Visibly shaken by news of the deadly attacks that had just occurred in Paris, Linda Z. Andrews, artistic and executive director of Zenon Dance Company, introduced the troupe's 33rd fall season at opening night on Friday.
With tears in her eyes, Andrews said that the company recently returned from southern France after a three-week residency in which it worked with choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland to create a new work, as well as to teach dance to French children. "It is very sad," she said of Friday's events.
In her remarks, Andrews said that Batten Bland's new piece, "Appétit," presents a look at greed in American culture. "Appétit" is a provocative, subversive work, one that paints an ugly picture of America, with dancers clawing against each other, clamoring over each other's bodies, and calling out "Mine!"
Born in the United States, Batten Bland depicts the United States as vile and grotesque, ultimately destroyed from the inside by its excesses. The experience was a lot to take on opening night, when the whole world mourned the loss of life in Paris.
On the other hand, what better way to celebrate the freedom and democracy that separates the United States from terror, than to practice one's right to criticize one's own country?
Joanna Kotze's piece "Rouge" also premiered, and offered a lighter note. It began with the dancers, dressed in bright red, tiptoeing through the aisles of the auditorium and gathering just in front of the stage to create a tableau.
They looked right out into the audience, some of them smiling coyly, before hopping up onto the stage.
The choreography vacillated between angular, geometric movements, and a more wobbly, pedestrian vernacular, with the dancers awkwardly acknowledging the presence of the audience and each other.
Eventually, with the repetitive, beeping music of Ryan Seaton in the background, they converged as a human machine. They then broke out of that, with each dancer struggling to find their own individual path, as the music swelled with a more lyrical melody.
The program concluded with Danny Buraczeski's masterwork, "Ezekiel's Wheel," which acted as a balm for heavy spirits.
With spoken text by James Baldwin and Philip Hamilton and Peter Jones' soaring, soulful music, the piece, which has been brought back often since its 1999 premiere, offered a soothing antidote to the violence and hate that still proliferates in our world.
Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities arts writer.