In early August, an invited audience of four gathered in the dance studio at the Center for Performing Arts in south Minneapolis. There, dancers wore masks as they performed “Senescence,” a new piece by choreographer Kerry Parker. One of the performances took place on the night of a tornado drill. Blaring sirens added to the ominous feeling of attending a public event amid a pandemic.
Tiny audiences, outdoor performances, virtual dance — those are the trifecta of options for dance companies this fall, and in some cases, groups are trying more than one option at once. At Crooners earlier this month, Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre performed its “Aire Fresco” concert outdoors to an audience sitting on a patio and in their cars. Ragamala Dance Company, meanwhile, used cameras to film a live fundraising event at Paikka in St. Paul.
James Sewell Ballet is taking a dual approach for Sunday’s “Dancing Waters” event. A limited audience will “float in” by boat to see the performance, which also can be viewed online. Off-Leash Area, meanwhile, will have both indoor and outdoor stages for its Inbox@ArtBox festival the first week of October.
On Oct. 1, Arena Dances will launch a video of a new work choreographed by artistic director Mathew Janczewski. B’beri Desserts will deliver birthday cake to participating audiences.
Northrop is also going the “virtual performance” route, with a stream of choreographer Andrea Miller’s 2016 piece, “Gallim,” on Nov. 19. The film is prerecorded, but Northrop will host a live artist talk afterward.
Meanwhile, some companies are taking a gamble that the weather cooperates. Collide Theatrical will host “The Cafe” in the parking lot of Gremlin Theater on Sept. 25-26, and Ballet Co-Laboratory will take things outdoors for its “Drive-In Forward” fundraiser Oct. 24, with music streamed into vehicles.
Out in Lakeville, Twin Cities Ballet is going the in-person route, with audience members spaced out inside the Lakeville Area Arts Center, for performances of “Little Red Riding Hood” on Oct. 24-25.
Much of this feels like uncharted territory, with groups figuring things out as they go along, and trying to maintain safety while also using art to build connection and offer a bit of respite.
Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities critic and journalist.