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Nic Lincoln in "Dressage," by choreographer Judith Howard. Photo provided by Nic Lincoln.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER | SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Nic Lincoln is known to many in the dance community as a longtime member of James Sewell Ballet but lately he's taken on another role -- muse. And he's not just providing inspiration for one choreographer but several. This weekend he will perform "YES," an evening of five solos created for him by local dance makers.
"I don't think of them as solos but as duets," said Lincoln, during a recent interview at Gigi's Cafe near Uptown Minneapolis. "I don't feel like I'm alone. It's like we're 'Thelma & Louise' -- I couldn't do it without them." Penelope Freeh, Wynn Fricke, Judith Howard, Megan Meyer and Kristin Van Loon have teamed up with Lincoln, and while some find it noteworthy that they are all women, he is quick to explain that this was not a specific choice. Instead, these are all artists he has admired and wanted to work with over the years.
And the feeling is mutual. "He has a combination of vulnerability and star power," said Howard, while Fricke "was curious about the many flavors in his body." Meyer admitted to a bit of intimidation. "At first I felt all this pressure to use all his skills as a ballet dancer and eventually I calmed down." Freeh, who performed often with Lincoln during her career at Sewell, observed that he "has really evolved as a dancer. He has a great sense of humor. There's an inner smile and knowing." And Van Loon said, "He's so smart as a dancer, he absorbs so much detail."
"YES" celebrates healing on a physical and emotional level. Lincoln has endured six ankle and foot surgeries in recent years and recovery has taken an "Olympic effort." Many months in bed provoked the Michigan native to consider his future as a dancer. "You only have so much time. With each surgery you wonder, 'Is this the last party?' Human bodies are not like clocks." But now that his strength has returned, Lincoln has other goals in mind. The evening celebrates who he is as a gay man, dancer, performance artist, visual artist, social/political activist, drag diva and so much more.
Venus DeMars, lead singer for All the Pretty Horses, will open the evening, a dramatic twist for a dance concert. Videos will fill in the spaces while Lincoln changes costumes between pieces. A portion of the proceeds will go to support OutFront MN, a cause near to Lincoln's heart for its efforts to fight homophobia, support the transgender community and, in particular, give voice to LGBT youth. "I had a tumultuous childhood," said Lincoln. He was bullied for being gay. "My universal hurt and pain come from that, it's what I want to confront the most." He is particularly thankful for being "sistered and mothered in the process of healing."
The works on the program lead Lincoln in many different directions. Freeh's "Paper Nautilus" takes inspiration from ballets like Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free" and the 1940's film "On the Town." Lincoln, dressed in a sailor's suit, "nails the sweet sincerity of the work," she said, but there is a darker aspect to the piece, something a bit more ominous that suggests a distant war. Meyer's "You Might Be Expecting Me" draws upon Lincoln's work experience in retail to supplement his dance career.
Fricke's "Into the White" explores the process of death. Music by Ben Frost evokes the clinical atmosphere of a hospital, said Fricke, and evokes the "gritty, strange psychic space of somebody dying, the struggling of body and mind. I'm imagining a tempestuous journey." Van Loon's "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid -- 1987" meshes several influences including 1980s pop music and the work of legendary New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham. "Nic and I have a shared interest in fashion," she said. "I've clipped every single Cunningham column for the past two years" in service of the work, spreading them across the floor in search of ideas to fuel a piece with a unique perspective on glamor.
Finally Howard's "Dressage" plunges Lincoln into a world of sensual fantasy that combines aspects of drag with equine imagery, a fabulous headdress and extra high heels. It "was the kind of piece where he came out to the dance world," said Howard. "This concert extends that, he's making a declaration."
Performing a full evening of solo works is a challenge but Lincoln is up for the task. "It's given me permission to differentiate between pieces, to honor the intention of the work and the trust involved with the choreographers." He added that he is also "conquering fear, my fear of the characters bleeding together and self-doubt" not to mention all the long hours that go into self-producing a show
"It's a lot to take on physically, you're holding everything up," said Fricke. "I appreciate his courage."
"It's the right thing to do," said Howard. "He's versatile, he's a beautiful performer, he took on different choreographers, and when I saw it all together, I thought this is correct, this is him."
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat. 2 p.m. Sun. JSB TEK BOX, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls. $20. (612) 206-3600. www.thecowlescenter.org. For more information go to www.niclincoln.com/yes.
