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Posts about Dance

City Center hosts lively doses of dance

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: February 13, 2014 - 5:54 PM

Arwen Wilder, left, and Kristin Van Loon of the Minneapolis dance company HIJACK performed excerpts from"redundant, ready, radish, reading, Red Eye" in the atrium at City Center on Thursday.

Lunchers and shoppers at City Center are gettng an eyeful this week, as the main-floor atrium, usually a dead space that gets little traffic, became the site of some noon performances by local dance companies. Titled "Luncheon: Mid-day Modern Dance Series," the performances are intended in part as an ode to Valentine's Day week and also "to show people City Center is still alive,"  said Jaime Carrera, who curated the series and will perform a jazz dance on Friday. "Putting art in unconventional spaces is a goal of mine. People who haven't been exposed to modern dance can see some, free and accessible."

On Tuesday, Laurie Van Wieren raised a few brows by costuming herself in a mattress. On Wednesday, Sally Rousse showed off something more traditional, a bit of ballet. On Thursday, the two-dancer company HIJACK performed a piece they premiered at Walker Art Center in December, now and then turning heads by creating unusual movement up and down the escalators.

Some people glanced toward the dancers as they rolled, spun and interacted with chairs, then looked away, quickening their steps as they passed. Others stopped, with a range of expressions from consternation to befuddlement to smiles.

"It's a little weird, but that's good," said Target employee Kelly Gray

"It's awesome," said Michael Flora from his perch looking down from the railing at skyway level, where most observers were congregated."A public space like this is so transitory, most people are only seeing it for about 30 seconds, but they are seeing it."

The program was paid for for by City Center and facilitated by Hennepin Theatre Trust, which operates its administrative offices and the New Century Theatre just off the atrium.

Melissa Ferlaak, director of education and community engagement for HTT, called it "an experiment. It gets people out of their comfort zone, which is what City Center needs."

Asked what he thought was going on in HIJACK's piece, Nathan Reed, the center's general manager, said "I'm not sure, but we like bringing the arts downtown."

Walker Art Center names two new curators

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: February 6, 2014 - 4:09 PM

Fionn Meade @ Guillermo Riveros

Walker Art Center has hired two new curators including a Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new post designed to reflect the center's focus on artists who work in many fields ranging from film, video and music to dance and such stationary visual arts as painting, printmaking or photography. That post will be filled by Fionn Meade starting May 5.

Meade is presently a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York City. His expertise is in film, performance and museum practice. He will also be Interim Head of the Walker's Visual Arts Department while a search continues for someone to replace Chief Curator Darsie Alexander who is leaving to become executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in suburban New York City.

Meade's first task will be to oversee the presentation of Radical Presence, an exhibition about black performance in visual art from the 1960s to the present. One of his future shows will focus on the work of visual artists who collaborated with choreographer Merce Cunningham whose archive the Walker owns.

He previously worked as a curator at the Sculpture Center in New York City and at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. He has a M.A. degree in creative writing from Columbia and a M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard.

Isla Leaver-Yap, photo provided by Walker Art Center

The second appointee is Isla Leaver-Yap who will take the new post of  Bentson Visiting Film Scholar starting March 3. Presently living in Glasgow, Scotland she is expected to do research on the Walker's Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Collection which has a high concentration of avant garde films dated from 1943 - 1985. She will report to Meade but also work closely with Sheryl Mousley, the Walker's film curator.

Leaver-Yap has extensive experience with film groups in London and New York. She has an MA in art history and English and a MSc in Art History Research from the University of Edinburg, Scotland.

Dance: Ashwini Ramaswamy's solo turn

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 28, 2014 - 9:42 AM
Ashwini Ramaswamy / Photo by Ed Bock


When Myron Johnson, artistic director of Ballet of the Dolls, took the Ritz Theater stage on Saturday night to introduce Ashwini Ramaswamy, he reminded the audience that a dancer’s first solo show is a “rite of passage.” It’s an opportunity, he said, “To do your own thing.” And Ashwini, a member of Ragamala Dance, did just that in “Swarupa (Revelation).”

A live Indian orchestra accompanied Ashwini, who was dressed in a costume of brilliant red and gold, as she performed the south Indian dance form known as bharatanatyam. Vocalist Lalit Subramanian, Rajna Swaminathan (percussion), Anjna Swaminathan (violin) and Ashwini’s mother, Ranee Ramaswamy (co-artistic director of Ragamala with Ashwini’s sister Aparna Ramaswamy), chanted the spoken syllables that add another layer to the complex rhythms. Dance and music have a strong bond in bharatanatyam, and this symbiotic relationship was on display throughout the evening.

Ashwini performs with all the grace and beauty commonly associated with bharatanatyam, but she also brings a level of athleticism, ferocity and even a touch of mischief into her dancing. In “Pushpanjali, Manikya Veena, and Alarippu,” choreographed by bharatanatyam luminary Alarmél Valli (guru to all the Ramaswamys), Ashwini showed her maturity with the difficult choreography but as her eyes darted side to side playfully she also demonstrated the extraordinary physical control required of her craft.

Ashwini also shared her lyrical side in “Bho Shambho” and “Alaipayuthe” (both choreographed by Valli). During the former she covered the stage with her joyful steps in celebration of the Hindu deity Shiva while the latter was marked with moments of stillness.

