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Posts about Dance

Minnesota's Lea Thompson waltzes onto 'Dancing With the Stars'

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: September 3, 2014 - 11:44 AM

 

Lea Thompson/photo by Los Angeles Times

Part-time Minnesota resident Kristi Yamaguchi represented our state well in 2008 when she crushed the competition on "Dancing With the Stars."

Now it's Lea Thompson's turn.

The Rochester native will be among the cast members when the show returns Sept. 15. Others in the mix include soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., Janel Parrish ("Pretty Little Liars"), "Duck Dynasty" diva Sadie Robertson and NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip. ABC on Thursday announced the 13 contestants for its fall round of the dancing competition. They also include talk-show host Tavis Smiley, Olympic athlete Lolo Jones and fashion designer Betsey Johnson. Other amateur hoofers include comedy veteran Tommy Chong, YouTube star Bethany Mota, Ultimate Fighting champ Randy Couture, "Mean Girls" star Jonathan Bennett and actor-dancer Alfonso Ribeiro.

The new lineup was unveiled on "Good Morning America."

At 53, Thompson may be among the oldest participants, but don't count her out. She started dancing professionally at the age of 14 and clocked in 45 performances with the American Ballet Theatre. She later focused on acting, landing high-profile roles in "Back to the Future" and "All the Right Moves."

As much as we'll be rooting for Thompson, our early money is on Ribeiro, who danced in Michael Jackson videos as a kid and starred as Carlton Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Remember his "Carlton Dance" everytime Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" was played? If he can incorporate those moves into his routines, he's got our vote.

As reported earlier, Thompson may soon be revisiting her Minnesota roots. Her husband, Howard Deutch, is developing a possible series for HBO set in Stillwater.

Includes material from the Associated Press.

Lincoln Center gig a first for Ragamala

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: August 5, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Aparna Ramaswamy rehearsed "Song of the Jasmine" in Minneapolis in May, 2014. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.

Ragamala Dance gives the New York premiere of its "Song of the Jasmine" at a Lincoln Center Out of Doors performance Thursday night.

The work, incorporaing Ragamala's south Indian dance vocabulary with music by jazz saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, was premiered in Minneapolis in May. It was a commission of Walker Art Center.

Showtime Thursday is 7:30 p.m., at the Damrosch Park bandshell. Admission is free. Ragmala Dance co-founders Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy give a free talk at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Asia Society.

Ranee Ramaswamy, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Aparna Ramaswamy. Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores.

Cheers at the White House

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: July 30, 2014 - 12:39 PM

Twin Cities artists and arts leaders were on hand Monday at the White House to cheer on Bill T. Jones, who was presented with the National Medal for the Arts by President Obama.

A multiple Tony-winning choreographer, dancer, director and company founder, Jones has a decades-long association with artists and arts institutions in the Twin Cities, especially Walker Art Center, under whose aegis he has developed, premiered and performed many works. He also directed "Dream on Monkey Mountain" at the Guthrie Theater.

On Monday, Walker director Olga Viso (left) posed with honoree Jones alongside Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy, who are, respectively, founder and principal dancer of Ragamala Dance Theater.

President Obama appointed both Viso and Ranee Ramaswamy (who supplied the image), to the National Council on the Arts. The Senate confirmed them in 2013.

Jones was one of 11 luminary winners of the arts medal, among the nation's highest honors for artists. The winner's roster included writers Julia Alvarez and Maxine Hong Kingston, musical theater composer John Kander, musician Linda Ronstadt and pioneering documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.

Patrick Scully's Walt Whitman show premieres

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: July 11, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Patrick Scully poses as poet Walt Whitman. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.

POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE

Sometimes the best way to learn about an artist is through the perspective of another artist. With  “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Patrick Scully summons  the radical spirit of 19th-century poet Walt Whitman. Over the course of the show, which had its first performance Thursday night as part of the Fresh Ink Series at the Illusion Theater, we learn that the two men have much in common when it comes to defying rules and embracing life.

