancer/choreographer Michael Lang keeps his cell phone handy.

“I started thinking about when we were growing up and didn't have cell phones,” he said Sunday, before rehearsal of his new theatrical dance opus, Press One for More Options, began.

Lang didn't stop there. “I kept going back to the time when we used drums to communicate over a distance.”

When the Toledo Ballet opens its performance of Press One at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the Valentine Theatre, there will be a cell phone onstage. And African drums.

Through varied dance and musical styles in 15 sections, Lang will explore the topic of modern communication and its impact on our lives, heads, and hearts.

As artistic director for this production, he choreographed 14 of them. His wife, Lisa Mayer Lang, head of the Toledo Ballet School, took care of No. 15.

Lang himself will launch the theme and build on it with a series of cell phone scenarios. Take the opening: Lang paces downstage, cell phone clutched to his ear, as he first encounters the complicated voice-mail systems which have become ubiquitous in American life.

“Hello? Hello? Is anyone listening?”

With that cue, dancers leap into action and Alma drummers Allison Kodeih, Yaya Kabo, and Pevely (“One name. Like Madonna,” he explains) vigorously attack their drums, the African djembe and dundun. Tracks of compelling world music by O Saya and other groups adds to the aural fervor as dancers stretch and compress, spin, and writhe.

Each section will explore aspects of the impact of modern communication on our lives, explains Lang.

Dancers come from the Toledo Ballet company and faculty, and the community, all chosen by earlier auditions. Guest dancers from the University of Michigan will perform “Vulnerable,” a piece Lang created.

The downtown will be humming Saturday as the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo also presents its annual gala, The Mix 2010, from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. in the Secor Building, 425 Jefferson Ave.

Tickets for ‘‘Press One'' at $20-$35 are available at the Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St., by phone at 419-242-2787, or online at valentinetheatre.com. Tickets for The Mix 2010 are $75 each, but mutual ticket discounts are being offered by both groups.

— Sally Vallongo

Contact Sally Vallongo at svallongo@theblade.com.

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