The evening concluded with Ashwini’s own creation, “Thillana,” which showed her light-hearted side in full effect. Dancing with confidence, joy and, always, control, Ashwini delivered a complex and exciting work that perfectly reflects her outgoing personality. It is always special to see an artist coming into her own. The standing ovation Ashwini received was a fitting salute to all of her hard work.

Dancing into the dark

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 20, 2014 - 3:21 PM

Sally Bowles (Kira Lace Hawkins) and dancers in "Cabaret." The Theater Latte Da production features choreography by Michael Matthew Ferrell. Photo by Michal Daniel.


Choreographing for “Cabaret” must feel exhilarating and daunting. After all, whoever tackles this job is following in the footsteps of first Ronald Field and then Ron Marshall on Broadway, not to mention the legendary Bob Fosse on film. But Ivey award winner Michael Matthew Ferrell proves he is up to the task in the new production of the famed John Kander and Fred Ebb musical now playing at the Pantages Theatre. 

“Cabaret” captures a specific moment of time – the blinkered days leading into Hitler’s cruel domination of Germany and Europe. Berlin has an atmosphere of thrilling sleaziness but something far more ominous is brewing, and there’s nothing fun about it. The story evolves from carelessness into darkness, as if the entire city itself transitions from a playful dream into a years-long nightmare. Ferrell picks up on this pivotal transition in his choreography for the Peter Rothstein-directed staging, produced by Theatre Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Because “Cabaret” takes place in a underground nightclub, the dancing is sexy-as-all-get-out, propelled by pelvic thrusts, swaying hips and nearly bare bottoms. It would be easy to rely on a stock bump-and-grind approach for the early musical numbers but Ferrell’s movement choices consciously hint at the danger to come.

Tyler Michaels as the Emcee is a sneering, audience-teasing, glittery dynamo and often joins in with the bawdy chorus who stomp through their paces with a frankly impatient sensuality. They aren’t in jackboots (yet) but there’s clearly a force afoot to transform these hedonists into either enemies or allies of the state (“Mein Herr” with its militaristic forcefulness, led by the gutsy Kira Lace Hawkins as Sally Bowles is a prime example).

Ferrell completes these connections with his movement choices in the second act. A high-kicking chorus line devolves into goose-stepping and Nazi salutes. Partygoers waltz prettily before joining in with Fraulein Kost’s (Aeysha Kinnunen) rendition of the chilling hymn “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” Michaels and a monkey-suited dancer happily hoof toward a horrific climax: “If you could see her through my eyes … she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” The Emcee can only make such a joke in a society primed to accept it so the combination of the upbeat tap dancing and the deadly statement is all the more rattling.

Ferrell, along with Rothstein, exposes the beating heart of “Cabaret.” It’s a story about transitory liberation, about abandoning troubles at the door, about being true to one’s self, others be damned. But of course we all ignore our surroundings at our own peril. We can only dance so long before the music stops playing.

“Cabaret” ends February 9. For further information visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org 

Local teen knows she can dance

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: January 9, 2014 - 2:37 PM
Sydney Barber, of Savage, Minn. / Photo by Bruce Monk, provided by Royal Winnipeg Ballet.


On January 12 Canada’s prestigious Royal Winnipeg Ballet School will make a stop in Minneapolis as part of an international audition tour. The RWB scouts will be seeking talented students with a desire to learn. And if a Twin Cities area dancer happens to make the cut, it won’t be the first time.

Consider Sydney Barber, who began her training with Minnesota Dance Theatre and then went on to study with DanceWorks and Ballet Royale Minnesota (both in Lakeville). At age 13 she was selected to join RWB’s Ballet Academic program.

Now 15 and a scholarship recipient, Barber spends most of the year in Winnipeg, with breaks during the holidays and summer to visit her family in Savage. Barber’s busy days are filled with dance classes and rehearsals for performances as well as academic studies at a local school. She and her fellow RWB students (who hail from Canada, the United States, Japan and Thailand) live in a residence hall connected to the RWB facility.

“I think it’s really important for a professional career,” said Barber of her experience during a recent phone interview. “We get really good training, we watch the company perform.” She especially appreciates the opportunity to grow in an atmosphere completely dedicated to shaping her artistry. Local audiences familiar with RWB from Northrop presentations of “Wonderland” in 2011 and “Moulin Rouge” in 2009 know the troupe enjoys taking big risks. “I think the company is very creative,” said Barber. “They push us to different levels.”

Barber has simple yet encouraging advice for dancers considering an audition: “I would just tell anyone, even if you’re scared come and try out. You might regret it if you don’t. It’s a great school.” She adds that even if someone “messes up” – like Barber says she did during her audition – the RBT school staff members “can see potential. They can see past nerves.”

After graduation Barber hopes to join the Aspirant Program, a full-time post-secondary opportunity for dancers preparing for membership in the RWB or perhaps another company. She dreams of dancing in other countries and has an eye turned towards Europe.

The RWB auditions in Minneapolis are for the Ballet Academic, Aspirant and Teacher Training programs. They will take place this Sunday at Minnesota Dance Theatre & the Dance Institute at the Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Sixth Floor. Auditions are 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. for 10 to 12 year-olds; 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for dancers age 13 and over. There will be a question and answer session in the morning between the audition sessions plus master classes in the afternoon at 1:30 p.m. For further information contact Ava Jerao at ajerao@rwb.org and visit http://www.rwb.org/school/pd/audition.


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