The Green Room: From on stage, back stage and the theater seats, the Performing Arts blog illuminates the intersecting worlds of dance, theater, and music.
A screen is stretch on the diagonal upstage left, the 2 lower corners taut by 2 ballerinas in white tutus and pointe shoes. The mountain from Paramount Motion Picture Company is projected against it. Sally is carried out and attached to to a rope that hangs centerstage. She is wearing a kilt-like cape with an [...]
A screen is stretch on the diagonal upstage left, the 2 lower corners taut by 2 ballerinas in white tutus and pointe shoes. The mountain from Paramount Motion Picture Company is projected against it. Sally is carried out and attached to to a rope that hangs centerstage. She is wearing a kilt-like cape with an S. She is flung against the screen over and over and over. She pounds her fists and feet against it in the same rhythm with the same dynamic for what seems like 3 or 4 minutes- is this a proclamation or penitence?
The next scene is a circus-like flurry of dancers including Jim Dominick, Taylor Dreyling, Sarah Fifer, Penelope Freeh, Marisha Johnson, Anshul Paranjape, Kimberly Richardson, Sally Rousse, Dylan Skybrook, and Laurie van Weiren. They waltz with flexed feet and spiraling arms. I see a bullfighter, Michael Jackson Thriller choreography, and a humorous moment when the dancers hit their foreheads with the heels of their hands. Who are they? What are their roles?
“Paramount to my footage” covers a history of the life of Sally Rousse. I see that Alek Keshishian, most known for Madonna’s Truth or Dare, was a creative consultant. Will Sally be just as sexy yet emotionally disconnected as Madonna in revealing what lies behind the public image of an iconic figure?
A lot of territory was covered in 45 minutes. Some poignant moments for me were seeing a projection of Sally’s father’s eye against the diagonal screen as if he were watching the performance from atop a mountain, Kimberly Richardson’s solo as Goddess of the Wind, a duet between Penelope Freeh and Sally in which they tap dance in their pointe shoes, LVW as an MC asking cliche celebrity questions, and when Sally finally mourned a loss- that of her first husband- and cried into a harmonica. I wonder what it would be like to explore just one of the many facets of Sally’s life more in-depth for a production? Say focusing on just the story of her first husband? Or the birth of her first child? or just her childhood? It’s challenging to face a time constraint of a shared evening.
An autobiography can be empowering because one can acknowledge that oneself has been through a lot to get where they are today. It can be triumphant and a testament to one’s survival through the good and bad. An autobiography can also be quite vulnerable. I wonder if I hadn’t read the closing statement that shares the details of the creator’s life prior to the performance. If I hadn’t, how might the experience been different? How can an artist transcend from personal to universal so that a viewer has a connection to the work? Let’s talk.
5 performers, each in vintage laden bold colors- orange, blue, purple, yellow, red- stand in a line and stare at the house. The cast is “introduced” and I don’t need to look in my program to learn names or backgrounds. They are highly reputable dancers in this community and each of them is going to [...]
5 performers, each in vintage laden bold colors- orange, blue, purple, yellow, red- stand in a line and stare at the house. The cast is “introduced” and I don’t need to look in my program to learn names or backgrounds. They are highly reputable dancers in this community and each of them is going to shine in Megan Mayer’s production, which is enticingly titled “I Could Not Stand Close Enough to You.” This is my first Megan Mayer experience and I’m reminded of the unique, colorful, clever and detailed work of film director Wes Anderson, who is gifted at working with iconic figures from the Hollywood scene by filming eccentric characters that resonate with a certain familiarity.
Megan wrote in her artist statement that she wanted to “create distinctive solos for each of the performers inspired by their commanding presences both onstage and off.” She was successful! Here’s what I observed:
Greg Waletski’s solo was charming and playful as he reveled in exuberance shouting “Oh my God!” as he climbed the stairs into the house of the Southern Theater. I’m reminded of joyful first experiences in my childhood- the thrill of the stage, pride in the small successes.
Kristin Van Loon performed an exquisite solo inverted against the wall to Louie Armstrong lyrics “I put a spell on you…..” I was intrigued by the manipulation of her face with her hands to create a caricature of someone devious and determined. She stopped, took a sip of whiskey, sprayed down her mane with aerosol hairspray, then returned to the wall. Oh yeah, we get a sneak peak at some striped underwear (a foreshadowing of the closing scene). She is utterly captivating as a performer on stage with her authentic responses, intentional articulation and total body connection.
Charles Campbell, the performer who ate regurgitated green peas and urinated on the stage floor of Bryant Lake Bowl in a piece I saw back a few months ago (which by the way was unforgettable!), shared a triumphant piece with a trophy. Napoleon Dynamite only wishes he could dance that well!
