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  • Steve Sucato

GroundWorks DanceTheater Founding Artistic Director David Shimotakahara Receives 2023 Arts Alive Award

By Steve Sucato

GroundWorks DanceTheater Founding Artistic Director David Shimotakahara has been recognized with Summit Artspace’s titular Arts Alive Award for 2023. The Arts Alive Award is given to 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.

“I am very touched by this award,” says Shimotakahara. “For 15 years as a performer with Heinz Poll’s Ohio Ballet, and for the past 25 years through my work as the Founding Artistic Director of GroundWorks DanceTheater, it has been a privilege to be able to share my dreams and mine and the company’s work with people across Summit County. Dance has made and continues to make possible so many vital and memorable connections in the Akron area community, and it means so much to know it has been valued. I am grateful on behalf of everyone who has helped realize the work for this recognition.”

Since 2002, Summit Artspace’s annual Arts Alive Awards have recognized gifted artists, talented arts educators, and change-making advocates who bring the arts to life and shape the Summit County community’s culture. 

The Arts Alive Awards benefit reception celebrating honorees in 14 categories takes place on June 22, 2023, from 6-9 p.m. at Summit Artspace, 140 East Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44308. 

The in-person event celebrating the 2023 recipients and benefiting Summit Artspace includes open galleries and artwork, music and entertainment, and a special program honoring the 2023 recipients. Heavy appetizers, desserts, and signature cocktails will be served. Tickets can be purchased on Summit Artspaces’s website. 

Those who cannot attend in person may register for the 30-minute prerecorded Virtual Ceremony Broadcast.


David Shimotakahara has been a member of the Atlanta Ballet, 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. Mr. 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 been awarded 8 Individual Artist Fellowships for Choreography from the Ohio Arts Council from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Shimotakahara received 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. Mr. Shimotakahara was a 2008 recipient of the first COSE Arts and Business Innovation award as the founder of GroundWorks DanceTheater. In 2010 and 2013, Shimotakahara received a Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.


GroundWorks DanceTheater is a contemporary dance company founded in 1998 by Founding Artistic Director, David Shimotakahara. Entering its 25th Anniversary Year, GroundWorks is nationally recognized for its contribution to the art form and the enrichment of human experiences in collaboration with some of the most innovative voices in dance today. Work that is created, produced, and supported in Northeast Ohio. GroundWorks’ collaborative philosophy informs its work in the studio, on stage, and in the community. It expands the ways dance is shared and engages with and enlivens the communities we serve. Fundamental to GroundWorks is the fostering of new choreography and challenging preconceptions about dance. This group of outstanding artists has introduced dance lovers and neophytes alike to an experience that is unconventional yet deeply human and resonating. The desire to push boundaries is evident in Shimotakahara’s bold initiative: To constantly seek collaboration and input from ground-breaking choreographers of the highest caliber and to make certain that the repertoire of the company is constantly evolving. The company performs new works by Shimotakahara, as well as commissioned work by nationally and internationally acclaimed choreographers, including GroundWorks Artist in Residence Antonio Brown, Rena Butler, Sidra Bell, Peter Chu, Dianne McIntyre, Robyn Mineko Williams, Adam Barruch, Gina Gibney, David Parker, Brian Brooks, James Gregg, and many others. Now in its third decade, GroundWorks looks toward its future, having earned solid support and a growing audience base as more and more people discover what the Cleveland Plain Dealer has described as the “smoldering brilliance” of one of “Cleveland’s cultural gems.”


Summit Artspace is a nonprofit arts organization that strives to support artists throughout every step of the creative process. Located in the Historic Arts District in downtown Akron, it is a hub for artists and arts supporters to connect and share ideas. With affordable studio spaces available to artists and creative organizations, the building is bustling with inspiration at every corner. Four times each year, Summit Artspace rotates exhibitions in its five galleries, allowing the public to access incredible art for free. It also coordinates public programs, such as ArtWalk, which engage the community with art and local creators.



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