Using Dance To Further People

By Melvin Twigg Mason

For over 35 years Bill Wade, founder and Artistic Director of Inlet Dance Theatre, has made it his business to expose urban audiences and at-risk youth to the joy and wonder of artistic dance.  By means of summertime recruitment and studies in dance, as well as indoor & outdoor presentations within greater Cleveland and beyond, such as Tremont West’s “Arts In August” event, the company is “using dance to further people.”

Inlet seeks to find talent and provide development opportunities to those who might otherwise have no access. “Hence the name of the company,” Wade says. “You know, let people in.”

Wade suggests that when you do what he does for a living, you pretty much know if a person has what it takes to be a serious dancer when they first walk through the door. And since part of his company’s mission is to recruit those who might otherwise be disenfranchised, he says “we look for fit more than previous training.” He recounts how Kevin Parker, a 25-year-old Inlet dancer, came into his program:

“We were doing a residency at Shaker Heights High, where Kevin went to high school, and that led to his participaton in three summer dance intensives. And at the end of these, I sat him down and said ‘man, you’re supposed to dance.’ So he joined the Inlet Apprentice program and he’s been with us ever since.”

Kevin (seen at right and below) continues the story:

“I was 16 when I joined my first dance intensive (with no dance experience!) and I didn’t even know that dance was something you could pursue professionally. It changed my world! At the time, I was thinking I was going to go to school for criminal law enforcement, but I took the chance and joined the Training & Apprentice program.  I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in love with this!’ And I’ve been with the company for 7 years now.”

Though Kevin’s family had expectations of him attending Ohio State, they soon came around to appreciate his fulfillment & satisfaction in dance. Kevin admits, “One of the things I appreciate about dance the most…there’s no shortcut to success. You have to put in the work. Though I am going to be transitioning to go back to college soon, I’m still going to find ways to move, and dance, and create, and perform.”

Now celebrating Inlet’s 20th season, Wade states, “We have dancers in the studios from all over the country…and over the last 20 years we’ve garnered a national and international reputation.” Yet his heart and eyes are still open to and, in essence, looking for that young person who sees one of their performances and says “I wanna learn how to do that!”

If you ever get the chance to see Inlet Dance Theatre, take advantage of it! Kevin encourages everyone to “just come to a performance. It’ll actually open up a perception for you…to other things that you didn’t know were available to you.” Inlet classes and rehearsals are held at The Cleveland Music Settlement. Their offices are nestled in the heart of Cleveland’s arts and academic district, University Circle. For information on upcoming classes, and/or performances  go to