City’s Biggest Arts Ambassadors

This House Has An Incredible History, But Its Present Might Be Even More Impressive

This Charming East Walnut Hills House Is Home To Some Of The City’s Biggest Arts Ambassadors

2331 Park Ave - Exterior.jpg

Tatiana Berman is a talented musician, artist, and the founder of Constella Festival. David Donnelly is an artist, writer, and film director.Their world has a soundtrack all its own. Whether it's on stage, on film, or on a canvas, Tatiana & David are champions of the arts. Oh yeah, they're also engaged.They met during the filming of Maestro, which spotlights Paavo Jarvi (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's former Music Director) and a handful of other star-studded classical musicians. (Tatiana produced the music for the film.)

Now, they live together in the old Brunswick house in East Walnut Hills, home base for their respective arts ops -- Tatiana's Constella Fest and David's production company,


Constella is approaching its fifth season. With artists from India, China, Venezuela, UK, and Russia (among others), this season presents the festival's most diverse lineup.

"Constella creates an open space for renowned artists across genres to connect with audiences in an intimate setting. Our mission is to challenge misconceptions of classical music and the performing arts through the creation of original music, interdisciplinary works, and digital content. We further this mission by providing educational opportunities for young artists, ensuring a vibrant future for self-expression." -- Tatiana Berman


David is working on a myriad of projects, including Gabe, a documentary that he executive produced. (The film just screened at the Whitney Museum in New York, by the way.) His next documentary will examine the rise of anti-intellectualism in America and abroad. It's called "A Call To Minds."

Moreover, in tandem with Constella, David's company is currently presenting and packaging the Not So Classical series (which he created) across various platforms, including documentaries, digital outlets, and live concerts.


The Romanesque Revival home was built in 1894 and originally owned by the Brunswick family, of billiards and bowling fame. It's a gorgeous example of detailed craftsmanship from a bygone era, with its stained glass, pocket doors, and high ceilings. And back in the day, it was known as the party house on the street.

This is particularly fitting for its two current inhabitants, as they've embraced the home's heritage into their bohemian lifestyle. Whether they're hosting musicians for a week or transforming the downstairs into an art exhibition on a Saturday night, Tatiana & David believe that their home should be an extension of their life.

Thus far, it's working. And while the finished canvas that is their life & work together might be years away from completion, each brush stroke adds more depth, beauty, and vitality than the last.

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To find out more about this year's Constella Festival, visit the website.

To find out more about Culture Monster, click here.

Michael Csanyi - Wills Concerto World Premiere

Browsing articles from "May, 2016"
May 18, 2016   //   by Michael   //   News  //  No Comments

Over an hour of music was performed of mine by Violinist Tatiana Berman, Soprano Alexandra Kassouf and renowned conductor, Jose Luis Gomez in a programme of the Maestro Suite, the Budapest Songs, and a newly commissioned Violin Concerto for Tatiana Berman for the Constella Arts Festival in Cincinnati. It was an extraordinary event, and I felt honored to have been composer in residence for the festival which will go from strength to strength and widen to more states, and eventually more countries. Thank you to all involved, it was incredibly special… Constella Group Photo

Violin Concerto shot

Alexandra Kassouf & Jose Luis GomezMCW talking to Audience in Cincinnati



Constella Festival innovative collaborations

Constella Festival marries music premieres, innovative collaborations

The promotional materials for the 2016 Constella Festival scream “Once in a Lifetime Performances!” It’s a line more befitting a mammoth rock extravaganza than a festival that revolves around chamber music.

But the sentiment behind that audacious sales pitch isn’t all that farfetched.

The Constella Festival, which launches its sixth season Friday, is built around new music and unexpected pairings of music and musicians. There is dance, as well, and a visual arts component to round it all out. But at the heart of everything the festival stands for, though, is a spirit of collaboration, of top-flight artists coming together to see just what their combined talents can generate. And since most of these performers are unlikely to perform together again, “once in a lifetime” is probably an apt description.

Insiders can learn more about the performers at this year's Constella Festival, including how organizer Tatiana Berman was able to secure a powerful opening act after the scheduled performers couldn't attend.  

