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Minneapolis, Minnesota

With long and productive performing careers largely behind them, ballet dancers Amy Earnest and Lance Hardin now voice their contentment to inspire and prepare new generations of dance students for the stage. Since the late summer of 2012, their base of operations has been the Reif Dance Program, housed in the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

There, they teach and choreograph 18-20 ballet classes in a program that serves 200 students, aged three-to-adult, with a dance curriculum of 50 weekly offerings in fundamentals, ballet, jazz, modern, and tap. Though only in their 30s, the husband and wife duo have nearly three decades of teaching experience between them.

Lance Hardin & Amy Earnest Ballet Co-Directors in Grand Rapids MN

Lance Hardin & Amy Earnest
Ballet Co-Directors in Grand Rapids MN

Their own dance studies extend even longer. Earnest began dancing at age three in Atlanta. After studying with the School of Atlanta Ballet from age 11, she moved to Seattle at 18 to pursue professional development with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. She is certified both with the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum and as a Pilates instructor. Hardin, a native of Chicago, began his dance training at age 11 at the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance and, later, at the Academy of Houston Ballet. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ballet from Indiana University.

Earnest and Hardin both have performed principal roles from the Balanchine repertoire, as well as works by Paul Taylor, William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, and Alonzo King, among others.

In addition to Pacific Northwest Ballet, Earnest has performed with the Tulsa Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Hartford Ballet, and Chautauqua Ballet in venues as far afield as Portugal and Hong Kong. Hardin’s credits include the Milwaukee Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Chautauqua Ballet. The couple met while dancing in North Carolina.

Both cite as highlights of their dance company experiences the few opportunities they had to work with choreographers – King, Duato, and Dwight Rhoden – as they created a new dance from nothing, as opposed to the more usual practice of having existing works “set” on them by repetiteurs.

Prior to moving to Minnesota, Earnest and Hardin owned and ran the Avant-Garde School of Dance in Centennial, Colorado, part of the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area. Grand Rapids was not unknown to them when they responded to the Reif Center’s national search for a director(s) of its ballet program; both had performed there on tour in 1998, and it looked like a good opportunity to make a difference.

Reif Dance serves 200 students aged 3 to adult

Reif Dance serves 200 students aged 3 to adult
with a program offering 50 classes weekly

Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, near its Lake Itasca headwaters, Grand Rapids is home to 10,869 residents in a county of 45,000 people and 1,000 lakes. Located 175 miles north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, 80 miles northwest of Duluth, and 100 miles south of the Canadian border, the city’s largest employer is the Blandin Paper Company.

It was Myles Reif, a former general manager, plant manager, and president of Blandin, whose foresight and leadership prompted the creation of an arts center that would partner with its community; he did not live to see the January 1981 opening. Owned by Independent School District 318, the 645-seat Reif Center is operated by the Reif Arts Council. In fiscal 2011, the Center sold nearly 25,000 tickets to patrons, 40% of whom traveled more than 25 miles to attend performances of theater, dance, music, and popular entertainments.

David Marty, the Center’s president, enjoys a national reputation as a savvy and visionary leader who knows how to effectively connect artists and audiences in meaningful ways while balancing a budget of approximately $950,000.

In addition to its state-of-the-art theater, the Reif Center has three spacious dance studios with sprung floors (1,200 sq. feet, 1,800 sq. feet, and 2,250 sq. feet), private dressing rooms, and a newly refurbished observation room for parents.

Evidence of the dedication and investment of some of those parents in their children’s artistic development can be found in the distances they drive four and five times a week: 34 miles and 45 minutes one-way from Hibbing to the east, and 69 miles and 70 minutes one-way from Bemidji to the west.

Hardin says the number of boys enrolled in the dance program is pushing double digits and has prompted thoughts of offering a boys class beginning in the fall. The program also is looking for three instructors, in jazz, tap, and fundamentals.

