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Minneapolis, Minnesota Updated 10/19/2012 – 11:27pm CDT

Someday, scholars pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Minnesota will write the definitive histories of Minnesota’s and the Twin Cities’ performing arts scenes. Significant portions of their research will draw heavily upon records generated over the past 50 years by members of a remarkable family of artists.

Many of the artistic heirs of that family’s influence reunited in Minneapolis’ Lowry Hill neighborhood, May 5, for an evening of mellow memories and music. Approximately 100 grandparents, parents, and toddlers gathered in the soon-to-be-former family home of the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and School, overlooking the intersection of Franklin and Hennepin avenues from the upper floors at 1940 Hennepin.

For Minnesotans who came of age in the 1960s and 70s, the Hauser company and school occupied one of the central artistic positions in the zeitgeist that produced housing coops, anti-Vietnam war protests, and the worker-owned coop movement. In those days, we knew that ballet was something that came from Communist Russia when Ed Sullivan featured it on his Sunday night variety show on CBS television. What little we knew of modern dance emanated from the doings of Hauser and her colleagues at the Guild of Performing Arts, a music and dance school with a small theater and art gallery centered in the bohemian enclave of Minneapolis’ West Bank. The area was known for a time as the Haight-Ashbury of the Midwest.

While Hauser’s work flowed from the Mary Wigman and Hanya Holm traditions of modern dance, the remarkable story of her company is that of its service as the crucible from which the elements of contemporary dance in Minnesota exploded and continue to differentiate themselves, 51 years after its founding in 1961.

As fashions and generations changed, it was perhaps inevitable that present-day dance afficionados have little or no knowledge and appreciation of the statewide, domestic, and international touring the company accomplished, nor of the far-reaching contributions made by its students, performers, and choreographers.

A small list of Hauser alums includes the choreographer Ralph Lemon; Lisa Naugle, the chair of dance at the University of California-Irvine; the choreographer and artistic director Gary Lund, whose work has been presented throughout Europe and at New York’s Joyce Theater and Dance Theater Workshop; Sara Pearson, a professor at the University of Maryland; Stephen Koester, a professor at the University of Utah; and Nancy Evans Doede, director of the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre in Los Angeles. Artists from the milieu who remain active in the Twin Cities include Gerry Girouard, Derek Phillips, Pam Gleason, Susana di Palma, Laurie Van Wieren, and Jane Peck, among many others.

The artistic talents and interests of the Hauser family exceed the dance pursuits of Nancy and her daughter, Heidi Hauser Jasmin. They include the sculpture and visual art of Alonzo Hauser, who founded the Art Department at Macalester College in 1945, and the classical and flamenco guitar virtuosity of sons Tony and Michael.

My first close crossing of paths with the Hauser company and family occurred in 1986. To help establish a new purpose for itself following the opening of the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in January that year, The O’Shaughnessy, a 1,700 seat auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, created the O’Shaughnessy Dance Series, featuring six or eight Twin Cities dance companies during the spring months. I attended rehearsals and performances of those companies, including Hauser, and wrote reviews for my radio program on KFAI. Pam Gleason, who organized last week’s reunion, was a performer in my review.

In addition to a bountiful, pot-luck spread of food, a quintet, the Aurora Club Jazz Jam Live, provided music – kicking off with “Days of Wine and Roses” – while those touched forever by Hauser Dance took to the dance floor with each other or themselves to recall where they learned to love dance, some recreating favored roles from days past.

Jasmin announced that, since she stopped teaching last October, she and her husband, Paul Jasmin, have been organizing and archiving the company’s 51 years of history, disposing of props and costumes, and preparing to end the 501(c)(3) status at the end of August. The archival documents will be turned over to the Performing Arts Archives at the University of Minnesota.

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