Zenon Dance Company is marking its 26th fall season this year, and they are celebrating in their usual fashion: by putting on a showcase of some of the most innovative recent dance pieces by choreographers from the Twin Cities and beyond. They launched the season on Thursday night at the Southern Theater, and despite a technical glitch or two, the show generally went off with the flawless grace that has become a Zenon trademark.
|zenon dance company’s 26th fall season, presented through november 30 at the southern theater, 1420 washington ave. s., minneapolis. for tickets ($29) and information, see southerntheater.org.|
This season marks the world premiere of a couple of important new works. The first is The Shape of the Wind, which was choreographed by Wynn Fricke in collaboration with Zenon’s dancers. The piece features an original score by Peter O’Gorman: a minimalist composition that utilizes only cymbals, wind chimes, and O’Gorman’s breathing. The dance, performed by Amy Behm-Thompson (no relation to me), Mary Anne Bradley, Bryan Goodbout, and Gregory Waletski, had a minimalist bent to it as well, with the dancers executing slow, sinewy movements in a methodical but organic style. The pace eventually picks up to where O’Gorman is essentially performing scat with his short sharp breaths, but the amalgamation of score and movement is always tightly reined in.
Gustavus Adolphus Visiting Professor of Dance Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner’s Muevete (Move It) also saw its world premiere on Thursday; judging by the audience reaction, it was very much a favorite. Gutierrex-Garner created Muevete as an expression of Latino culture, drawing on her own Mexican heritage as well as more contemporary influences like Rize, a recent movie about inner-city dancing in South L.A. The piece was the most urban-oriented of the evening, with elements of crumping, club dancing, and dance as battle running though it. In between smoldering sessions of undulating hips there were recordings of an ESL class where an obviously white instructor tries very unsuccessfully to shout across the culture barrier to his students, while they shoot back aphorisms like “you can take me out of the barrio but you can’t take the barrio out of me.” The white/Latino culture barrier is a recurring theme throughout the composition, but is probably depicted most effectively—though in a possibly unintentional manner—by the dancers themselves, all of whom are white and attempt to strike “urban” poses with only moderate success. Every dancer is every inch a master of his or her craft, which is possibly why everything felt just a little too choreographed. The dance doesn’t really have the intensity or spontaneity of, for instance, some of the inner-city dance sessions at Whittier Park in South Minneapolis. It appeared that though you can take the dancer outside of classical training, you can’t take the classical training out of the dancer.
Another crowd favorite was the local premiere of New York choreographer Andrea Miller’s Booba, which despite having three false starts ended up being a great success. The piece is a lighthearted parody of club dancing, set to a blistering Balkan Beat Box score. The dancers execute grossly exaggerated and often hilarious moves while keeping their faces as blank as marionettes (booba is Hebrew for doll).
The company also performed Doug Verone’s Of the Earth Far Below, a chaotic symphony of movement set to the strands of Steve Reich’s discordant Triple Quartet for Strings. It was a surprise to see former Zenon member Christine Maginnis as a guest performer in this piece, since she announced her retirement from the company last year. As usual, though, it was a pleasure seeing her perform. Last came Keely Garfield’s Scent of Mental Love, an humorous and occasionally coarse mating dance executed by Mary Anne Bradley and Stephen Schroeder. The two lovers act out an awkward and stumbling romance on stage, sometimes flat-out bumping into each other (purposefully) to affect a very raw courtship, seemingly aroused more by curiosity about one another’s bodies than by emotional passion.
If opening night was any indication, Zenon is off to yet another wonderful dance season at the Southern. In an atmosphere where everyone (arts organizations more than most) are suffering economically, it is nice to see that Zenon has still not compromised its standard of excellence.
Jon Behm is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.