Reif Dance presents three annual productions: The Nutcracker in December, the Reif Dance Company show by advanced students in March, and the spring dance theater show in June.

In November 2011, Reif Dance named James Sewell, artistic director of the James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis, as its artistic advisor. The partnership includes regular workshops and performances in Grand Rapids by Sewell and his company, and regular visits by the Reif students to Minneapolis throughout the year.

The 645-seat Reif Center has three spacious, state-of-the-art dance studios

The 645-seat Reif Center has three spacious,
state-of-the-art dance studios

On April 13 and 14, 2013, 39 dancers from Grand Rapids joined members of the James Sewell Ballet and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies to perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” at The Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis. When the Sewell dancers take the stage at the Reif Center a week later, April 20, the Reif dancers will perform “Percussive,” a new work choreographed by Hardin to music by Peter Gabriel.

For its annual spring production, the Reif Dance Program will present “The Wizard of Oz,” June 7-9.

Then, rounding out their first year in Grand Rapids, Earnest and Hardin will be joined by Sewell dancers for the ballet-focused 2013 Summer Dance Intensive, July 29-August 17. The three-week intensive also will offer classes in contemporary styles, modern, jazz, tap, choreography, and Pilates, with a free, Summer Showcase performance on Saturday, August 17. A housing and meal package at Itasca Community College is available for out-of-town participants.

Earnest and Hardin say they enjoy the sense of community they have found in Grand Rapids, a place where they can know many people and be known for the work that they do in developing dance artists. They look forward to many days of sharing their experiences and helping to shape young dreams.


Minneapolis, Minnesota Updated: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 08:59am

A small, partial survey of Minnesota’s dance events during October makes clear that the state takes a back seat to no one when upholding its position as pillar of culture and civilization. Here are some of the many productions available from north to south this month.

University of Minnesota Duluth • Oct. 6

A residency by the Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater at the University of Minnesota Duluth will culminate in a public performance at the Cesar Pelli-designed Weber Music Hall, 7:30pm, Saturday, Oct. 6. The Minneapolis-based company, which bills itself as “theater for the heart and mind,” will display its modern dance range and sensibility in solo, duet, and group works drawn from its repertoire.

The SPDT program will include “Tales From the Book of Longing,” conceived and directed by Stuart Pimsler and Suzanne Costello. Inspired by the poetry of Leonard Cohen, it received its premiere at the Guthrie Theater three years ago this month. Also on tap: “Islands,” Pimsler’s solo created in 1987 for the Contemporary Dance Theatre of Cincinnati, “The Men From the Boys,” a duet from 1988, and “Word Game,” a solo choreographed in 1968 by mentor Daniel Nagrin.

The Weber Music Hall is located at 1151 University Drive. Tickets, online, are $10 adults, $5 students, and free for UMD students. The Duluth News Tribune listed the performance as a “best bet” for the weekend in a preview article.

Another company from Minneapolis, Black Label Movement, has been conducting residency activities in Duluth since early September, working with Zeitgeist Arts and Stacie Luten’s Dance Center. The company’s evening-length “Wreck” will be performed in The Machine Shop of the Clyde Iron Works, 7:30pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 9-10.

“Wreck” • Cylde Iron Works, Duluth • Oct. 9-10              Photo William Cameron

Choreographed by Carl Flink, a 2012 McKnight Artist Fellow, with original music by Mary Ellen Childs, “Wreck” was performed for the first time in January 2008 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Flink, whose father was a crewman on a Great Lakes ore boat in the 1950s, has set the work “inside the last watertight compartment of a recently sunk ore boat resting on the bottom of Lake Superior.” An ensemble of five musicians will perform with the dancers.

The Clyde Iron Works is located at 2920 West Michigan. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students. Reserve them by sending an email to

The Catalyst Series at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis will present the work of three women whose choreography has been commissioned in the past by the Momentum Series of the Walker Art Center and Southern Theater: Maia Maiden, Ellena Schoop, and Cathy Wright. Inspired by the Maya Angelou poem “Phenomenal Woman,” the program, “This Was Meant for Women’s Bodies,” will take the stage at 8pm, Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 11-14.