Here's a review of a recent performance by Sewell Ballet that featured Lincoln in a solo piece by choreographer Larry Keigwin.
Zenon dancers in a scene from "Mariana," by Faye Driscoll. Photo by Steve Niedorf.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER
SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
“You’re gonna see a lot of love onstage tonight,” Zenon Dance Company artistic director Linda Andrews promised at the top of the show Sunday night at the Cowles Center. And she was right. Much of the affection was directed toward Greg Waletski, who was marking his last performance with the troupe after a 22-year career.
The Zenon dancers, Waletski among them, are a versatile bunch, and the 30th Spring Season program, which included Wynn Fricke’s dream-like “Wine Dark Sea” and Mariusz Olszewski’s sensually charged “Hotel Tango (para Sharon)” showed off their many moods and skills.
The world premiere of “Mariana” by Bessie award-winning New York choreographer Faye Driscoll proved a particularly worthy vehicle for Zenon. The work explores the awkwardness, petty violence, false confidence, damaging group think and occasional tenderness of social interactions. The dancers roiled, pushed, pulled and tumbled through the potent piece, not only showing how the bullying tactics of childhood continue into adulthood but also focusing on the freedom that comes from the triumph of the assertive individual spirit.
But the emotional highlight of the evening arrived when Waletski soared through a solo moment in the finale, Danial Charon’s heroic “Storm.” There were loud cheers and shouts of “Bravo!” from the audience. Fellow performers Mary Ann Bradley, Tamara Ober, Leslie O’Neill, Stephen Schroeder and Laura Selle Virtucio exchanged warm smiles with their departing colleague throughout the leave-it-all-on-the-stage work.
As the lights came up Andrews emerged, tears filling her eyes, while dancers Tristan Koepke and Scott Metille presented Waletski with a pink sash and a tiara. The man of the hour – now appropriately outfitted for the honor – held onto a bouquet of flowers and stepped forward, arms raised in triumph, to soak up the standing ovation, one meant not just for him but for all the Zenon dancers. They poured their hearts into the performance.
The word on Waletski’s sash? “Fabulous.” And what a fabulous way, indeed, to celebrate a bittersweet ending and a fresh beginning. Coming up, look for Waletski in the works of local choreographers such as Megan Mayer. He’ll also return to Zenon for guest performances and is launching a new career as an American Sign Language interpreter.
Go here for a review of the first-weekend program by Zenon.
John Munger in his one-man show "Nutbuster!! The Ballet," a take on whatever happened to the "Nutcracker" character Drosselymer.
John Munger was all about dance. He was a choreographer, a dancer, historian, researcher, mentor, teacher, student. He was also described by the people who knew him as a wild man, a gentleman, an articulate and erudite advocate for the art form that he loved dearly.
Munger, who lived in St. Paul, died Tuesday at the age of 67. He had been in hospice recently.
"He was incredibly passionate about the field of dance," said choreographer Stuart Pimsler, who first met Munger nearly 30 years ago. "And he had a generosity about him that cut through any aesthetic preference he might have had."
Munger was born in Rapid City, S.D., and wrote that he was inspired to become a dancer when he was 11, by watching over and over "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers," and then as a freshman in college when he saw the film "A Night With the Royal Ballet."
He studied for seven years with modern dance pioneer Hanya Holm. Munger came to the Twin Cities in the 1970s as general manager of the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and then headed the Minnesota Dance Alliance with Louise Robinson and Bonnie Brooks. He worked primarily in finance, Robinson said, and he often preached the importance of accounting, administration and legal issues.
Brooks, in a post, wrote, "It is impossible to take full measure of this wonderful, complicated, maddening, talented, deeply intelligent man. But this I will say now and stand by forever: nobody loved dance the way John did."
For many years, Munger was director of research and information for Dance/USA. Although the national advocacy group was located in Washington, Munger remained in Minnesota. He became a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of statistics -- information that helped inform his vision for dance and the role of dance in a community. His research was respected nationally; he authored "Dancing with Diollars In the Millennium," a special publication by Dance magazine that analyzed financial trends among major dance companies in the 1990s.
Munger, however, was not only about numbers. He taught regularly at Zenon and choreographed for his own small troupe, Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble, which performed regularly at Bryant Lake Bowl. As a mentor, he worked with Off-Leash Area, the April Sellars Dance Collective and Three Dances. He loved to blog and review shows at the Minnesota Fringe Festival as well as write for dance publications.
