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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.
Casting is crucial to any feature film’s success. When you’re seeking newcomers to hold their own against a two-time Oscar-winner the stakes are higher still. So it was a coup when four novice actors from Minneapolis’s Somali community were cast to play the pirates holding Tom Hanks captive in “Captain Phillips.”
Three Hanks’ costars and the casting agents who discovered them will tell the unlikely story at a red carpet screening and panel discussion of “Captain Phillips” Tuesday.
Faysal Ahmed, who plays the gun-waving loose cannon Najee, Barkhad Abdiriham, the baby-faced reluctant kidnapper Bilal, and Mahmet M. Ali, the tense navigator Elmi, will join the film’s Search Casting Director Debbi DeLisi and her associates Lynn Younglove and Kati Batchelder. The event is hosted by Minnesota Women in Film & Television.
WHAT: “Captain Phillips” screening and panel discussion
WHERE: Grandview Theatre, 1830 Grand Av., St. Paul, (651) 698-3344
WHEN: 6:30 (arrivals and seating), 7:30 screening Tuesday
TICKETS: $20.00 advance; $25.00 at the door. Order at http://mnwift.org/?p=1159 or https://mnwiftcaptainphillips.eventbrite.com/
For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Fitterer at this week's presentation at the Cowles Center.
By Caroline Palmer
Next year some 500 dance artists, administrators, presenters and educators will be in Minneapolis for the annual Dance/USA conference. On Wednesday night Amy Fitterer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based national dance service organization, led a presentation for members of the Twin Cities dance community at the James Sewell Ballet TEK BOX theater in the Cowles Center with the goal of drumming up local interest for the big event June 18-21, 2014.
According to Fitterer, the conference will focus on concerns of the dance field as a whole but Minnesota choreographers and dancers will have a chance to shine in showcases at the Cowles and Northrop Auditorium, among other venues. Many of the performances will be open to the public as well as the conference attendees, creating a four-day dance festival atmosphere.
Aparna Ramaswamy (co-artistic director of Ragamala Dance) -- who received a glowing review earlier this week in the New York Times -- Sara Thompson (external relations director at Northrop) and George Sutton (executive director of James Sewell Ballet) are the leaders for the Twin Cities conference planning committee. This formidable trio, together with Dance/USA and several community representatives including Lynn Von Eschen (executive director of the Cowles Center), Laurie Van Wieren (choreographer and curator), Uri Sands (co-artistic director of TU Dance) and many others, will organize everything from performance showcases, open rehearsals, volunteers and fundraising to scholarships for local attendees.
There will be a gala opening night event, keynote speakers and opportunities to tour the dance hot spots of the Twin Cities (there are many). Unlike many meetings that stick to a centralized location, the Dance/USA event will take place at a variety of sites.
Registration for the Dance/USA conference doesn’t open until January but ideas are being sought right now for breakout sessions that touch upon at least one of four topic areas: health and wellness for dancers, best business practices for dance organizations, audience engagement strategies and the use of technology. Suggestions will be accepted through October 18 via the Dance/USA website at www.danceusa.org. Persons interested in working on the conference planning teams are encouraged to contact email@example.com.
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.
AP photo: Alex Brandon
Colin Hanks has signed on to costar in the FX cable network's reboot of "Fargo," executive produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. It's a move that might stir a bit of envy from his dad.
While in Chicago Wednesday publicizing "Captain Phillips," the piracy drama opening Oct. 11, Tom Hanks reminisced about playing a mad southern criminal with the glib tongue of a poet in the Coens' 2004 comedy "The Ladykillers." It was exhausting fun to play a character who unspools reams of florid dialog, he said, though he found himself envying his costars, who merely had to go through the motions of doing something silently in the background while he fillibustered his way through take after take.
Hanks praised the Coen's Minneapolis-lensed "A Serious Man," declaring he'd love to work with them again. But after their only film together -- not a success -- it hasn't come up, he said.
"Joel came to see the play I did in New York," the late Nora Ephron's "Lucky Guy," which earned Hanks his first Tony nomination.
"When he came backstage, I said, "What did I do? C'mon! Let me back. I want to come back in! I was in the ensemble company -- for one movie. Let me back!' Have you seen their new movie ['Inside Llewyn Davis'] about the folk singer? I could do that. I could fake my way through the same five guitar chords everyone else can."