Cathy Wright • Intermedia Arts • Oct. 11-14                     Photo Crystal Liepa

Wright’s work also has been performed at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, Bryant-Lake Bowl, Patrick’s Cabaret, the Walker Art Center’s Choreographer’s Evening, and the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I saw it for the first time in 2009 at the Ritz Theater’s Renovate Choreographer’s Evening.

Next week, Wright will unveil three new dances: “Catherine Binds Wite Angels,” a performance art piece with angel wings, chardonnay, acrylic painting, and song; “Accepting Mother’s Nature, part 1,” displaying her gothic aesthetic in response to questions posed by Maiden’s work about body as culture; and “Encompassed,” a dance and film on media perpetuation of the female body, created and performed with Maiden.

Intermedia Arts is located at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door; available online or by phone at 612.871.4444.

The Minnesota Dance Theatre will present the second weekend of its fall performances at The Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis, Friday through Sunday, Oct. 12-14. Based on a classic Grimm’s fairy tale, the program, “The Enchantment: 12 Dancing Princesses,” features choreography by Lise Houlton. Music by Leos Janácek and Tim Linker will be performed by a strings and piano quintet. The Cowles Center is located at 516 Hennepin Avenue. Tickets are $26-$30, $20 students; available online or by phone at 612.206.3600.

Ritz Theater • Oct. 18-28

The Ballet of the Dolls will present “The Peruvian Nightingale,” a re-telling of a Hans Christian Andersen tale about learning the difference between real love and infatuation, Oct. 18-28, at the Ritz Theater. The Ritz is located at 345 – 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis. Tickets available online or by phone at 612.436.1129.

In Duluth, the Minnesota Ballet will reprise its 2011 production of “Dracula,” at 7pm, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19-20, at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. The work “follows the grand tradition of Bram Stoker’s Gothic tale of compulsion, suspense, seduction, and love.”

“Dracula” • Oct. 19-20 • Photo Jeff Frey and Associates

The DECC is located at 350 Harbor Drive. Tickets are $10-$42. In a “Blood Drive for Dracula,” one can donate blood to the Memorial Blood Centers and receive a voucher for buy-one, get-one free tickets. Call the Minnesota Ballet for more information, 218.529.3742.

Works of Edgar Allan Poe will animate James Sewell Ballet’s fall performances at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis, Oct. 26-Nov. 4. The fall program also will be presented at the University of Minnesota Morris, Oct. 19.

For other performance offerings, check out DanceMNThe O’ShaughnessyOrdwayWalker Art Center, Northrop Dance SeriesSouthern TheaterRed Eye Theater, and The Lab Theater, among many others.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The poetry and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, a literary icon of American Romanticism, provide the grist for James Sewell’s choreographic mill and his company’s new ballet, “Takes On Poe.” James Sewell Ballet will present the new work as part of a dance macabre-themed fall program at The Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis, Oct. 26-Nov. 4.

James Sewell Ballet • Oct. 26-Nov. 4

For “Takes On Poe,” Sewell draws animation from Poe’s poems “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” and “The Bells,” and the short stories “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” all published in the 1840s.

Born in Boston in 1809, Poe grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and gained renown as author, poet, editor, and literary critic before his death in Baltimore in 1849. He has been tagged as the “inventor of the modern detective story.”

The fall program also will include the classical “Giselle Pas De Deux,” and the revival of Sewell’s “Grave Matters” (2011). Kathy Staszak designed costumes and Kevin A. Jones designed lighting for the program.

“An Autumn Scare,” a 60-minute matinee for families, Saturday, Oct. 27, will feature excerpts from the fall program and a costume parade across the stage for young audience members “as they are or will be” for Halloween.

Tickets are available on-line at, and by phone at 612.206.3600.

