The city of Akron will continue a 30-year tradition of presenting free dance performances in its parks during the summer; and at the same time the city will honor the legacy of the legendary founding artistic director of Ohio Ballet -- Akron's first professional dance company.

"Generations of children have experienced the joy of watching ballet on an outdoor stage on an August night," said Don Plusquellic, Akron mayor. "We're especially pleased to offer these performances for all of the families in the Greater Akron area in memory of Heinz Poll."

This summer, the city of Akron will sponsor The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival: four consecutive weekends of ballet featuring four professional dance companies: Ballet Theatre of Ohio, GroundWorks Dancetheater, Verb Ballets, and Ballet Met. The programs will be presented July 27 through August 18, and will include a nightly interactive presentation for children. The University of Akron's Dance Institute will present the children's program on three of the four weekends.

The German-born Heinz Poll came to Akron in 1967 and offered classes to promising students. In 1974, with lighting designer Thomas Skelton, he founded Akron's first professional company, which eventually became Ohio Ballet. Poll died in April 2006.

The new Akron dance festival is the result of an effort initiated by the mayor last year to determine the future of the Ohio Ballet, which gave its final performance Aug. 6, 2006 at Goodyear Metropolitan Park.

"Akron's most important link to the international world of dance has been Heinz Poll," said the mayor's chief of staff Dave Lieberth, who chaired the committee. "Poll made important contributions to Akron over a period of almost 40 years, and it is fitting that we remember his legacy -- demanding the highest standards of dance."

Performances for the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival will begin at 8:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, with a children's program starting at 7:45 p.m. each night:

* July 27, 28 -- Ballet Theatre of Ohio at Hardesty Park (Akron's Art Expo);

* Aug. 3, 4 -- GroundWorks Dancetheater at Cascade Plaza;

* Aug. 10, 11 -- Verb Ballets at Goodyear Metro Park; and

* Aug. 17, 18 -- BalletMet at Firestone Park.

Also part of this year's festival are an Ohio Ballet photo exhibit and a panel discussion on July 25 at the Francia Albrecht Studio at the University of Akron's dance center at Guzzetta Hall. The Festival's founding committee will discuss "The Poll Legacy."

Each of the four companies have rights to perform works created by Ohio Ballet's founder, and some of Akron's favorite Heinz Poll works will be included in the summer 2007 repertoire.

GroundWorks Dancetheater will stage Poll's "Tristeza." Verb will include "Wings and Aires" by Poll. Ballet Theatre of Ohio will choose from "Adagio for Two Dancers" and "Summer Night," and BalletMet expects to re-stage Poll's "Bolero."

"Besides creating a professional dance company of national stature and taking it to New York City for five seasons, Heinz Poll created this special summer experience," says Jane Startzman, director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. "Everyone told him that he was crazy, but he was accustomed to accomplishing what others thought impossible. This year's festival is a perfect tribute to Heinz' legacy and a wonderful gift to the community."

Other Founding members of the steering committee include:

* David Shimotakahara, founder and artistic director of GroundWorks Dancetheater, who danced with Ohio Ballet from 1983 until 1998. He became a ballet master and began his choreographic career while dancing for Heinz;

* Christine Meneer, artistic director of Ballet Theatre of Ohio, who as a young student, danced for Ohio Ballet's first performances at Cascade Plaza in 1975, and later founded Children's Ballet Theater, predecessor to the present group;

* Dr. Margaret Carlson, executive director of Verb Ballets, a former student of Poll's who worked with the late choreographer in obtaining five of Poll's works for Verb's present repertoire;

* Lana Carroll Heylock, Head of the Dance Institute at the University of Akron, also one of the original students and dancers of Ohio Ballet; and

* Startzman, director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, who danced with Ohio Ballet from 1969 to 1989 and later served for 10 years as artistic administrator and company manager for Ohio Ballet.

Other founding members of the Festival steering committee include Lieberth, deputy mayor of Akron; Neil Sapienza, Acting Director of the School of Dance, Theater, & Arts Administration at the University of Akron; and Christine Amer Mayer and Leslie Nelson of the GAR Foundation.