Arts Spotlight: 424

By John Townsend August 25, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Cowles Center Opening Weekend Celebration — The Twin Cities is a mecca for theater but it also has more dance companies per capita than any metro area in the US. However, dance performances in the Twin Cities are often relegated to facilities ill-equipped to handle their particular needs. From changing into dancewear to the type of floor that safely supports the dancer’s dynamic athleticism, until now, the needs of local dance have been insufficiently addressed.

But finally, after years of preparation, which has included literally moving the historic Shubert Theater from a block away to the site right next to the Hennepin Center for the Arts and yards away from the light rail, that palace from the vaudeville era is now the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. A restored exterior and revamped neoclassic interior with 500 retrofitted seats will host most of the established Twin Cities dance companies.

CC Executive Director Frank Sonntag compares the Cowles to New York’s pre-eminent dance center, the Joyce Theater. He says it’s about “elevating dance to the level that’s been enjoyed by music and theater.” The name ‘Cowles’ refers to dance’s two penultimate Twin Cities patrons, John and Sage Cowles.

Sonntag says, “Above all, dance,” as he shows me the sprung wood floor with rubber stoppers every six feet below it, making for protective insulation. From the moment the dancer prepares in one of over 30 dressing rooms until she finishes up her performance and is back in her dressing room to re-don her daily garb back, her feet and joints are protected.

Arena Dance choreographer Matthew Janczewski explains “[for]dancers, jumping up and down on cement and hard surfaces really hurts, so a sprung floor actually prolongs a dancer’s career without stressing their ankles and joints. The more you dance on hard surfaces the more your muscles contract and go into protection mode. The sprung floor can also assist in more bounce and getting higher up in the air.”

Opening weekend festivities include a ceremonial blessing by the Native Pride Dancers, a galaxy of artists, and a combination of black tie and less formal events.

Sept. 9-11 • Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave. So., Mpls. • (612) 206-3600 • www.thecowlescenter.org

Obama Mia! — For some time the Brave New Workshop has tiptoed too gingerly around offending one side of the aisle over the other. Moreover, until now they’ve been hesitant to come down too heavily on President Obama. This may have to do with the fact that they’ve been an all white comedy troupe. However, African American Andy Hilbrands has now joined the team and he’s a terrific. Don’t worry, they don’t resort to Tea Party-style disinformation wackiness but the President’s inability to create more jobs is spoofed and that seems fair game indeed. Fear not, he’s counterbalanced with Michele Bachmann madness. Through Oct. 1 • Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. • (612) 332-6620 • www.bravenewworkshop.com

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency — Nan Goldin’s slide show of New York and Boston’s hardcore drug scenes is emblematic of the late 1970s to the ’90s. Some say she glamorizes grunge and heroin but Goldin unmistakably photographs from the heart. Many of her subjects are/were close friends. Same- and opposite-sex couples, interracial and not, and the children of those photographed, make for a poignant viewing experience. The show’s natural nudity and graphic sexuality are relevant to its purpose.. Through Oct. 16 • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. • (612) 375-7600 • www.walkerart.org

True West — David Mann directs Peter Hansen and John Skelley as brothers Lee and Austin in what’s probably Sam Shepard’s funniest play. Hansen calls this gritty comedy “a battleground strewn with what it means to be a man. Each brother is incomplete and wants desperately what the other has and what the other seems to be. Hanging over them both is this idealized and impossible vision of the mythic man of the West – tough, independent, successful, resourceful, and dangerous.” Through Sept. 5 • Minneapolis Theater Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls. • (952) 929-9097 • www.torchtheater.com

Rumors — Neil Simon’s 1988 comedy tapped into public disdain for moneyed privilege in the Reagan Era. Actor Ryan Grimes who plays dinner partner Ken shares “it’s about a group of rich couples who make a mountain over a molehill because they obviously have nothing better to do. We laugh at these people for continuing to make mistake after mistake while trying to cover up something that really didn’t require any covering up to begin with.” Sept. 9-24 • Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd. So., Mpls. • (612) 396-2025 • www.urbansamurai.org

Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass — Ananya Dance choreographer Ananya Chatterjea has an ingeniously illuminating way of integrating sensual female intimacy with unsettling geopolitical issues like climate change, refugee dislocation, energy justice, and now the gold industry. She calls her latest “quite a queer piece. In exploring gold, we are also exploring systems of value, valuation, how women come to be ‘valued’ or devalued in terms of ‘things’ – gold jewelry, material objects that are often used to mark our femininity. This also feeds into our relationships with each other, as women, as they turn out to be relationships of love, intimacy, cruelty, and support.” Sept. 8-11 • Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. So., Mpls. • (800) 838-3006 • www.brownpapertickets.com


MNUnearthed: Mondo Collecto
— The monthly MNUnearthed series of independent films by Minnesota filmmakers gets launched with R.P. Whalen’s Mondo Collecto. Series co-curator Dan Schneidkraut relates that it shows “a guy who collects Pez dispensers because they look like penises, a hippie eccentric who collects ‘space’, and an exposé on a gentleman who likes to have sexual intercourse with melons.” Whalen appeared in the horrific ’08 documentary SNUFF: A Film About Killing on Camera. Schneidkraut’s co-curator is Joe Larsen. Wed., Sept. 7 • Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls. • (612) 424-5468 • www.take-up.org

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