James Sewell Ballet’s fall season follows on its performance, Oct. 12, at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in St. George, Utah.

Updated: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 09:03am: The company’s fall program also will be presented at Edson Auditorium, University of Minnesota Morris, 7:30pm, Friday, Oct. 19. For tickets call 320.589.6077. A ballet master class, free and open to the public, will be offered in the Humanities Fine Arts building, Thursday, Oct. 18, 4pm-5:30pm.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Beethoven completed his Quartet for Strings No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Opus 131, in 1826, the year before his death. That he was deaf when he composed the 40-minute work remains reason for amazement, even – and especially – in the jaded, show-it-to-me culture of our present century.

I recall the first time I heard the work.

“Opus 131” • Cory Goei & Leah Gallas

Following the conclusion of a performing arts conference and showcase in Chicago, I was driving across Wisconsin to Minneapolis on a Sunday afternoon in September 1995 with three members of the James Sewell Ballet. We had stopped earlier at the resort town of Wisconsin Dells, primarily just to say we had done so.

James Sewell was going to begin choreographing a new ballet set to Opus 131 the next day. None of us had heard the music, so Sewell played it over the van’s sound system as we drifted along I-94 toward the Minnesota border and into setting sun. The seven movements, each with a distinct feeling, are played through without pause.

Created for six dancers at its 1995 premiere at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, “Opus 131” featured three partnered pairings by Anna Laghezza and Sewell, Sally Rousse and Christian Burns, and Penelope Freeh and Joel Klausler.

When reprised during the 2002-03 season, Sewell expanded the work to four pairings: Freeh and Matthew Keefe, Rousse and Sewell, Peggy Seipp and Benjamin Johnson, and Julia Welsh and Justin Leaf. JSB’s touring schedule was extensive that year, and “Opus 131” saw action on stages throughout the country.

One of those stages, a college in New England, would be followed by a Sunday matinee at Brooklyn College in New York City. It would be the company’s first gig in the city since performing at Hunter College in Manhattan in March 2001.

In Minneapolis on Friday, April 11, 2003, it occurred to me that it would be fun to make the scene in Brooklyn, and I told my administrative colleagues that I would go if fares were under $200. Through the wonders of online booking, I found a round-trip to LaGuardia for $184, and arrived at the hotel in Brooklyn 30 minutes before the company drove in the next afternoon.

The Parker Quartet

Sunday, April 13, was Palm Sunday, and the staff at Brooklyn College had no expectations of filling even half of the 2,500 seats in Whitman Hall. I arrived at the theater in the morning with Kevin Jones, the production manager, and Matthew Keefe, who served the dual role of dancer and wardrobe master. My job was to not interfere, pace, and hold court in the lobby when the audience arrived.

For a while, it seemed as though there would be no audience. In addition to being Palm Sunday, it was one of those bright and romantically languid Sundays that only New York City can muster, and the streets of Brooklyn were bereft of movement. Finally, as though a faucet was turned on, people arrived from nowhere to take their seats.

The performance began, and I watched from the back of the theater where I could pace with my usual thoughts, hoping that the performance went well, that the audience had an engaging time, and that terrorists or some other mayhem did not disrupt the scene.

My blood pressure shot up as a series of episodic camera flashes appeared from the audience, not far from the stage. Cameras are never allowed in live performances out of consideration for other audience members and to protect performer safety and intellectual property interests. The nature and length of the music and dance, however, meant that trying to confiscate a camera would be more disruptive than the flashes, and I seethed in silence.

At intermission, while stationed near the lobby exits looking for a wayward camera, a college press officer walked up and asked if I was with JSB and could I identify photos of the dancers for Anna Kisselgoff, the senior dance writer for the New York Times. In our brief, pleasant exchange of business, she noted – a bit archly, I thought – that our public relations game had left something to be desired for this performance.

