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POSTED BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs will perform at BLB during the last two weekends in June, following a mid-month engagement at La Mama in New York. / Photo by Chris Cameron.
The Bryant Lake Bowl Theater’s stage may be small but this month it will host several big dance talents with local and national ties. HIJACK (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder) plus New Orleans based choreographer/performer Scott Heron share “Dance Show #5” this Friday and Saturday. Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs will present a full evening work, “The Very Unlikeliness (I’m Going to KILL You!)[again&again version],” over the following two weekends.
HIJACK and Scott Heron
On a recent Saturday afternoon at the BLB near Uptown in Minneapolis, Wilder and Van Loon, together with guest artists Tom Lloyd and Craig VanTrees, ran through “Mr. HIJACK,” a work with roots in an earlier effort created for last year’s 10Fest at Bedlam Theatre. Now Van Loon and Wilder have condensed several of the parts made for a cast of eight into something more intimate.
Questions arise about the significance of gender since the work juxtaposes duets between two women and two men, but as is always the case with a HIJACK project, there are many layers. “There’s all that misterness, which is something we adore about them,” said Van Loon. “They are super charismatic, it’s us rising up to meet all that character,” added Wilder. Other factors include the variety of ways movement like shoving or soothing manifests itself in differently trained bodies (both Lloyd and VanTrees are actors) and the opportunities for crossover between all the performers, when the duets converge but rarely compete with one another.
The evening will also feature “HIJACK’s Pink” which takes on ideas around advertising, a provocative and ripe topic for artistic exploration. Both Van Loon and Wilder are, in a way, a “brand,” having spent the past 20 years setting forth these sorts of challenges for themselves. This December they will celebrate their lengthy career together with performances at the Walker Art Center but this month marks their decision to join forces. “It’s special to have this shared experimentation,” said Van Loon, turning to Wilder. “How many times have I sat on your thigh? It’s the conversations, the conflicts, it’s the figuring out what to do over and over again, having someone to look back over the body of the work.” Wilder responded, “And I love that you’ve said every year that goes by it’s like we’ve managed to get away with something.”
Heron, who has collaborated often with HIJACK (most notably 2010’s “Smithsoniansmith”) will perform “Lights up a tragedy.” Just say the title out loud while emphasizing different words to reveal different meanings. Reached by phone, Heron said his solo was created using a process open to a wide range of influences and ideas including Ronald Reagan talking to Mikhail Gorbachev, ventriloquisum, a horse whip, “a wretched looking ladies leotard,” and even a bit of mime.
“I sometimes reference the predicament of the stereotypical dancer, which I embrace and reject at the same time,” Heron explained. “Somehow the whole thing is totally nonsensical but it has an internal logic for me, it becomes a story. There are a series of activities and events that are totally repeatable. There’s a feeling of an abstract narrative.” Heron and HIJACK will also be working on a new endeavor during his Twin Cities visit. “It’s like we’re a dance family,” he said. “It doesn’t feel right if we don’t have something going.”
Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs
Yon and Griggs, partners in art and life, have been dancing together for 11 years now but they missed out on marking their tenth anniversary in 2012 for a very good reason – the birth of daughter Beatrix. The duo are actively at work again, though, and before they take over the BLB stage later this month they will perform “The Very Unlikeliness” at La MaMa in New York (their home until 2008).
While Yon is primarily the choreographer (as well as composer) Griggs, who is more interested in limiting her role to dancer, has significant input into the work as well. Interviewed at their Powderhorn neighborhood home in Minneapolis, the pair explained the lengthy process of pulling apart and putting together a work that has appeared in previous iterations and promoting a different voice in the process, one drawn to theme and variation within repetitive movement.
“We are in the stage of recommitting to specificity. We’ve smashed big parts into little parts to make it feel fresh again. Now we have to stop doing that,” said Yon. “It’s really about the rhythm and the repetition. It’s an attempt to entrance or hypnotize you or distract you.” In the case of Yon and Griggs, the result is a smart piece of dancing that surprises with wry bits of humor, mastery of accumulated movement, and sharp-edged choreography.
Like HIJACK, the pair have additional big plans for this year. Griggs received a 2012 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers and will be working on a solo with New York-based choreographer Jodi Melnick. It will premiere in 2014. In addition, Yon and Griggs will be co-curating Choreographers’ Evening at the Walker in November. They are asking audition applicants to provide “dedications” instead of “descriptions” of their work. Just another way this duo locates and forges a new avenue of interest within a familiar process.