And now Megan Mayer, the creator. Here we go……….. She struggles to find that picture perfect shape then beats the air with her limbs before crumbling to the floor. She’s up and bourres (spell?) offstage and returns with a bar stool to take a seat and sing Elvis’s heartbreaking lyrics “Were you lying when you said you loved me?” She passes out from the drama? the exertion? the heartache?- we laugh. She retreats to a hidden corner upstage against the shins. We see her blue legs as the cast stays centerstage and improvises with crossed legs on chairs.
Drums kick in- a duple meter aerobics routine begins- the 4 performers create a rhythmic machine that rotates and they begin to talk about hmmmm, an inside joke?
Lights and sound out. I hear ventilation and rattling in the Southern. No one in the house moves or coughs. Megan returns to the space with a light and she illuminates the walls, the grid, the house, and the dancers. It’s very zen as we all become present to take a moment and examine this space with fresh eyes.
Theresa Madaus is the last to perform a solo. She is the kid sister of the group, but she holds her own performing a little ditty with finger puppets, running, and finishes by flying home into the arms of her family. Dig the green high tops!
After a mambo routine, the cast takes their clothes off to reveal psychadelic undies. They line up down centerstage and they synchronistically fall back – a unified group- to the upstage brick wall, pinned, poised, finished.
I’m curious about Megan’s process in relation to the spontaneity of the flow of the performance. One thing is apparent, there was a strong sense of community and comradre amidst the performers. They danced together, and respectfully complimented the soloist that took a turn in the spotlight. I can only imagine that rehearsals were fun and playful. Nice.
Edwin Suarez opens “The Apple Tree” as he gazes into a swirling blue pool centerstage. Black out. 2 silk screens unfold beneath the Southern Theater’s archway. I experience a projection of grass with stone amidst a soundscore of wind. I see elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and finally Water. Sachiko slowly appears upstage- she is [...]
Edwin Suarez opens “The Apple Tree” as he gazes into a swirling blue pool centerstage. Black out.
2 silk screens unfold beneath the Southern Theater’s archway. I experience a projection of grass with stone amidst a soundscore of wind. I see elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and finally Water. Sachiko slowly appears upstage- she is curled in all white and slowly unravels to the gorgeous music created by Ben Abrahamson and La Conja.
Laura Horn as the Apple Tree comes to life and the two women dance together- spiraling and twisting in both unison and aunison phrases. Precise shapeshifting unfolds- these Flamenco dancers have an ability to balance fluidity in the core and arms simultaneously with bold strength and rhythmic percussion in their feet.
Sachiko and Edwin meet for a duet. She now garners a long mermaid tail-like skirt in bold orange, which she exquisitely maneuvers throughout their encounter. Passion is tangible in the air for a dramatic courting.
3 guys shows up and distract Edwin from his life mission. They circle him and tease with a 4-count meter of stomp-clap-clap-clap repeated over and over. Laura and Sachiko twirl upstage behind the safety of the white transparent walls. The men welcome Edwin back, but back to what?
All is silent and I see a balancing white light projected against the silk screen wall stage left. I see moving dots in the globe reminiscent of birds. The tree (Laura) and the girl (Sachiko) counterbalance with one another upstage. There is tension in their breath. The girl moves into the globe and then into a tunnel of light on the diagonal from downstage right to upstage left. And now I am engaged………
Our female heroine moves on this diagonal of light- she is tormented by her past and by the future ahead. Her eyes can’t stand to stay present- she only looks ahead and behind. She shivers, lunges and whirls as she closes her eyes to the passion from time to time. I see a silhouette of her spiraling fingers against her neck, torso and face. She argues with the tree, and then the shimmering pool of blue light from the opening scene reappears center stage. The girl is beckoned. She pulls away and begins a rhythmic shuffling of her feet that is synchronistically executed with the beat of La Conga’s clapping hands. She succumbs to the water and bends backwards as the tree regrows above her.
“The Apple Tree” closed with the young man (Edwin) back at the opening scene- he is haunted by images of the young girl, reminiscent of the previous scenes of her dancing. He grabs for her in the air and pulls his fists into his core. They are empty and the lights fade.
I enter the Southern Theater at 7:45pm and the performance has already begun. A group of performers, about 50 or so, are circling the stage walking, indifference on their faces. Their direction is counterclockwise, perhaps suggesting a resistance to time, or even a timeless event- one that could take place at any 45 minutes in [...]
I enter the Southern Theater at 7:45pm and the performance has already begun. A group of performers, about 50 or so, are circling the stage walking, indifference on their faces. Their direction is counterclockwise, perhaps suggesting a resistance to time, or even a timeless event- one that could take place at any 45 minutes in history.
