Zenon Dance kicked off 2016 by traveling to Cuba and wowing sold-out audiences. Their 33rd Spring Season at Minneapolis' Cowles Center, which opened Friday night, offers an opportunity closer to home to appreciate the many facets of this dynamic modern and jazz dance repertory company.
The evening features the world premiere of "Angle of Incidence" created by Sam Kim, who is based in New York but grew up in New Brighton. The work explores the process of striving for — but perhaps never attaining — a desired goal. The dancers struggle and pile into one another. Tamara Ober, in particular, tosses and turns with abandon as her group works to keep her aloft. She is almost more than they can handle, but they work as a team to (barely) contain her exertions.
Kim's approach reveals the rugged side of humanity — its messiness, shortcomings and failures. The choreographic focus is on the body and how its exertions can lead to a physically ecstatic — or emotionally depleted — state. Kim shows what it is like to exist in both realms.
Bessie Award-winning choreographer Joanna Kotze's "Rouge" (2015) is an ode to red — from its costumes to fiery spirit. The dancers bounce and tic with a nervous energy, as if they consumed Pop Rocks before taking the stage. Together they achieve an almost ritualistic experience — as if some unseen force is compelling them to dance, pushing them into a frenetic state.
Local choreographer Wynn Fricke's "The Mourning Tree" (2015), created in collaboration with the dancers, is the polar opposite in mood. It is also a ritual, but one of quiet yet majestic strength built upon the haunting sounds of traditional Bulgarian folk songs by Mila Vocal Ensemble and Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. As always, Fricke deftly taps into the delicate balance of nature and humankind.
The program closes with the Danny Buraczeski 1988 duet "Merry-Go-Round" performed by Stephen Schroeder and Sarah Steichen. Set to music by Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band, the fluid and fun jazz work is a celebration of rhythmic prowess. Both dancers infuse their performances with a playful ease.
Buraczeski's piece is a fitting send-off for the lively Schroeder, who is leaving Zenon after 15 years to tackle stay-at-home parenting with his infant twin boys and 4-year-old daughter. His game-for-anything presence will be missed.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance writer.