HIJACK & Scott Heron: 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. June 14-15. Chris Yon & Taryn Griggs: 7 p.m. Fri.-Sun. June 21-23, 7 p.m. Sat.-Sun. June 29-30. Both shows $10-$15. Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Mpls. 612-825-8949. www.bryantlakebowl.com.
A scene from "Amaluna," a new Cirque du Soleil show that opened earlier this year in Montreal and comes to a tent at Mall of America for a limited engagement starting September 26.
Directed by Tony-nominated Diane Paulus, a new Cirque show called "Amaluna" hits the tent near Mall of America on September 26. It's being called "a limited engagement," but no closing date has been announced. Tickets go on sale Friday (June 7) at cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna.
"Amaluna" tells of a women-dominated island invaded by a bunch of guys. Love story. Conflict. Gymnastics. Aerialism. Music is performed by an all-women band.
Paulus, pictured, is artistic director of American Repertory Theater at Harvard. She was nominated for a Tony as director of the revival of "Hair."
Dancer Greg Waletski, who is retiring from Zenon after 22 years, won a McKnight grant, along with five others. / Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler
Each choreography fellow recieves $25,000 and is eligible to apply for a national residency with one of four affiliated national dance partners.
The winning dancers are Kari Mosel, Tamara Ober, and Gregory Waletski.
Each dancer-winner receives $25,000, plus the opportunity to commission a choreographer of his/her choice to create a new solo work to be performed in the Twin Cities in fall 2014.
The McKnight, aided by Northrop dance, also funds a Minnesota residency for an international choreographer to visit the Twin Cities and create a new work with Twin Cities dancers. Chosen this year is Montreal-based George Stamos, who will spend two weeks here in June to work with dancers Ryan Dean, Robert Haarman, Patrick Jeffrey, Justin Leaf, Nic Lincoln and understudy Eben Kowler. A first performance of that work is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 22 at the TekBox Theater in Minneapolis (612-624-2345).
Nic Lincoln in "Dressage," by choreographer Judith Howard. Photo provided by Nic Lincoln.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER | SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Nic Lincoln is known to many in the dance community as a longtime member of James Sewell Ballet but lately he's taken on another role -- muse. And he's not just providing inspiration for one choreographer but several. This weekend he will perform "YES," an evening of five solos created for him by local dance makers.
"I don't think of them as solos but as duets," said Lincoln, during a recent interview at Gigi's Cafe near Uptown Minneapolis. "I don't feel like I'm alone. It's like we're 'Thelma & Louise' -- I couldn't do it without them." Penelope Freeh, Wynn Fricke, Judith Howard, Megan Meyer and Kristin Van Loon have teamed up with Lincoln, and while some find it noteworthy that they are all women, he is quick to explain that this was not a specific choice. Instead, these are all artists he has admired and wanted to work with over the years.
And the feeling is mutual. "He has a combination of vulnerability and star power," said Howard, while Fricke "was curious about the many flavors in his body." Meyer admitted to a bit of intimidation. "At first I felt all this pressure to use all his skills as a ballet dancer and eventually I calmed down." Freeh, who performed often with Lincoln during her career at Sewell, observed that he "has really evolved as a dancer. He has a great sense of humor. There's an inner smile and knowing." And Van Loon said, "He's so smart as a dancer, he absorbs so much detail."
"YES" celebrates healing on a physical and emotional level. Lincoln has endured six ankle and foot surgeries in recent years and recovery has taken an "Olympic effort." Many months in bed provoked the Michigan native to consider his future as a dancer. "You only have so much time. With each surgery you wonder, 'Is this the last party?' Human bodies are not like clocks." But now that his strength has returned, Lincoln has other goals in mind. The evening celebrates who he is as a gay man, dancer, performance artist, visual artist, social/political activist, drag diva and so much more.
Venus DeMars, lead singer for All the Pretty Horses, will open the evening, a dramatic twist for a dance concert. Videos will fill in the spaces while Lincoln changes costumes between pieces. A portion of the proceeds will go to support OutFront MN, a cause near to Lincoln's heart for its efforts to fight homophobia, support the transgender community and, in particular, give voice to LGBT youth. "I had a tumultuous childhood," said Lincoln. He was bullied for being gay. "My universal hurt and pain come from that, it's what I want to confront the most." He is particularly thankful for being "sistered and mothered in the process of healing."