Smart, intelligent, and ambitious to have 68 performers joining a Director on stage. 68 performers who may or may not have experience, and I happen to know a handful of them who are students of mine at Zenon Dance School. Isn’t that the woman I see at the Wedge each week? And that guy- he’s around Dinkytown, perhaps he’s a student at the University of Minnesota? These performers are proud to be acknowledged as they revel in their stage time at the Southern Theater. I am proud of them too. Program notes indicate that the recruitment took place over 2 months via flyers, emails, and posts. Bringing dance to the masses. Ambitious.
Obviously, the house is sold out. If each performer were to invite 2 guests- there you have it. Smart.
The indifference is halted as a member of “En Masse” leaves the group to introduce themselves in the microphone, ”I am …., I’m from a small town named ………….., it’s that place not far from…………” I am intrigued by the individuality and history behind the voice of each and every one of these members. Some in suits, some in sweats, some decked out, others as if they just got off their bike. There is a projection of the group against the walls of the Southern in a negative imposed image, circling in the same counter-clockwise direction in slow motion, a contrast between a gentle gait and a 90 degree bent angle jog.
The director moves to the center of the group and starts a trot and they join her. Memories of Grand Central Station flood my mind as they run about, doing their daily business as an unforgettable face in a crowd. I see a beautiful kaleidoscope of bodies- different sizes, shapes, colors, textures, aesthetics, and backgrounds.
Suddenly the group splits in half- like an atom and the projection is of atoms in space, dots on a map, as the Brian Eno-like soundscore turns way up, way up til I feel it in vibrating in my core. Riot!!!! Disease, infection, anger, violence, close proximity is no longer celebrated but becomes infectious. I see b-boys striking inverted poses, Modern dance heiresses striking tender positions, and others running all over the aisles and house of the theater. Light emits from 2 speaker-like light rigs that hang just behind the archway. I love it! Is it an alien invasion? Close encounters of the Third Kind? A rave? A concert? A celebration? I dig those lights- I want more!
Lights out. I’m afraid of the dark. I hear breathing, steps shuffling, and a frantic urgency to find the collective wholeness of the group. There is safety in numbers, safety in numbers, safety in numbers…….
Lights up- they waltz. I wonder what it would be like if in place of these very performers we had members of the diverse dance pools of the Twin Cities dance community pairing up and moving in harmony.
Vanessa emerges from the group- she is lost in the crowd- standing her significance- a duality of invisibility and conformity with individuality and ownership.
The collective evolves into a gesture- I am fascinated with the idea of the childhood game “telephone.” A word or gesture translated into a crowd of 68- the variations and slight imperfections are intriguing. I find relief when they walk as pedestrians again, that familiar indifference feels satisfying. Stop! thump, thump, thump. A steady pulse that is reflected in beautiful projection against the proscenium, music that matches. I want more, stop, wait, there it is again. Thump, thump, thump. The group taps their fingers to their chest, their heart, in perfect synchronicity to the walls and the sound. Home.
The stage is disassembled- those fabulous 2 speak-like light boards struck, the microphones dismantled. I hear celebration in their voices and steps and gestures. A task has been accomplished with great efficiency and grace- the power of community effort.
Eddie Oroyan: Brown Rocket “ I’m getting eaten by the same beast I’m trying to kill.” Wangechi Mutu, visual artist The tiger is symbolic of passion, power, devotion and sensuality. They are territorial and solitary, coming together only to mate. Most hunt slowly and silently at night. In Hindu ideology, the tiger is kin to [...]
Eddie Oroyan: Brown Rocket
“ I’m getting eaten by the same beast I’m trying to kill.” Wangechi Mutu, visual artist
The tiger is symbolic of passion, power, devotion and sensuality. They are territorial and solitary, coming together only to mate. Most hunt slowly and silently at night. In Hindu ideology, the tiger is kin to the goddess Kali of both creation and dissolution and sexuality and death.
“ Who’s That Knocking at My Door,” originally titled I Call First, is Martin Scorsese’s first feature film that explores themes of Catholic guilt similar to those in his later films (Wikipedia). The front door opens to a red world, disco ball ambience and rich, passionate play and flirtation in a dance of delight. Man and woman both in fashionable pumas…. he’s in a Hawaii jersey and she’s in a baby-T reading “ I’ll Love You When You’re More Like Me.” The predictable demise of a lust-based relationship is starting to brew.
Cut to first night on the sofa. It is a memorable scene where the 2 characters tease each other in upside down footsie and teen-like curiosity. The male struts his triumphant victory to the live male rock band (featuring Josh Wejen, Wagner, Terry Eason, Casey O’Brien, and Danny Sigelman) to light a smoke and sketch his new honeybee on canvas. Is she supposed to adore his accurate depiction?
