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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.
Abby Lee Miller, left, and Mattie, go shopping in Wayzata/ photo courtesy of Crystal Couture
A Wayzata business gets a chance to "shine" tonight on a popular cable series.
"Dance Moms," which airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays on Lifetime, will showcase at least two costumes designed by Crystal Couture, a suburban store that opened in 2005.
For those not familiar with the reality series, it takes place in Pittsburgh, where dance-studio owner Abby Lee Miller helps train young hoofers. Crystal co-owner Deb Blankenship said Miller visited her shop this past January when she was in town to help judge a dance competition.
She shopped for nearly an hour and picked up at least 20 different costumes, including a" Les Miz"-peasant type number and a sparkly jazz outfit, both of which will be featured this evening.
Blankenship said she doesn't know how many more of her purchases will be featured on the series, which is now in its third season.
Stand by for outrage, people. Also lightening bolts from Heaven, assuming God the Father wields such things. Zeus was very good with a lightening bolt, but GTF, who knows?
In any case, Minneapolis performance artists Jason Wade and Jaime Carrera are about to test the proposition that God is Not Yet Dead. If He is still perking about, He is likely to be extremely peeved by their performance on Easter Sunday.
Wade, pictured here, has apparently drawn the star straw and will assume the role of First Son in this new performance piece designed, choreographed, and otherwise slapped together by Carrera. In it, Carrera "continues exploring his recent obsession with terribleness."
As the press release helpfully explained, "Cheesus shoves the traditional story of the passion through a wood chipper of pyschedelia & ridiculous blasphemy. Aided by the unnatural talents of shock rock celebrity & filmmaker, Jason Wade, this performance piece promises to be horrifyingly sacrilicious."
(7 p.m. Sunday, March 31, $5. Soolocal (next to Pat's Tap), 3506 Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis. www.soovac.org)