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CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Choreographer Karen Sherman may be the Twin Cities’ answer to Emmy/Tony Awards host extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris. On Tuesday night she emceed the 2013 Sage Awards for Dance at the Cowles Center and revealed a natural gift for keeping the show running smoothly while supplying a steady stream of wry one-liners.
Strolling to center stage with live DJ (and dancer) Greg Waletski providing a musical cue from his decks, Sherman modeled her tartan kilt ensemble and declared it a find from “Dolce and G’Savers.” After making the obligatory Miley Cyrus reference (“Improvising is the new twerking”) Sherman got down to the business of the evening, that is honoring all the artists who contributed to the vibrancy of the local dance community over the past 12 months.
This is the ninth year for the ceremony. Since its inception 127 panelists have seen more than 2,300 performances. The awards are named for Sage Cowles, a choreographer, performer and philanthropist who has supported dance over the years (including major funding for the Cowles Center with her late husband John). Aside from awards, the event features performances by past recipients. Last night Emily Johnson, Katie Johnson of Minnesota Dance Theatre and members of Shapiro & Smith Dance stepped into the spotlight. And the late choreographer, teacher, researcher, blogger and all-around nation dance expert John Munger was honored with a moment of silence.
This year’s program had a special emphasis on dance education, with Julie Kerr-Berry, Dance Program Director, Minnesota State University, Mankato giving the opening address. She urged the audience to think about all the teachers helping others to learn to dance everywhere from public schools to suburban studios and college campuses. “Dance is a powerful medium,” she said. “To dance makes us think differently about ourselves.” Sage panel member Judith Howard (who teaches at Carleton College) reflected fondly on her own childhood dance teacher Miss Shirley: “She had a lot of pizzaz and a questionable reputation.”
But when artist educator Florence Cobb took the stage to accept her special citation, the force of history behind Kerr-Berry’s words became especially poignant. Cobb founded the Mankato program in the 1970’s. Wearing biker-ready black leather pants and boots, the octogenarian accepted her award with a few wise words: “I’ve shared time and space and energy with all of you. And that’s all it’s about on this earth.”
Choreographer Chris Schlichting was the big winner of the evening, scooping up two awards, both for “Matching Drapes,” which premiered at Red Eye Theater in February (one for Outstanding Dance Performance and the other for Outstanding Design, shared with the team of Terrance Payne, Max Wirsing, Justin Jones, Morgan Peterson and Heidi Eckwall).
Hip hop received notice with two awards: Jason Noer for organizing the annual Groundbreaker Ballet Festival at the Cowles (Outstanding Dance Performance) while “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” featuring the cast of “Mourning in America” (Amirah Sackett, Iman Siferllah-Griffin and Khadijah Siferllah-Griffin) garnered the Outstanding Dance Ensemble Award. Choreographer Sackett (whose collaborators are both just 15 years old) honored the pioneers of hip hop – “the brown and black people of the Bronx” – but acknowledged her crew is blazing new ground in the genre. “We’re three Muslim women,” she said. “And that’s not without controversy.”
From left: Sage winners Khadija Siferllah-Griffen, Amirah Sackett and Iman Siferllah-Griffen.
Other awardees included choreographer Megan Flood for “Folding in Wings” (Outstanding Dance Performance), musician/composer Butch Thompson (Outstanding Design for “Destination Twin Cities” choreographed by Sarah LaRose-Holland), Suzanne River (Outstanding Dance Educator), and Kenna Cottman, Jim Lieberthal and Sally Rousse (all in the Outstanding Dance or Performers category) Lieberthal, a longtime performer who won for his work in “Listen” created by Rosy Simas, vowed to continue dancing. “There’s always so much more to learn.”
Myron Johnson and Ballet of the Dolls were nominated in the Outstanding Dance Performance category for “Venus and Adonis” and while they didn’t win, the troupe and their entourage were among the best-dressed in attendance. Johnson himself sported a look somewhere between commodore and pirate. No one wears glamour and glitter like the Dolls, although past Sage award-winners Tara King, Theresa Madaus and Monica Thomas of Mad King Thomas were a close second in their sparkling gowns and feather boas.
But Sherman had the last word on the sartorial front. She came out wearing a blanket fastened together with some clips filched from backstage. “That’s a wrap,” she announced at the end of the show. Somewhere downtown a rimshot echoed into the night.
Above: Minneapolis Interactive Macro Mood Installation (MIMMI), the 2013 Creative City Challenge winner
A consortium of Minneapolis arts and culture agencies is seeking entries in a competition to produce a $75,000 temporary art installation on the plaza adjacent to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the summer of 2014.
