On Saturday, the Walker will present its 40th installment of Choreographers’ Evening. To celebrate this milestone, co-curators Aparna Ramaswamy and Patrick Scully chose works that represented the Twin Cities dance community through the ages. The show will feature works by CE’s founder and first curator, Judith Brin Ingber, along with Blake Nellis, Emily King and Ryan Underbakke, Joanne Spencer, Rosy Simas, Third Coast Collective, Michael Engel, Luke Olson-Elm, Christ UP Dance Crew, and Voice of Culture.
For the occasion, Justin Jones departed from his typical interview format for TALK DANCE and had the curators each send in a haiku about CE and each of the choreographers send in a one- to two-minute description of their work. The resulting compilation highlights the diversity within the selected group and runs the gamut from funky to descriptive to creative to bizarre.
It starts with Ramaswamy’s haiku:
Past present future
Rhythm melody word thought
Inspired we move
From Ramaswamy’s haiku, we catch up with Blake Nellis. His soundbite is a highlight of the podcast as he shares the story behind his piece, Burger King Rescue, over the sounds of Brian Evans beat-boxing. At the end of the story, Evans breaks into Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Based on the works I’ve seen by Nellis, this clip is a perfect representation of the storytelling, music, funk, and fun that he regularly infuses into his work.
Next, we move into an interview with Christ UP, in which they convey their enthusiasm for performing and for the Walker, followed by Emily King’s description of the piece she made with Ryan Underbakke, Start Select. Her voice melds well with the beeps and bloops of the 8-bit soundtrack that accompanies her, and the sweetness in her voice highlights the fond memories of video gaming that acted as the inspiration for their piece.
Similar in its nostalgic quality, Joanne Spencer describes her hiatus from dance and her subsequent transition from dancer to mother to government worker to choreographer. She guides us through the journey surrounding the circumstances that took her from one to the other (to the other, to the other) and ultimately led to the creation of her piece.
Centered in the podcast is the voice of Judith Brin Ingber, who founded and curated Choreographers’ Evening (then called Young Choreographers’ Evening) in 1971. For the event’s 40th anniversary, she is resetting her work I Never Saw Another Butterfly, originally performed for CE’s inaugural season, on local powerhouse Megan McClellan. Her audio description discusses CE’s origins and her work, and it clearly conveys her pride in the institution that Choreographers’ Evening has become.
The episode goes on with Luke Olson-Elm’s submission of an interview with composer Walter Carlos. Listening to it made me curious to see how (or if) this clip relates to Olson-Elm’s piece.
After Kenna-Camara Cottman (Voice of Culture) sings us her bio and Michael Engel explains the origin of his piece Desiderata Update #1, we get to co-curator Patrick Scully’s haiku:
Two score and heaven
Years of dance at Walker
Step roll slide fall fly
The podcast concludes with Rosy Simas discussing her beautifully titled piece, I want it to be raining and the window to be open, followed by a group conversation between the members of Third Coast Collective, offering a peek into their creative process.
This year’s group of artists represents a sliver of the diverse and rich local dance community and gives a glimpse into the past. Jones’ compilation of sound bites reflects the differences and similarities within this group of people–their styles, inspirations, and approaches to dance making and community building.
In preparation for its 40th year, the Walker compiled and archived information on years past of Choreographers’ Evening, including programs, photos, rehearsal notes, press releases, reviews, and more, all posted in chronological order on the Walker’s tumblr site. Choreographers’ Evening: 40th Anniversary will be performed on Saturday, November 24.