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Laurie Van Wieren Returns with 100 Choreographers

Nivea Cream Piece First performer comes on stage with a bottle of Nivea Cream or (if none is available) with a bottle of hand cream labeled ‘Nivea Cream.’ He pours the cream onto his hands and massages them in front of the microphone. Other performers enter, one by one, and do the same thing. Then […]

Nivea Cream Piece

First performer comes on stage with a bottle of Nivea Cream or (if none is available) with a bottle of hand cream labeled ‘Nivea Cream.’ He pours the cream onto his hands and massages them in front of the microphone. Other performers enter, one by one, and do the same thing. Then they join together in front of the microphone to make a mass of massaging hands. They leave in the reverse of the order in which they entered, on a signal from the first performer.

–Alison Knowles, 1962

Variation on Nivea Cream Piece

Large quantities of Nivea Cream must be available, at least one large jar per person. The performers enter and each lathers up his arms and face, then his colleagues, in a fragrant pig-pile.

–Alison Knowles, Date Unknown

Laurie Van Wieren performs in Nivea Cream Piece by Alison Knowles. Performed February 14, 1993, during the In the Spirit of Fluxus opening.

Laurie Van Wieren performs in Nivea Cream Piece by Alison Knowles. Performed February 14, 1993, during the In the Spirit of Fluxus opening.

At the Walker’s 1993 opening for In the Spirit of Fluxus, Twin Cities choreographer and curator Laurie Van Wieren performed in Nivea Cream Piece, an event score by Fluxus pioneer Alison Knowles. When Van Wieren reminisces about the event, she’s quick to point out that she and her four cohorts rehearsed with precision, detail and a bit of caution, making sure they got the score’s directions just right. Their efforts were interrupted by Alison Knowles herself giving stern feedback that they were rehearsing it all wrong– they needed to lather up with force. Van Wieren recalls that the five performers were soon in an enthusiastic, vigorous and maybe slightly inappropriate “fragrant pig-pile”, just as the second score describes.

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Before the ‘fragrant pig-pile.” Laurie Van Wieren performs Variation on Nivea Cream Piece.

Laurie Van Wieren is known as a driving force in the Twin Cities dance scene. She creates idiosyncratic performance works, helps steer Dance MN (the Twin Cities’ dance newsletter and website), and founded 9×22 Dance/Lab as a space for choreographers both established and emerging to experiment with movement. But what’s less known about Van Wieren’s choreographic career is that it has strong roots at the Walker, where she worked from 1975-85. Though she was formally a guard, she often stationed at the front desk where she greeted everyone and secretly worked on grants: “I was lucky. I got to meet most every dance artist who came into town, and I saw everything. The first show I worked at night was Merce [Cunningham]. I was also awe-struck by Grand Union.”

Laurie Van Wieren rehearses at Open Field. Photo by Megan Mayer.

Laurie Van Wieren rehearses at Open Field. Photo by Megan Mayer.

At the same time Van Wieren, who formally trained at the Art Insitute of Chicago in visual and performance art, began studying dance and teaching improvisation. Many of her fellow guards (also artists) took her class. In 1981 they decided to audition Van Wieren’s work for Choreographer’s Evening at the Walker and the piece was accepted. The event changed how her work was perceived: “People have been calling me a choreographer ever since.”

Chris Holman rehearses 4x4 = 100 Dancing Outside. Photo by Laurie Van Wieren.

Chris Holman rehearses 4×4 = 100 Dancing Outside. Photo by Laurie Van Wieren.

Twenty-three years later, Laurie Van Wieren has curated the Walker’s Choreographer’s Evening twice and continued to share her performance work at the event. This Saturday she returns to the Walker with her newest piece, 4×4 = 100 Dancing Outside presented as part of Open Field. The work places one hundred choreographers within four- by- four foot squares where Van Wieren has instructed them to move in any way they like for intervals of ten, twenty, or thirty minutes. The piece explores Van Wieren’s dual role as choreographer and curator, providing a platform for local dance makers to present their work en masse: “I really like putting people together and seeing what happens. I want people to know how many choreographers there are in town. There are many more than 100—but 100 is a nice number to work with.” In a turn of serendipity, Alison Knowles also returns to the Walker with a performance score this week. She and her collaborator Joshua Selman will re-stage Proposition #2, Make a Salad Thursday evening at Open Field. If the event is anything like Van Wieren’s story of the Nivea Cream scores, we can expect a most exuberant salad-making experience.