Arts Alive Award 2023

Arts Alive Award:  An individual or individuals who give selflessly to the cause of advancing arts and culture in the community. Whether an artist, arts administrator, volunteer or patron, the nominee gives willingly and does so without seeking recognition

David Shimotakahara

David Shimotakahara is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of GroundWorks DanceTheater. Founded in 1998, GroundWorks challenges preconceptions about dance. The desire to push boundaries is evident in Shimotakahara’s bold initiative: to seek collaboration and input from guest choreographers of the highest caliber and to constantly evolve the repertoire of the company.

Over the past 25 years, GroundWorks has created and produced 110 original works. 58 of these have been commissioned from nationally and internationally renowned guest artists. In addition, Shimotakahara has contributed 52 pieces to the company’s repertoire. His work speaks to issues of our time surrounding individuality, place, and connectivity in ways that can inspire, transform, and delight through the beauty and power of movement.

Shimotakahara’s robust performance history includes the Atlanta Ballet, the Boston Repertory Ballet, Kathryn Posin Dance Company, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. He performed with Ohio Ballet under the direction of Heinz Poll from 1983-1999. He also served as Rehearsal Assistant for Ohio Ballet from 1989-1999. From 1989-97, Shimotakahara founded and was Director of New Steps. This acclaimed dance project offered a variety of programs that stimulated the creation and growth of new choreography in Northeast Ohio. Shimotakahara has choreographed for opera and theater with the Cleveland Opera, Great Lakes Theater Festival, and the Dallas Theater Center. He served on the Carlisle Project advisory panel in 1996, and dance panels for the Ohio Arts Council, Illinois Arts Council, the Mid Atlantic Arts Alliance, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received eight Individual Artist Fellowships for Choreography from the Ohio Arts Council between 1996 and 2016. In 1998, he received a McKnight Foundation Fellowship from the Minnesota Dance Alliance to create new work in the Minneapolis and St. Paul communities. Shimotakahara was awarded the 2000 Cleveland Arts Prize for Dance. In 2002, his work with GroundWorks DanceTheater was voted “One of 25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine. In 2007, he received the OhioDance award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of the Dance Artform. Shimotakahara was a 2008 recipient of the first COSE Arts and Business Innovation awards as the founder of GroundWorks DanceTheater. In 2010, Shimotakahara received a Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. He served on the Board of DanceUSA from 2014 to 2018, and on the Board of Ohio Citizens for the Arts from 2019 to 2022. He is currently an Executive Committee member with the Ohio Arts Education Consortium.

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