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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the 19th century, Richard Wagner was the prime exponent of Gesamtkunstwerk, the concept if integrating music, poetry, dance, and other visual elements into a single medium of dramatic expression. In the late 20th and early 21st, it's David Byrne. From his years with the Talking Heads through his Oscar-winning soundtrack for "The Last Emperor," his score for Twyla Tharp's dance project "The Catherine Wheel," his theater work, journals, and art installations turning old buildings into giant musical instruments, Byrne has employed every avenue of creative expression in one vast ongoing art project.
In 1986 he tried his hand at feature filmmaking with "True Stories," a look at a fictional Texas town and its off-kilter inhabitants. Byrne, who directed and co-wrote the script, appears in a 10-gallon hat as our deadpan tour guide, introducing us to the the optimistic, the lovelorn and the bedridden, the grandiose personalities and the wide open spaces. With a cast including John Goodman, Swoosie Kurtz and Spalding Grey, it's as eccentric as you would expect (well, more so), with a soaring soundtrack including "Radio Head," "Wild Wild Life" and "Puzzlin' Evidence."
Actor Stephen Tobolowsky ("Memento," "Glee"), who co-wrote the screenplay with Byrne will host a screening 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Walker Art Center. It's a rare chance to hear the true stories behind "True Stories." (Tickets $10 - $12; visit tickets.walkerart.org.)
Saint Paul City Ballet hopes to expand this year, both physically and programmatically. The company, which operates out of a storefront on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, is holding a fundraiser and open house this Saturday.
Zoe Emilie Henrot, the company's interim artistic director, said more space is needed to satisfy demand for classes.
"We want to continue to develop this organization," Henrot said in a press release.
Too, the fundraiser will support the upcoming season, which would be the company's 11th. Henrot will oversee three planned full-length performances.
The open house is from 12-4 p.m. and the fundraiser, which includes a silent auction, will run from 5-9 p.m. Saturday, at 1680 Grand Av., St. Paul.
For more information, go here.
As a boy, Charles Askegard danced as the Littlest Mouse in Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy. Now the celebrated star of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre is returning home in the role of associate artistic director for the company that Houlton founded, Minnesota Dance Theatre.
One of Minnesota's most prominent exports to the top echelons of ballet, Askegard's performance career has spanned more than 35 years. Most recently he was a principal dancer for New York City Ballet, from which he retired in 2011, and before that he was a soloist with American Ballet Theatre. He has performed for and with many of the most prestigious names in both classical and modern dance, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twlya Tharp and Jerome Robbins.
After leaving NYCB, Askegard co-founded the New York-based company Ballet Next. He also made headlines when he married “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell in 2002. The couple divorced in 2011.
Askegard, 44, said that he’s looking forward to helping MDT artistic director Lise Houlton with fundraising, shaping programming and upping MDT’s profile. “Minneapolis is such a cultural city, with so much dance, it’s going to be great.”
Lise Houlton, Loyce Houlton's daughter, said she has "stayed close with Chuck. There's a special connection around the history of MDT among some of us who grew up here. Some people forget their pasts, but he has always valued the gifts he received in his training here."
Noting that Askegard has danced with her own daughter, Kaitlyn Gilliland, when he was with NYCB, Houlton recalled her own return home from a New York dance career.
"I came back kicking and screaming, not wanting to leave Manhattan, but I was interested in giving back, and I know that's first and foremost on his mind too. We're fortunate that he wants to jump right back in the studio. Being fresh off the stage and with all his connections, I'm interested in the new energy he'll bring."
Askegard begins his new job the last week of July.
Artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken is organizing a three-week, cross-country culture tour via train that's booked to arrive in the Twin Cities on September 12. The train will travel from New York City to San Francisco making 10 stops en route.
Called "Station to Station," the project aims to launch a "revolutionary endowment model" to fund new art programs and "creative collisions" in 2014. The money from ticket sales and donations is expected to go to partner institutions, including most likely Walker Art Center which is a supporter of the program.
"This is a fast moving cultural journey," Aitken said in a statement forwarded by the Walker. Describing the endeavor in existential terms that curiously echo the title of a famous Gauguin painting, Aitken continued, "Who are we? Where are we going? And, at this moment, how can we express ourselves? -- our intention is to create a modern cultural manifesto."
He expects the train to be a moving "cultural studio" that will broadcast content and experiences at its stops and while moving. Aitken has enlisted an A list of avant garde talent as participants including artists Kenneth Anger, Olaf Breuning, Peter Coffin, Urs Fischer, Meschac Gaba, Liz Glynn, Carsten Holler, Christian Jankowski, Aaron Koblin, Ernesto Neto, Jack Pierson, Stephen Shore, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Lawrence Weiner; musicians Dan Deacon, Eleanor Friedberger, Charlotte Gainsbourg, David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Nite Jewel, No Age, Ariel Pink, Savages, and Twin Shadow; writers Dave Hickey, Barney Hoskyns, and Rick Moody; and chefs Alice Waters and Leif Hedendal, and the Edible Schoolyard Project. More participants are expected to sign on before the wheels roll.
Besides the Walker, supporting institutions include MoMA PS1, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, SITE Santa Fe, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The Levi's brand is a collaborator. After the train trip ends, Aitken expects to continue the project via museum programs, a documentary and a book.
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