This year proved again how lucky the Twin Cities is to have such a robust dance scene. With venues that bring in high-caliber troupes from all over the world; homegrown companies that deliver high-quality work season after season; a booming infrastructure that nurtures up-and-coming choreographers, and audiences and funders that support the ecosystem, our dance scene dazzled almost every weekend of 2015. Here are some of the most magical moments:
Out-of-towners: We lucked out this year, with the likes of Camille Brown and Lula Washington bringing their work to the Twin Cities, and New York-based Joanna Kotze working with Zenon and James Sewell Ballet to stage exciting works. The highlight was Maureen Fleming, whose elastic talents in the astonishing “B. Madonna” at the O’Shaughnessy made for a transcendent night.
Local choreographers: They more than held their own, with TU Dance, Sewell, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Zenon, Arena Dances, Ananya Dance Theatre and Stuart Pimsler among the companies that reliably brought a mix of new works and old favorites.
Recognition: Many local artists won acclaim outside the Twin Cities. Minneapolis choreographer Chris Schlichting, whose intricate and breathtaking “Stripe Tease” started the year off right at Walker Art Center, went on to receive kudos from the New York Times and Washington Post. Ashwini Ramaswamy of Ragamala Dance also received a New York Times rave, and the company made the Chicago Tribune’s year-end Top 10. TU Dance artistic directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands of TU Dance were named USA Fellows, winning $50,000, and Minnesota companies bopped around the world, from southern France (Zenon) to Ethiopia (Ananya).
Fresh spaces: There was plenty of dance outside the theaters, too. Morgan Thorson set her five-hour endurance piece “Still Life” inside the Weisman Art Museum’s galleries, while BodyCartography Project traveled around the Twin Cities with its “closer” project, bringing individualized dances to audience members before mounting a full-length work at Red Eye. Ragamala hosted a cultural festival in the Hindu tradition called Navarathri, where dance was just part of the celebration, and Hennepin Theatre Trust brought in guest curators April Sellers and Laurie Van Wieren to launch a dance series in indoor public spaces in downtown Minneapolis.
In retrospect: Minnesota Dance Theatre staged a moving tribute to founder Loyce Houlton; Joanie Smith nodded to early feminism with her piece “Tableau Vivant,” and Karla Grotting’s “Lost Voices in Jazz,” presented with Eclectic Edge Ensemble, honored the choreographers and dancers lost to the AIDS crisis. Mathew Janczewski, from Arena, also took reflected on past works for the company’s 20th anniversary.
New talents: Emerging choreographers such as Pramila Vasudevan and Kaleena Miller carved out their own spaces, while Divya Maiya owned the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the second year in a row with her exuberant, wonderful Bollywood dance troupe.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer and critic.