Dance and music @ constella

Dance and Music Together at the Constella Festival



Dancers James Cunningham and Sirui Liu - Photo: Viktor Posnov

This year marks the fifth season for the Constella Festival, the kaleidoscopic music and arts festival founded by renowned violinist Tatiana Berman. Known as an enthusiastic arts advocate, Berman aims to present performances in fresh ways, working especially to partner with other arts organizations in order to connect with audiences who might otherwise stay away. The festival runs Friday through April 23, with a variety of performances around town, including the movement-centricConstella Dance: Old World, Modern Expressions on April 16 at the Harriet Tubman Theater, an intimate space in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.“We are an eclectic festival, presenting contrasting experiences,” Berman says. “Dance is one of the artistic expressions through which we connect with our audience. I like to work with choreographers who are excited about creating new works, and I like to work with musicians live in performance.” Constella Dance features seven classical and modern dance works from five choreographers: Cincinnati Ballet dancers Jake Casey, Taylor Carrasco and James Cunningham, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company associate artistic director Crystal Michelle and Cincinnati Ballet resident choreographer Adam Hougland. Dancers come from the Cincinnati Ballet and its second company, CBII, and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Musical compositions (both live and recorded) are by Béla Bartók, Max Baillie, Ludovico Einaudi, Julia Kent, Bobby McFerrin and Steve Reich. Berman and cellist Erin Patterson are slated to play onstage with the dancers and other musicians. DCDC dancers will perform “Ascension” at Constella Dance, in which both the recorded music (commissioned from Baillie, a British violinist and violist with dance training in his background) and choreography (by DCDC’s Michelle) are world premieres.

Berman says she and others will be performing selected Bartók duos — one of Baillie’s inspirations — live in between sections of the Baillie score. Michelle’s choreography style has been influenced by every form of dance she’s studied, including traditional African dance, classical ballet and Graham technique. “I spend a lot of time drawing out which qualities are most appropriate for the music and intention of the piece,” she says. “I love movement that blends Africanist aesthetics and rhythms with classical rhythms and style.”In “Ascension,” Michelle has created an intimate piece to match the space. “I wanted to explore language and conversation with this work,” she says. “It is a series of short duets that explore what it means for things to be missed in communication.”Choreographer Cunningham, who has presented at Constella previously, has more responsibility this year. “Ancora,” the Latin word for anchor, investigates through movement a woman who is apologizing to a man and to others. Emotions range from courage and awkwardness to tenderness, Cunningham says. Einaudi’s music is played live onstage by a piano and string trio. For “Not Lost,” a world premiere set to a serenade from Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi, Cunningham wanted to make sure the style and subject matter looked different from “Ascension.” “The characters in the piece are two couples and an extra woman,” he says. “The idea is finally that it is OK to not be in a relationship, and that community can support that decision.” Michelle also has another work in the program called “The Difficulties of Flying,” drawn from the DCDC repertory to recorded music from McFerrin, Reich and Daniel Bernard Roumain.“ ‘Flying’ is about the feeling we all have when we’re trying to make something manifest in our lives,” she says. “The human part of all of us that wants to find a way to soar.”Michelle says she thinks audiences will relate to the ideas of failure and triumph and experience a relationship between language, intimacy and humanity.


CONSTELLA DANCE: OLD WORLD, MODERN EXPRESSIONS is onstage Saturday at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as part of the Constella Festival, which runs Friday through April 23. More info:

Constella's evolution  

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Cincy Magazine April/ May 2016

Constella's Evolution

The Constella Festival brings together for one-of-a-kind performances.

By David Lyman

Violinist/impresario Tatiana Berman is committed to collaboration. But then, what artist doesn’t say that? Berman is different, though. Take a look through the lineup of her 2016 Constella Festival—it takes place in April—and you’ll see that collaboration among artists and arts groups is at the very heart of the 10-day festival, which runs April 15-24.

“But this year, I was thinking of some new arrangements of things,” says Berman. It’s not that she was looking to shed responsibilities. But as we spoke in late February, it was a wildly busy time for her. She was preparing for a pair of mid-March events—Not So Classical, they’re called—in St. Louis and Chicago. There’s another, as-yet-unnamed event at the end of March. And that’s on top of being a mother of three, including a six-month old baby.

“It’s true—I am quite busy,” she says, without a hint of irony.

One of those “new arrangements” she mentioned turns out to be handing over some of Constella’s dance-related responsibilities to Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham, a dancer-choreographer who has been involved with Constella since its beginnings in 2011.

He’s not part of Constella’s staff, though. He doesn’t even have a title. Nor is he an experienced producer. But the level of responsibility that Berman has invested in him is an indication of the high regard she has for him.

“I totally understand Jimmy,” says Berman. “And he understands me and what I want. I trust his judgment.”

