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.




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