Neither we nor the college had thought of trying to schedule a photo call for the press given that we had a single performance, and I was thunderstruck by the thought that Kisselgoff had brought a photographer “all the way to Brooklyn” on Palm Sunday. I also was glad that we had taken pains to make our program notes look as respectable as possible.

Back in Minneapolis, two mornings later, I received an early call from the mother of a JSB dancer who told me I would never believe that day’s New York Times. She was right.

Across the top, front page of the arts section, and under the headline “Balletic Sonnets, Surprises Included,” was a full-color photo of the JSB dancers taking a curtain call in Brooklyn for “Opus 131.”

In her review, Kisselgoff wrote,

Someone needs to give the James Sewell Ballet from Minneapolis and Mr. Sewell’s always imaginative, often exquisite ballets a full season in New York. In the meantime, thanks go to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts for presenting Mr. Sewell’s chamber troupe with three New York premieres at Brooklyn College’s Whitman Hall on Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Sewell is one of American ballet’s best choreographers, albeit one who composes sonnets rather than epics. This lack of pretension can make his work look deceptively gentle, but it is not modest. Grounded in a neoclassical style that is exploited in different ways, his choreography brims with surprises in movement invention.

This rich texture was obvious on Sunday in ”Opus 131,” a fanciful, plotless ballet set to Beethoven.

Quite simply, reviews do not get much better than that. Most artists, let alone dancers, will never get their names and photos splashed across a page of the New York Times.

It is no longer my job to pace at the back of theaters during JSB performances. Instead, I sit calmly and expectantly in the audience, as I did last Friday at The Cowles Center for the latest iteration of “Opus 131,” this time for seven dancers: Nicky Coelho, Leah Gallas, Cory Goei, Chris Hannon, Nic Lincoln, Sally Rousse, and Eve Schulte.

This go-round has its own special excitement. For the first time, the dancers are performing to live music, provided by The Parker Quartet, an exquisite ensemble of passionate talent whose members include Daniel Chong, violin, Karen Kim, violin, Jessica Bodner, viola, and Kee-Hyun Kim, cello.

You can catch them at 8pm, April 20-21, and 2pm, April 22. Call 612.206.3600 for ticketing.

Gary Peterson served as executive director of James Sewell Ballet from 1995 to 2008.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The 24th Midwest Arts Conference will descend on downtown Minneapolis from Wednesday, Sept. 7, through Saturday, Sept. 10. Attendees will include 1,000 performing artists, their managers, and agents (representing 4,000 artists and ensembles), along with performing arts presenters, venues, and arts administrators from throughout the United States and beyond.

The Conference serves as convenor each September for the 15 states represented by Arts Midwest and the Mid-America Arts Alliance – an area stretching from the Dakotas to Michigan, Nebraska to Ohio, and Minnesota to Texas.

In addition to networking and professional development sessions, the Midwest Arts Conference provides a forum for live performances and a Marketplace exhibit hall. The 2011 gathering, centered at the Hilton Hotel, 1001 Marquette Avenue, is the first hosted by Minneapolis since 1992; St. Paul hosted the 2001 and 2009 conferences.

The Délégation du Québec from Chicago will sponsor Wednesday’s opening reception at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 6-8pm. IMG Artists will sponsor Saturday’s closing party at the Dakota Jazz Club, 5-6:30pm.

This year’s Marketplace exhibit hall will be staged at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Many Minnesota performing ensembles have paid for a booth presence: Ananya Dance Theatre, 701A; ARENA Dances, 121A; James Sewell Ballet, 901 and 929; Katha Dance Theatre, 128; Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, 839; Minnesota Sinfonia, 800B; Ragamala Dance, 901; Rose Ensemble, 106; Shapiro and Smith Dance, 921; Sossy Mechanics, 109; Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, 339A; Theater of Fools, 906; and TU Dance, 739.

The Conference will present 18 artists and ensembles in curated, showcase performances at the Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue, on Thursday and Friday evenings, including Minnesota’s Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater at 7:35pm on Thursday.