She admires his dancing and his discipline. But more than that, she says she is drawn to intellectual rigor he brings to his work.

“When we talk about collaborating, when we discuss dance or music, he thinks very deeply about them,” says Berman. “I really appreciate that about him, because that’s how I like to work on things, too.”

She cites an example from earlier this year. She suggested that he consider creating a dance to a string trio by composer Gideon Klein. Klein was a Czech pianist who died in a Nazi concentration camp just days after completing the work. It’s a haunting piece of music, with an especially melancholy second movement.

“I listened to it a few times and tried to find something that I could connect with,” recalls Cunningham. “I admired it. And I understand what Tatiana saw in it. But the music just wasn’t speaking to me at all, so I asked if we could discuss some other possibilities.”

For some festival organizers, the very idea that a choreographer might reject a piece of music that had been selected for him would be enough to end the relationship. But as much as Berman hoped Cunningham would use the music, she respected his decision.

“There is so much good music in the world,” says Berman. “When I ask someone else to create something, I want to make sure they are passionate about that thing I am asking them to do. If they are not comfortable with the piece, I would not force it down their throats. That’s not a formula for a successful collaboration.”

Indeed, she notes that the festival has commissioned 16 new musical compositions during its five years.

“Sometimes…,” she pauses. She’s about to tread into delicate territory and doesn’t want to misspeak. “Sometimes you don’t get what you think you are going to get.”

She won’t name names. But in cases like this, where you have commissioned the work, you’re pretty much obligated to perform it. Berman didn’t want to put Cunningham in that sort of position. So the two of them agreed on a different piece of music, another string trio, this one by Ernö Dohnányi.

One portion of Constella’s dance program—it’s called Old World, Modern Expressions and takes place April 16—will feature dancers from Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and choreography by Crystal Michelle, the company’s associate artistic director.

Then comes Cunningham’s portion of the show. And in his first outing as coordinator, he has put together a formidable offering, including:

- Ancora (world premiere), music by Ludovico Einaudi, choreography by Cunningham. Danced by members of Cincinnati Ballet 2.

- Idlewild, a pas de deux with music by Julia Kent, created by Cincinnati Ballet resident choreographer Adam Hougland. Performed by members of Cincinnati Ballet 2.

- New Work, choreographed by Cincinnati Ballet company member Taylor Carrasco.

- New Work, a solo choreographed by Cincinnati Ballet member Jake Casey, performed by Abigail Morwood.

- New Work, music by Ernö Dohnányi, choreographed by Cunningham, performed by members of Cincinnati Ballet.

“I knew that doing this would involve a lot of extra work for me,” says Cunningham. “It’s a headache organizing the dancers and finding rehearsal spaces. Someone tells you that you can have a space for one hour when what you really need is three. So you take what you can get. It gets crazy.”

What Cunningham doesn’t say is that he’s not afraid of any of that. The very nature of his job as a professional dancer is that it’s demanding and challenging and leaves little room for error.

Besides, there is something more in this for Cunningham. And we’re not talking money or prestige.

“What I’m really after now is growing my voice as a choreographer,” says Cunningham. He was raised in Little Hocking, Ohio, a tiny, unincorporated community 10 miles west of Parkersburg, W.Va. on the banks of the Ohio River. With a 2015 population of just 251, it is not known as a center of dance.

Since coming here to study at the College-Conservatory of Music nearly a decade ago, he has been voracious in learning everything he can about dance. He’s created works for his colleagues at Cincinnati Ballet. And for Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company. He’s done several pieces for Constella. And for students at CCM. He spent several weeks helping Hougland create a new work in Philadelphia last summer.

But he also knows how dancing is. There will come a day when he can’t will his knees or his shoulders to do everything he’d like them to. He’s not close to that yet. But when the time comes, he wants to be ready.

In the eight years he’s danced with Cincinnati Ballet, he’s seen dancers get injured. Or move into directionless retirements. He’s determined that won’t be him.

“My goal is to stay in the field,” says Cunningham. That might mean a university teaching job. Or being a ballet master with a professional company. Or perhaps even becoming an artistic director one day.

For now, though, he likes where he is and what he’s doing.

“I’m 27 and I’m healthy and I’m growing as an artist. That seems pretty good to me.”

Constella Dance: Old World, Modern Expressions takes place 7:30 p.m. April 16 in the Freedom Center’s Harriet Tubman Theater; 50 E. Freedom Way, Downtown. Tickets are $25 general admission, $10 for students. For tickets or information, call 513-549-7175 or go to