The works on the program lead Lincoln in many different directions. Freeh's "Paper Nautilus" takes inspiration from ballets like Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free" and the 1940's film "On the Town." Lincoln, dressed in a sailor's suit, "nails the sweet sincerity of the work," she said, but there is a darker aspect to the piece, something a bit more ominous that suggests a distant war. Meyer's "You Might Be Expecting Me" draws upon Lincoln's work experience in retail to supplement his dance career.
Fricke's "Into the White" explores the process of death. Music by Ben Frost evokes the clinical atmosphere of a hospital, said Fricke, and evokes the "gritty, strange psychic space of somebody dying, the struggling of body and mind. I'm imagining a tempestuous journey." Van Loon's "More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid -- 1987" meshes several influences including 1980s pop music and the work of legendary New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham. "Nic and I have a shared interest in fashion," she said. "I've clipped every single Cunningham column for the past two years" in service of the work, spreading them across the floor in search of ideas to fuel a piece with a unique perspective on glamor.
Finally Howard's "Dressage" plunges Lincoln into a world of sensual fantasy that combines aspects of drag with equine imagery, a fabulous headdress and extra high heels. It "was the kind of piece where he came out to the dance world," said Howard. "This concert extends that, he's making a declaration."
Performing a full evening of solo works is a challenge but Lincoln is up for the task. "It's given me permission to differentiate between pieces, to honor the intention of the work and the trust involved with the choreographers." He added that he is also "conquering fear, my fear of the characters bleeding together and self-doubt" not to mention all the long hours that go into self-producing a show
"It's a lot to take on physically, you're holding everything up," said Fricke. "I appreciate his courage."
"It's the right thing to do," said Howard. "He's versatile, he's a beautiful performer, he took on different choreographers, and when I saw it all together, I thought this is correct, this is him."
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat. 2 p.m. Sun. JSB TEK BOX, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls. $20. (612) 206-3600. www.thecowlescenter.org. For more information go to www.niclincoln.com/yes.
Here's a review of a recent performance by Sewell Ballet that featured Lincoln in a solo piece by choreographer Larry Keigwin.
Zenon dancers in a scene from "Mariana," by Faye Driscoll. Photo by Steve Niedorf.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER
SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
“You’re gonna see a lot of love onstage tonight,” Zenon Dance Company artistic director Linda Andrews promised at the top of the show Sunday night at the Cowles Center. And she was right. Much of the affection was directed toward Greg Waletski, who was marking his last performance with the troupe after a 22-year career.
The Zenon dancers, Waletski among them, are a versatile bunch, and the 30th Spring Season program, which included Wynn Fricke’s dream-like “Wine Dark Sea” and Mariusz Olszewski’s sensually charged “Hotel Tango (para Sharon)” showed off their many moods and skills.
The world premiere of “Mariana” by Bessie award-winning New York choreographer Faye Driscoll proved a particularly worthy vehicle for Zenon. The work explores the awkwardness, petty violence, false confidence, damaging group think and occasional tenderness of social interactions. The dancers roiled, pushed, pulled and tumbled through the potent piece, not only showing how the bullying tactics of childhood continue into adulthood but also focusing on the freedom that comes from the triumph of the assertive individual spirit.
But the emotional highlight of the evening arrived when Waletski soared through a solo moment in the finale, Danial Charon’s heroic “Storm.” There were loud cheers and shouts of “Bravo!” from the audience. Fellow performers Mary Ann Bradley, Tamara Ober, Leslie O’Neill, Stephen Schroeder and Laura Selle Virtucio exchanged warm smiles with their departing colleague throughout the leave-it-all-on-the-stage work.
As the lights came up Andrews emerged, tears filling her eyes, while dancers Tristan Koepke and Scott Metille presented Waletski with a pink sash and a tiara. The man of the hour – now appropriately outfitted for the honor – held onto a bouquet of flowers and stepped forward, arms raised in triumph, to soak up the standing ovation, one meant not just for him but for all the Zenon dancers. They poured their hearts into the performance.
The word on Waletski’s sash? “Fabulous.” And what a fabulous way, indeed, to celebrate a bittersweet ending and a fresh beginning. Coming up, look for Waletski in the works of local choreographers such as Megan Mayer. He’ll also return to Zenon for guest performances and is launching a new career as an American Sign Language interpreter.
Go here for a review of the first-weekend program by Zenon.