Numerous showcase performances will be produced independently throughout downtown on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, with a majority staged in the Hilton Hotel’s ballrooms. All of these performances are free, and nearly all of them will welcome respectful audience members from the local community if space allows. All performances begin promptly at stated start times.

Independent showcases will be presented by Minnesota artists on this schedule:

Wednesday, Sept. 7 – 8:30pm: Ananya Dance Theater, full-length presentation of “Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.” ADT shuttle will pick up conferees at Nicollet Island Pavilion at 8pm with return to Hilton Hotel at 10pm. Venue: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Avenue South.

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 8-9 – 9:30pm: Shapiro and Smith Dance; 9:45pm: Ragamala Dance; 10pm: Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater; 10:15pm: James Sewell Ballet; 10:30pm: Zenon Dance Company; 10:45pm: TU Dance; 11pm: Sossy Mechanics. Venue: James Sewell Ballet’s Studio 2A, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Avenue.

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 8-9 – 9:30pm, 10:15pm, 11pm: ARENA Dances. Venue: Studio 5B, Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Avenue.

Friday, Sept. 9 – 9:30pm: Rose Ensemble. Venue: Wesley United Methodist Church, 101 East Grant Street.

All events are subject to change.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Given the depth and breadth of dance-making in the Twin Cities, one expects and takes for granted that dances choreographed here for the concert stage usually will be good, if not very good. So it has been since the start of the current performance season in September. What has been remarkable to my eye over the last three months, however, is the absence of truly compelling choreography: work that cannot – should not – be missed and might need to be seen to be believed.

The 27th fall concerts of Minnesota’s Zenon Dance Company, which opened at the Ritz Theater, Nov. 19, crystallized this dawning realization but did not prompt it. The programs of Ananya Dance Theatre, Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, Ballet of the Dolls, Minnesota Dance Theatre, James Sewell Ballet, Arena Dances, and Zenon certainly have displayed strong choreographic competence and generally strong dancing with much to like, particularly the dancing. All, however, left me wanting – je ne sais quoi.

That may simply reflect the cycle of the creative zeitgeist – or the current settings on my perceptual filters.

Zenon’s show opened with the premiere of “The Laws of Falling Bodies,” a contemporary work for seven dancers by Sydney Skybetter and his first commission for the company. I was anxious to see his work for the first time, even if the music for this dance was an electronic score by Jonny Greenwood instead of the more elegiac sounding selections (e.g., Dvorák, Schumann, Arvo Part) I had read about for some of Skybetter’s earlier creations. The man can create visually and emotionally arresting dances (see his website), especially “Near Abroad” from 2008. Unfortunately, “Falling Bodies” is not one of them, particularly in its first four minutes. The work appears at first to be a study of people using each other and saving themselves from each other, all while trying to distance themselves from each other. Over time, it evolves into a picture of people holding up the most fragile or endangered among them, but one wonders why we should care and where the rest of the story went.

With a Master’s Degree in dance performance and choreography from New York University, and performance credits with the likes of Christopher Williams, Larry Keigwin, Kun-Yang Lin, Gus Solomons jr, and others, Skybetter’s is one of the most interesting emergent voices at work these days. Zenon’s artistic director, Linda Andrews, would do very well to invite him back to secure another new work – perhaps a half-evening effort for the 2011 opening of the Minnesota Shubert Center.

Skybetter and his company will perform in January at Joyce SoHo and the Skirball Center during the APAP Conference in New York.

A second premiere, “Filament,” is a solo work created by Emilie Plauché Flink, artistic associate of Minnesota’s Black Label Movement. The dance begins in silence, then is joined by the electronic strings of “Luna” from the “Touch It” CD by the Minneapolis-based Jelloslave. Although the movement has a minimalist feel, the impact of its expression by Tamara Ober was anything but as she threw herself about the stage, at times appearing to pedal an invisible bicycle while supine. Mary Ann Bradley will dance the role Nov. 27-29.

