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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.
Amateur comedians should steer clear of subjects like the bombing at the Boston Marathon, at least for a while. But Tom Papa is no amateur. His years on the road have not only made him one of Jerry Seinfeld's close buddies (he hosted Seinfeld's "The Marriage Ref"), but they've also helped him master the art of addressing sensitive without alienating the audience.
At his Thursday show, the first of three nights at Acme Comedy Co., Papa opened with a bit about how a 19-year-old, like the alleged perpetrator of the bombing that has survived, could feel alienated and dissatisfied.
"You're 19!" he said. "Get a skateboard!"
Papa told me after the 75-minute performance that he was worried about that material, which he's still polishing. He needn't fret. The bit kicked off a solid night, which included some expanded interaction with the audience that stretched the show 15 minutes longer than Papa had planned on.
If you're going to the show Friday and Saturday, make sure to get there in time to see opener Chuck Bartell, a former Minnesotan who now works in Hollywood. Bartell comes from the Steven Wright school of observational one-liners, hitting much more than missing.
The Chopin Society has announced the pianists who will appear at Macalester College's Mairs Concert Hall during the 2013-14 concert season. All concerts are Sundays at 3 p.m.
Imogen Cooper, above (Oct. 6)
The English pianist, in her third Chopin Society appearance, performs the last three of Schubert’s Sonatas.
Behzod Abduraimov, above (Nov. 10)
Originally slated for 2012-13, the 22-year old Abduraimov from Uzbekistan was rescheduled for 2013-14 because of a hand injury. He will play two Sonatas by Beethoven, plus works by Chopin and Saint-Saëns/Liszt/Horowitz.
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (February 16, 2014)
The French pianist will perform Sonatas by Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartok, and the complete Debussy Etudes.
Inon Barnatan, above (March 16, 2014)
The versatile Israeli pianist was here in January to accompany Alisa Weilerstein in a Schubert Club recital at the Ordway Center. His program will include pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Franck and Barber.
Richard Goode (May 11, 2014)
Making his third visit to the Chopin Society, the American pianist will play works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Single concert tickets are $25. Season tickets go on sale in June. Call 612-822-0123, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.