The Fringe packs dance


by John Munger • July 7, 2008 • The Fringe Festival offers more dance in eleven days than any part of the dance community offers at any other time of the year.

Lots of people don’t think of The Fringe as a dance hothouse. Hey, smell the coffee. It’s all about theater and then, oh yes, there are those dance shows.

Going Through the Movements is the blog of John Munger, one of five bloggers covering the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the Daily Planet.

Dance people themselves are accustomed to thinking of certain other times of year as the crunch times. There are whole clusters of Nutcrackers in early to mid December. We all know that mid-April to early May is a season when major shows blossom like zits on a Blizzard-slurping middle-schooler, partly because the McKnight Fellowship panel is meeting in early June. And the late October to mid November period is also full.

But let’s look at some hard numbers. For three years I have tracked every major dance production in the Twin Cities that I could get my hands on, tabulating dates, numbers of performances, ticket prices, and curtain times. Here are some of the results of that research.

There were 18 “pure” dance shows on the 2006 Fringe and 19 on the 2007 Fringe. Each did 5 performances within a 10 or 11 day period. That adds up to about 90 performances in early August each year. No other time of year has so much dance so densely concentrated. The most that any one of the other three crunch times can offer is six or seven productions offering a collective total of 30 to 40 performances over one or two weekends.

This year there are 23 shows listing dance on the Fringe website, actually 30 that I believe contain serious dance, and probably only about 15 or 16 that are truly “dance shows.” Slightly less than the two previous years. This will still add up to more dance than any other time of year can offer in Minnesota.

Who performs dance on The Fringe? Over the three years from 2006 through 2008 there have been (or will be) ballet, modern/contemporary, tap, jazz, cross-disciplinary, and culturally specific productions. Culturally specific productions have included Bharata-Natyam, Venezuelan traditional, West African traditional, American break-dance, Middle-Eastern, Irish step-dance, Tibetan and Chinese. Eight of the 52 or 53 shows over these three years shows have been on tour from outside Minnesota, including from as near as Chicago or Madison and from as far as Paris, France. Two have been from “outstate” Minnesota but not from the Twin Cities.

Notably, larger dance-makers do not elect to participate in this festival. Not one of the 16 Minnesota companies with current budgets of $100,000 or more has appeared on the Fringe in any of the three years covered by this research. But, in 7 cases, members of those companies with pick-up groups of their own have mounted Fringe productions.

The Twin Cities are widely regarded by dance professionals across America as one of the half dozen or so truly significant dance communities in the nation. Along with New York, San Francisco, Chicago and (arguably) two others out of the following: Seattle, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Washington DC and maybe Boston. Would you like to see the bench strength, the fertile ground, and the pyramid-base that holds up a community such as ours? See some dance on The Fringe.

John Munger has been performing, teaching, choreographing, researching and writing about dance for about 40 years. He teaches at Zenon, day-jobs for Dance/USA, and still hasn’t gotten much of it right.