Flink’s artistic pedigree includes a BFA degree in dance from the Juilliard School, 11 years of performance with the Limón Dance Company, and performances for Annabelle Gamson and Martha Clark. She also worked briefly for the Minnesota Crafts Council, an undertaking that helped inspire her to create sculpture and furniture from found/cast-off objects.

This latter impulse no doubt provided a seed for the metallic-looking set piece for “Filament,” designed by Annie Katsura Rollins. Part oversized beehive, and part cave lined with brass, Aztec dishware, the set lived in shadows and invested the proceedings with a cocoon-like refuge.

In Mitch Albom’s 2004 book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Eddie, the principal character, encounters five individuals after dying in an accident in his old age. One of these is Marguerite, his long-dead wife, who when he sees her is handing out chocolates at a wedding “for the bitter and the sweet.” Eddie, who had loved her from the moment they met and never cared for anyone else as much, tells her how much he has missed her. “Lost love,” she consoles him, “is still love.”

A similar theme is at work in a third Zenon premiere, “Here, now that you are gone…” Set in three sections to music by Charlie Byrd, Toots Thielemans, and Stéphane Grappelli, the jazz duet, danced beautifully and buoyantly by Gregory Waletski and Bradley, recalls “his” love and the instances of their life together. According to program notes, as he is drawn into his memories he must decide either to remain in the past or to continue on.

The choreography by Judith James Ries, a former principal dancer for Danny Buraczeski‘s JAZZDANCE, acquaints us with the memory in the first segment, sands off any rough edges that may have informed the past relationship in the second, and leaves us to wonder in the third whether the memory or Waletski will let go first. Ultimately, Bradley, as the memory, exits stage right while Waletski remains in reverie stage left. My bet: he continues on but does not move on.

In addition to teaching at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts, Hamline University, and Zenon Dance School, one of Ries’s next projects will be creating choreography for Park Square Theatre‘s 2010 production of “Rock and Roll.”

Two repertory works completed the Zenon program.

“Not From Texas,” looking like three pieces of cotton candy at the Texas State Fair, entertains without audience effort. Amazingly for Zenon, however, on Nov. 20 the four men appeared to mark the opening quartet with little authentic personality in what should have been a raucous stemwinder to Lyle Lovett‘s “Long Tall Texan.” The succeeding sections, also to Lovett, looked more taut and together, especially the middle duet by Bradley and Waletski. The wife-husband team of Megan McClellan and Brian Sostek provided the whimsical choreography that debuted earlier this year.

“Booba,” an odd set of excerpts from a 2008 work by Andrea Miller, closed the show, first with a showcase for six dancers, followed by a duet of Bryan Godbout and Leslie O’Neill. Although the most structurally strong part of the evening, the group work lacked interest, particularly the pseudo-shimmying across the stage to the rhythmic music by Balkan Beat Box. Godbout and O’Neill provided a picture-pleasing finish to the most colorful (costume-wise) and brightly lit dance of the evening.

Zenon Dance Company’s 27th fall concerts will continue, Fri-Sun, Nov. 27-29, at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis. For tickets call 612.436.1129.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

For a 27th consecutive year, Zenon Dance Company will present a fall season of dance in the Twin Cities. New and existing work will be displayed over two weekends, Nov. 19-29, at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.

In his first commission for Zenon, New York dancemaker Sydney Skybetter provides one of the program’s three premieres, “The Laws of Falling Bodies,” a modern work for the full-company set to music by Jonny Greenwood.

Mary Ann Bradley and Greg Waletski will dance “Here, now that you are gone,” a new jazz duet by Judith James Ries, a Minneapolis-based protégé of jazz master Danny Buraczeski. The duet is set to music by Charlie Byrd, Toots Thielemans, and Stéphane Grappelli.

