As The Movement Project moves into the closing of summer, the next large event for TMP and Cleveland dance looms on the horizon; The Cleveland Dance Fest. In light of the upcoming festival, I decided to chat with the woman who founded it: Rebecca Leuszler. On top of many accomplishments, including co-founding The Movement Project itself, she’s most recently become a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellow and has used this position to create the festival. Rebecca has been an active member of the Cleveland dance scene for many years, and is currently working to create a more interactive and conducive community among professional dance artists in the city, as well as creating ties between dance and the community at large.

You've been a member of the Cleveland dance community for many years. Do you think the community is lacking in anything? Needs more of something?

I believe one of the greatest things the dance community is lacking is space....affordable, accessible, and rent[able] space! I truly believe this is one of the main reasons artists have a difficult time creating work. There are not enough spaces that dancers/artists/choreographers can use to develop/create, to share/collaborate, to study/discuss, and to perform/showcase their work.

Is this what sparked your desire to begin the Cleveland Dance Fest?

Yes! This is the only reason I wanted to create CDF. To give artists (especially independent artists) a platform to showcase their work to the Cleveland Community. I wanted to provide resources and funding for artists to create new and innovative work.

What was the process of becoming a Creative Workforce Fellow like?

I started researching opportunities that organizations and foundations were giving to independent artists in Cleveland. I came across the Creative Workforce Fellowship Grant and decided to apply. What really intrigued me was the grant process. CPAC had me identify in what ways my work could contribute to my community. [These] questions jump-started my idea on creating space for dance in my community.

When did you decide to use this grant to create CDF? Did you go in knowing that this was your end goal? Or did you originally have something else in mind?

The idea really came from listening to what my community really needed. In this case it was support. I started brainstorming ideas with my business partner and sister Megan Lee Gargano [on] what ways we could create the biggest impact in our community. We came up with the Cleveland Dance Fest, which is not only giving opportunities to my local and fellow artists, but we are also providing a free two-night run of CDF as well as 8 free master classes to our community. The Cleveland community will get the chance to also see some brand new artists in Cleveland.  

You and your sister, Megan, started TMP in 2009, basing it in this city. What about Cleveland made you decide to stay here?

Cleveland has always been dear and near to my heart, born and raised in North Royalton a short twenty minute drive from downtown. This city has had its ups and downs but our community always seems to overcome every obstacle. I think what I love most about my city is that I never feel as if I am alone. There is always someone there to help, to offer advice, to connect with, to collaborate, to lend a hand. This community is very unique and I am so blessed to live in this city.