Year in Review 2013: Dance and Experimental Performance

Categories: Dance, Theater
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Photo by Aaron Rosenblum
Karen Sherman's "One with Others" 
The Twin Cities is a great place for dance and experimental performance (the two forms often blur into one another), and there are many independent choreographers, performance artists, and experimental theater makers who constantly push into new directions to create smart, engaging work. Here's a few of the pieces that we liked best this year. 
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Photo by Gene Pittman
"Hijack at 20" at the Walker Art Center

As one of the most highly anticipated shows of the year, "Hijack at 20" at the Walker Art Center did not disappoint. The wigs and lavish costumes, magnificent stage pictures, and stagehands that were a part of the show made it a performance that the Twin Cities will remember for a long time. Featuring an ensemble of dancers, the evening-length performance was a full-on sensory overload, giving us a delicious assortment of music that worked in tandem with the theatrical choreography. Best of all, the event gave us plenty of Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder moving together as no other two dancers can, shifting and balancing as two parts to the same whole, born out of more than 20 years dancing together. 
 
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Ananya Dance Theatre's "Dance of a Thousand Water Dreams" at Northern Spark

One of the highlights of this year's Northern Spark festival was Ananya Dance Theatre's "Dance of a Thousand Water Dreams," a ritualistic dance piece that journeyed from Lambert's Landing on the Mississippi River to St. Paul's Union Depot. Collaborating with a group of Native women, including Sharon Day, Ananya Chatterjea's magical piece brought audience members into the procession, creating a joyful and ethereal experience.

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"Underpass," BodyCartography Project

As part of Secret City, the one-day event in Minneapolis that acted as a kind of alternative to Northern Spark, which was in St. Paul this year, BodyCartography Project presented a bewitching piece underneath the I-94 underpass near the Basilica. That evening, the show began as a solo performed by Timmy Wagner, who wormed his body in creature-like movements when he was not lying on the concrete as if dead. The performance gradually grew to include an ensemble of dancers flocking about, enveloping Wagner in their wings before disappearing again. The gritty industrial setting provided some cool lighting effects, and the performance ended with an audience participation section where the onlookers (including R.T. Rybak, who was at the event), joined the dancers in holding up the freeway pillars as an gesture of gratitude. 

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Photo by Bruce Silcox 
Zainab Musa's Habeas Corpus at Naked Stages

While performance artists exploring identity isn't anything new, Zainab Musa's Habeas Corpus felt surprising and inventive. Integrating dance, text, and vocalizations, Musa presented a work that was both funny, erotic, and in a non-linear format. Along with director Sam Johnson, Musa created an unforgettable piece, and displayed her incredible magnetism as a performer.

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Photo by Gene Pittman 
Jes Nelson

Jes Nelson cleverly turned choreography inside out in a piece that featured about a half-dozen tweens decked out like Vegas showgirls, complete with feathers, thick makeup, and coifed hair. Performed at Ritz Monday Live Arts, with other iterations at the Choreographers' Evening at the Walker and at the Rochester Art Center, the work began with the girls tap dancing onto the stage and then speaking their intricate steps rather than dancing them. The steps were spoken on their own time by each girl instead of simultaneously, and the girls falap ball changed off one by one until one girl remained getting through to the end. A commentary, perhaps, on the over-sexualization of young girls in dance as well as an illustration of just how much brain power it takes to remember all the steps, the piece was both charming and delightful. 
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