Emilie Plauché Flink, co-artistic director of Black Label Movement in Minneapolis, offers a new, untitled solo set to cello music composed by Michelle Kinney and recorded by the ensemble Jello Slave. Tamara Ober and Bradley will perform the work on alternate weekends.

The program also will include two revivals. “Not From Texas,” a light and entertaining hoedown by Megan McClellan and Brian Sostek set to music by Lyle Lovett, and “Booba (Doll),” an Andrea Miller work to Balkan Beat Box.

The Ritz Theater is located at 345 – 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis. Performances: Nov. 19-21 and 27-28 at 8pm, Nov. 22 and 29 at 7pm. For tickets call: 612.436.1129.


Led by directors Uri Sands and Toni Pierce-Sands, TU Dance will open its sixth season with three performances of four contemporary works, Nov. 20-22, at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. The program will feature the first full staging since 1992 of “Dance With Army Blankets,” a work commissioned from Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith by the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble.

Uri Sands will offer up two premieres: “Sense(ability) Sketch III – Earth” and an untitled duet for himself and Marciano Silva dos Santos. An earlier work, “Tones of Adney,” inspired by the shifting states of a Minnesota lake, will round out the bill.

The O’Shaughnessy is located on the campus of St. Catherine’s University, Cleveland and Randolph Aves., St. Paul. Performances: Nov. 20-21 at 8pm and Nov. 22 at 2pm. For tickets call 651.690.6700.


The Walker Art Center’s annual Choreographers’ Evening, curated by Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, will take place in Minneapolis at the Walker’s McGuire Theater, Saturday, Nov. 28 at 7pm and 9:30pm. Follow the link for the program line-up. For tickets call 612.375.7600 or online at


In something of a family affair, the Lakeville City Ballet will present its annual, full-length production of “The Nutcracker” on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 28-29, at the Lakeville South High School Theater.

Artistic Director Denise Vogt provides the choreography for the production that includes spouse Rick Vogt (returning from dance retirement) in the role of Drosselmeyer, daughter Tianna, and son Anthony in the role of the Nutcracker.

In addition to students from the Ballet Royale Minnesota academy, guest artists will include Leah Gallas and Ricardo Graziano from the Tulsa Ballet (Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier) and Eve Schulte and Nicolas Lincoln from the James Sewell Ballet (Snow Queen and King).

The Lakeville South High School Theater is located at 21135 Jacquard Avenue, Lakeville, east of I-35 on Highway 70. Performances: Nov. 28 at 2pm and 6pm, and Nov. 29 at 1:30pm. Tickets available at the door, or in advance online at (click the “Programs” tab).


After 10+ years of planning and fundraising, ground will be broken for construction of the Minnesota Shubert Center in Minneapolis, Thursday, Nov. 19. The public is invited for remarks and the groundbreaking ceremony in the parking lot between the Hennepin Center for the Arts and the Shubert Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., 12:30pm-1:15pm. A reception will follow in the Hennepin Center, 1:15pm-2:30pm. RSVP for the reception to 612.465.0231.


One of the largest dance floors in Minnesota, the historic Withrow Ballroom & Event Center will re-open late this month in Hugo/Stillwater, under the ownership of Paul Bergman. The 15,000 sq ft facility, established in 1928, has been shut down for a year. The opening weekend entertainment will include the Rockin’ Hollywoods (50s dancing music), Friday, Nov. 27, 8:30pm-12:30am; Raggs featuring Todd Olson on lead vocals/sax/flute (classic rock-n-roll), Saturday, Nov. 28, 8pm-Midnight; and the acoustic slide guitar duo of the Dough Bros: Paul Mayasich and Andy Dee (country, blues, R and B, rockabilly, rock-n-roll), Sunday, Nov. 29, 3pm-7pm.

The Withrow Ballroom is located at 12169 Keystone Avenue North, Hugo, just northwest of Stillwater, Minnesota. Tickets are available at the door or by calling 651.439.5123.

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