"We loved him," said LeFevre. "You could not be in awe of his knowledge. He was so smart but so funny and irreverent. That combination made him special."
A celebration of Munger's life will be held in the next 2-3 weeks.
Kellie Pickler and hubby Kyle Jacobs on the big video screen at Mystic Lake Casino
If there were any justice in reality TV – we all know there isn’t—Kellie Pickler would be viewed more seriously as an entertainer after her impressive (current) run on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Yes, I know she’s a singer. And she got her start on “American Idol” in 2006. But Nashville and much of America typecasts Pickler,as the ditzy country bumpkin. Now she is finally asserting her own vision and personality.
You can see it on “Dancing with the Stars,” on her 2012 old-school country album “100 Proof” (one of the best country albums of last year) and in person Thursday night at Mystic Lake Casino.
There ain’t many acts in mainstream country music as refreshing as Pickler. She’s not scripted. She’s in the moment and says whatever pops in her head. It can be silly, poignant, goofy, sweet, kind, thoughtful, generous, honest, whatever. And then she brings out her two trump cards – her songwriter husband from Bloomington, Minn., Kyle Jacobs, and her “Dancing with the Stars” partner Derek Hough. Hello!
It was a highly entertaining evening – much more than was expected, in both length, content and overall fun. And, to top it off, Pickler stood onstage for 15 minutes after her 95-mintue performance and signed autographs – on T-shirts, cell phones, arms, shoes, baseball caps, handmade posters, tickets – you name it.
Pickler, 26, demonstrated the kind of small-town, fresh-faced, nutty charm of Dolly Parton before her jokes became canned. Pickler talked with a Carolina twang and sang with an even more pronounced twang (except when she offered a spontaneous accent-free “Happy Birthday”; she also did a spot-on impression of her mother-in-law’s Minnesota accent right in front of the woman).
To be honest, sometimes it was hard to decipher the twangy words Pickler was singing (though she does have a strong voice with nice range). And, quite candidly, she could use some better lyrics. Some of Pickler’s pieces are garden-variety Nashville, including “Small Town Girl.” She impressed more Thursday when she threw down tunes from “100 Proof.”
“Where’s Tammy Wynette” had a killer opening line (“I stay torn between killing him and loving him”) and a terrific premise. “Stop Cheatin’ on Me” resonated like classic Loretta Lynn. But the swampy sass of “Unlock the Honky Tonk” sounded too much like a Gretchen Wilson number.
Pickler let her songwriter hubby sing one of the biggest hits he’s penned, Lee Brice’s “Hard To Love,” and they did "Mother's Day" -- from "100 Proof" -- together.
Hough (he and Pickler must rehearse while she's on tour) came onstage twice – once when Pickler invited him from the wings (he said his Kellie Pickler T-shirt made him look thinner) and for the encore of "Red High Heels" (she wasn't wearing heels she said because her feet were swollen from dancing) when Jacobs called him out and he arrived with Pickler riding on his back.
But, frankly, with all her personality and talent, Pickler didn't need anyone else to help her carry the show.
An open letter today from Dobson West, president of the SPCO, said Coleman "expressed his concern forcefully to both sides that the remainder of our concert season is at risk and a cancellation of that season would result in serious long-term consequences for the SPCO and the city."
Coleman asked SPCO management to make a new proposal to musicians, "containing significant concessions," West wrote.
Musicians are meeting Friday to consider a new proposal from management that would eliminate a two-tier pay scale that they have opposed. It also offers them a guaranteed annual salary of $60,000, an increase of $4,000 from the last offer, but still well below what they had been making before being locked out last October in this dispute. Also on the table is an increase in the minimum guaranteed overscale so that no musician will receive less than 80 percent of what they currently earn in overscale, versus a previous offer of 50 percent.
Other revisions in the current offer cover areas of early retirement, insurance benefits, the size of the orchestra and the process for making decisions on personnel and programming.
As has happened at least once before, the musicians are deciding whether to accept these new contract provisions in a "play and talk" scheme that would allow concerts to begin as more negotiations are scheduled between now and June 30. Management said it must reach a decision on this proposal not later than April 8, after which time it would have to cancel the remainder of the concert season.
Musicians are expected to have an announcement on the plan later on Friday. Look for updates at startribune.com when they become available.