Arwen Wilder, left, and Kristin Van Loon of the Minneapolis dance company HIJACK performed excerpts from"redundant, ready, radish, reading, Red Eye" in the atrium at City Center on Thursday.

Lunchers and shoppers at City Center are gettng an eyeful this week, as the main-floor atrium, usually a dead space that gets little traffic, became the site of some noon performances by local dance companies. Titled "Luncheon: Mid-day Modern Dance Series," the performances are intended in part as an ode to Valentine's Day week and also "to show people City Center is still alive,"  said Jaime Carrera, who curated the series and will perform a jazz dance on Friday. "Putting art in unconventional spaces is a goal of mine. People who haven't been exposed to modern dance can see some, free and accessible."

On Tuesday, Laurie Van Wieren raised a few brows by costuming herself in a mattress. On Wednesday, Sally Rousse showed off something more traditional, a bit of ballet. On Thursday, the two-dancer company HIJACK performed a piece they premiered at Walker Art Center in December, now and then turning heads by creating unusual movement up and down the escalators.

Some people glanced toward the dancers as they rolled, spun and interacted with chairs, then looked away, quickening their steps as they passed. Others stopped, with a range of expressions from consternation to befuddlement to smiles.

"It's a little weird, but that's good," said Target employee Kelly Gray

"It's awesome," said Michael Flora from his perch looking down from the railing at skyway level, where most observers were congregated."A public space like this is so transitory, most people are only seeing it for about 30 seconds, but they are seeing it."

The program was paid for for by City Center and facilitated by Hennepin Theatre Trust, which operates its administrative offices and the New Century Theatre just off the atrium.

Melissa Ferlaak, director of education and community engagement for HTT, called it "an experiment. It gets people out of their comfort zone, which is what City Center needs."

Asked what he thought was going on in HIJACK's piece, Nathan Reed, the center's general manager, said "I'm not sure, but we like bringing the arts downtown."

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