Scully assumes the role of Whitman, talking through his life story, railing against the puritan morals of his day, lauding the love of other men, extolling his contemporaries (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde) and reading excerpts from his works. Whitman, as portrayed by Scully, is a confident man who explains how he would code his language to escape the wrath of a rabidly homophobic society. Despite these efforts, Whitman’s works were banned and critics were quick to denounce him with their harshest words, which is hard to imagine today given the significant influence and great beauty of his writing.

But Whitman was undeterred by these obstacles, which explains why he is such a hero to Scully, a proud rabble-rouser himself. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Scully creates an onstage world that Whitman would have appreciated. Seventeen men dance together in tender, sensual and playful moments. In the opening scene they strip down entirely to bathe, setting the tone for an evening about relationships between men and how society has sought to deny them.

The movement itself is based in contact improvisation, which emphasizes the intuitive give and take of dancing with another person. Scully’s company members take great care to support and inspire one another. Kevin Kortan makes an appearance as Whitman’s lover Peter Doyle and in one of the work’s more poignant moments they discuss the poet’s refusal to use the pronoun “he” (instead using “she”) in his writing to describe their passionate relationship. Scully shows us that Whitman wasn’t always so bold.

The Fresh Ink series provides opportunities for artists to try out new ideas. Scully still has some work to do with tightening up the production – there are a couple of false endings – but it is a heartfelt salute to Whitman. Without this daring poet’s soaring words and his willingness to take risks in a hostile era, we may never know what it means to “sing the body electric.” Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.

“Leaves of Grass – Uncut” continues through Sunday, July 13 (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun). Illusion Theatre, Cowles Center, eighth floor, 528 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $14-$19, 612-339-4944 or illusiontheater.org.

Dancing through a mansion

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:18 PM
The performers of "KOM HIT!" gather near the end of the piece for an ensemble scene in the Turnblad mansion's small top-floor theater. Photo provided by American Swedish Institute.
 
A young woman, barefoot and wearing all white, invokes the spirit of Sweden's literary hero August Strindberg, then opens the heavy wooden doors of the Turnblad mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis to begin "KOM HIT!" In the hour that follows, audience members (no more than 35 will be allowed at each performance) poke their heads into nearly all of the mansion's 33 rooms, where they witness snippets of modern dance, mime, music and a small amount of narration. Don't expect to learn much about Strindberg, as the dance-theater piece is "loosely inspired by," and not directly drawn from his life and obsessions.

While immersive, site-specific dance-theater has been popular in New York and elsewhere for several years, as evidenced by such long-running shows as "Sleep No More" by Punchdrunk Theater, it is more rarely seen in the Twin Cities.

In "KOM HIT!" Audience members, who are encouraged to wear stick-on moustaches a la Strindberg, may wander freely from room to room, up staircases and into hallways. You may be invited into a room for a solo performance by a singer playing electric guitar, or witness a thrashing dancer in a "mad scene" through the window of a what looks like a walk-in closet.

Here a woman gazes at her reflection in a mirror, there a teenaged girl plays electric bass with an angel-wing-wearing guy on the accordion. Feathers drop into the foyer from above. A sad creature writhes alone on a bare wood floor.

The troupe numbers more than 14 performers, but co-creators Sally Rousse and Noah Bremer are showcased in certain "episodes," including a group scene in the American Swedish Institute's top floor that involves posing for photographs and passing through a large picture frame. Well-known Ballet of the Dolls dancer Stephanie Fellner gets a lot to do, and does it well. In the end, however, the piece is more about mood and movement, perhaps the ephemeral nature of souls and old houses, than it is a coherent narrative.

See "KOM HIT!" at 6 and 7:30 p.m. on June 26 and July 1, 3, 8 and 10. $20, 612-871-43907, or go here.

Dancers in a room that also has a visual art exhibit on view. Photo by Claude Peck.

The performances are timed to the opening of a terrific small photo show in the new wing at ASI. Turns out old August S. was both a fashion hound and a fan of selfies (well before the term came into vogue, and almost at the dawn of photography itself). The photos of Strindberg come from Fotografiska, Sweden's preeminent photo museum.

 
 
Strindberg
 
"KOM HIT!" dancer on the rooftop of the new wing of the American Swedish Institute.
 
Dancer on the mansion's second floor.
 
Below, trailer for "KOM HIT"

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