Entrants must be Minnesota residents. All proposals must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. central time, November 18, 2013. Three finalists will be selected by a professional jury and given $2,500 each to prepare a final proposal, due in December. Finalists will be judged by public voting in February 2014. The winner will be announced March 3, 2014.
Contest rules and information can be found online at http://www.minneapolis.org/minneapolis-convention-center/ccc/creative-city-challenge-submissions.
The 2014 Creative City Challenge is sponsored by the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy of the City of Minneapolis, and Meet Minnepolis, Convention & Visitors Association in collaboration with Northern Lights. mn and the Northern Spark festival.
Among the winners at last weekend’s Woodstock Film Festival, in New York, was a film about artist Gendron Jensen, 73, who for many years lived in Grand Rapids, Minn. Gendron has been drawing meticulously detailed images of bones for more than 45 years, in pencil and in stone lithography
Filmmaker Kristian Berg, who grew up in Grand Rapids, won Best Short Documentary for the 28-minute film, “Poustinia/ The Art of Gendron Jensen.” Its title references a place where one retreats to meditate and pray.
The documentary focuses on Gendron’s artistic passion and his search for what he calls “the bony relics of wild creatures.” The film taps into a remarkable archive of film footage and photos from the past, as we watch Gendron first as a young man and later, white-haired and slightly stooped, in his 70s, still tramping through the forests and at work in his studio, which is now outside Taos, N.M., where he lives with his wife, artist Christine Taylor Patten.
“For me, it’s always been the bones,” Gendron says in the film.
The promotional image from the movie is a self-portrait that Gendron did in 1983. In the drawing, his profile is surrounded by the bones of four creatures: the pelvic girdle of a black bear, freshwater fish bones, the sternum of an eagle and the jaw bone of a snapping turtle.
Largely self-funded, the documentary has been in the works for more than a decade, though Kristian’s effort to capture Gendron on film began much earlier. While in high school, Kristian shot a black-and-white film of the artist, who was a close friend of his father. “I've known him since I was 8 years old. All the kids in the neighborhood knew Gendron,” Kristian said. “He had his first art show in our church.” That early footage, however, did not survive. Music in the film is from local composers.
The documentary has been entered into other film contests, and Kristian, a longtime filmmaker who once worked at Twin Cities Public Television, hopes to see it air locally at some point. “It’s a natural that it should be in Minnesota. It should be all over the nation, really,” he said. “My ultimate wish for the film is to inspire gallery owners to put together screenings where Gendron could lecture on his work.”
Find the film trailer below. To order a DVD of the film, go to bramblefilms.com/poustina.
Sun Mee Chomet, the Twin Cities actor who recently closed a sold-out production of her play, "How To Be a Korean Woman," at the Guthrie Theater, has won a national honor.
Chomet, who has worked with Mu Performing Arts, has been named as a recipient of a resident actor fellowship from the Fox Foundation of New York. The award, administered by Theatre Communications Group, recognizes talented theater artists across the country. Its $25,000 purse includes $10,000 for student loan relief.
Chomet won for "extraordinary potential." She will use the fellowship funds to develop a piece at Mu.
Veteran actors Evelina Fernandez of Los Angeles and David Greenspan of New York were each recognized with distinguished achievement fellowships.Chomet is one of seven total winners announced by the foundation. The other artists recognized for "extraordinary potential" are Cindy Im of Palo Alto, Calif., Jennifer Kidwell of Philadelphia, and Orlando Pabotoy and Daniel Robert Sullivan, both of New York.
Chomet's other recent accolades include a 2013-14 McKnight theater fellowship through the Playwrights' Center.
The New York University graduate is in the cast of Ten Thousand Things' production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Directed by Michelle Hensley, the "Midsummer" cast includes Gavin Lawrence, Brittany Bradford, Kurt Kwan, Elise Langer, Mo Perry, Anna Sundberg and Karen Wiese-Thompson.
Theater Latté Da, the Twin Cities-based company founded and run by deft director Peter Rothstein (above), has won recognition from the American Theatre Wing, the New York outfit best known for producing the Tonys.
Instead of a trophy, Latté Da gets cache and hard cash.
The company is one of ten nationally that have each been awarded a $10,000 grant for operating support. Other winners include Constellation Theatre of Washington, D.C., The Cutting Ball Theatre and True Colors Theatre of Atlanta.
Rothstein called the award "a tremendous honor.” He added: “We are humbled to share this award with colleagues from around the country who are creating adventurous work and making a significant impact in their communities."
Latte Da's production of "Steerage Song" premieres Sept.r 25 at The Lab Theater, 700 N 1st Street, Mpls. Rothstein directs with composer Dan Chouinard.