POST BY CAROLINE PALMER / SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
In an article published last year about the Twin Cities bustling dance community, Ben Johnson, director of concerts and lectures at Northrop Auditorium, characterized the local scene as “the new Berlin” because of its unusually high concentration of active dance artists and venues to support them. During a recent phone interview he expanded upon this thought when he said, “Minneapolis is an incubator of world class art.”
Now Johnson and his Twin Cities colleagues, with support from the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project and the McKnight Foundation, want to make sure that more audiences outside the metropolitan area get to know the diverse array of dance artists based here. To that end 35 curators and presenters from state, national and international performing arts organizations will spend this week attending the Minnesota Contemporary Dance Platform, an invitation-only “dance happening.”
The Platform (inspired by a similar, but smaller, event in Montreal) is a collection of showcases spread out over five days (morning to night) featuring over 50 local troupes and choreographers selected by Johnson along with Michèle Steinwald (Assistant Curator of Performing Arts at the Walker Art Center) plus choreographers Laurie Van Wieren and Kristin Van Loon (both of whom have organized shows at the Bryant Lake Bowl, among other venues). The list is a veritable who’s who, including Ragamala Dance, Morgan Thorson (pictured, photo by Marlin Levison), Ananya Dance Theatre, Zenon Dance Company, Ballet of the Dolls, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, Contempo Physical Dance, and many more.
According to Johnson, the participants will not only be seeking to impress this special audience in hopes of landing a touring gig or residency, they will also be representing the place where they live and create. “Everyone has to raise the stakes,” he said. “If they want to be taken seriously, the work has to speak for itself. It’s a great opportunity to have a snapshot of each company.” There will also be chances for conversation about what actually defines contemporary dance through panel discussions and informal gatherings.
The showcases will take place in a variety of spaces, from the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis to the Barbara Barker Dance Center at the University of Minnesota. While these performances are not open to the public, expect to see the visiting curators and presenters also taking in shows by New York’s Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People at the Walker Art Center as well as Mathew Janczewski’s Arena Dances at the Cowles Center and the six featured local dancers supported by the McKnight Solo Program in performance at the Ted Mann Concert Hall (Amanda Dlouhy, Emilie Plauché Flink, Nic Lincoln, Leslie O’Neill, Eddie Bruno Oroyan and Amy Behm Thomson).