The female lead, performed by the stunning Laura Selle Virtucio, throws a fit over his artistry. She twists and turns, arm-wrestling herself, in a tornado frenzy as the storm increases in intensity with giant hail pouring onstage in the form of tube socks. He stands back: observing, evaluating, smoking……. and then tiptoes over to her and joins her on the floor amidst a room full of white flowers as the band plays a sweet guitar ballad. Could this be love?!? We anticipate a tender kiss, but instead, we are greeted with a ceremonial removal of their fashionable puma sneakers and the bull-fight begins.
The heat builds and he removes his shirt. She is politely protected by 2 bandmates to undress behind a bed sheet (let’s keep this PG afterall). Whoa Nelly! She emerges in a blown up horse costume. We are all laughing and giggling at the strangeness of this unexpected third party joining in on the action.
After the horse is removed, a fatal attraction dance begins. Is she a “ bunny boiler” as the Brits say? They heave, throw, collide, and excite each other in a physically impressive display of the tiger’s passion and power. My partner and I viscerally respond to their bodies being thrown against the walls, which are covered in graffiti art of eyes and whiskers, watching the dancers’ every move. The music has stopped and we listen to their panting, breathing, and gutteral grunts.
He finally exits, the walls crash down, and she is left- alone and spent- as the lights methodically shut down as inside the walls of a prison cell.
Anna Marie Shogren: La Brea I see a tapestry of an ink drawing of elephants- a mother and her calf are safe on dry land as the father is drowning in a tar pit, his trunk extended to the heavens and his mouth open as he roars defiantly to his death…….. Elephants are symbolic of [...]
Anna Marie Shogren: La Brea
I see a tapestry of an ink drawing of elephants- a mother and her calf are safe on dry land as the father is drowning in a tar pit, his trunk extended to the heavens and his mouth open as he roars defiantly to his death……..
Elephants are symbolic of ancient power, strength and royalty filled with tremendous myth. We’ve read about “ elephant graveyards” where they go to die and the Hindu God Ganesha to bring wisdom and success. They are even known to mourn and grieve because of loyalty to one another. Elephants instinctively divide by age and gender. Ted Andrews in his book Animal Speak writes about the three forms of the feminine energies in life- the child. the mother, and the old wise woman. He further suggests that if elephant totem has come into one’s life, that she/he will embrace mutual care for of the young, elderly, and the sick. Where does Anna Marie Shogren fit inside all of this?
Beginning: I see a cloaked figure enter a world and we discover she has “ stars in her eyes.” Is she Ziggy Stardust? Why does her expression remain so pan? Her shadow joins her and they dance an odd little Irish Jig to reveal an umbilical chord made of hair of some kind (elephant fur?).
New scene: a mattress under a paned window. We hear descriptions of a man trying to remove parasitic bugs from his leg. I feel saliva building in my mouth and am tormented between the duality of germaphobia and addiction. A rug enters and the geometric designs are now seen as bugs, crawling and infecting…….
Shift: Three dancers in fashionable ghetto with matching straw hats jam to the Pointer Sisters. I feel high and am satisfied at how long they play with a rhythmic jazz routine of sautes, jetes, and spirit fingers. I can’t help but viscerally join them on the 1-2-3 shape that repeats before Anna Marie is humorously dragged on her tummy around the stage by her 2 friends- laughing, pulling, parading…… and I love the brown loafers!!!!!
End: A rumble, crackling sound I feel in my gut as the 2 friends “ Mirror” and “ Shadow” retreat upstage to the tapestry. AMS is downstage, vulnerable, as reality washes over her…. and she bows to lose her straw hat and drag herself to the bed to see if the corner is edible.
I can’t help but think about film director Gus Van Sant and his controversial films Elephant and Last Days that try a viewer’s patience in the most exquisite way. Anna Marie Shogren embraces what Van Sant does in what I can only describe as “ delicious pauses” and exquisite patience in timing. Thanks for the trip…..
Maggie Bergeron collaborated with several artists for her Momentum production of House/Home. The miniature houses created by Russell Colliton featured a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and architecture. The dancers deconstructed these homes in various ways as the viewer went on a trip down the rabbit hole into Alice’s Wonderland of leaving the nest and [...]
Maggie Bergeron collaborated with several artists for her Momentum production of House/Home.
The miniature houses created by Russell Colliton featured a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and architecture. The dancers deconstructed these homes in various ways as the viewer went on a trip down the rabbit hole into Alice’s Wonderland of leaving the nest and taking that giant step into the unknown! One home crumbled, another strategically dissembled, one tore like paper, and one stretched like taffy. These qualities are reminiscent of what we have all felt when leaving home for the first time- a flux of emotional material.
The dancers continued to explore new territory and then found themselves going back home to visit for the holidays- back in the thick of sibling rivalry. There was one young lady who was still the one stuck cleaning up the mess. Could this character be Maggie? Or are the five dancers all aspect of Ms. Bergeron? As a sibling of 4, I found myself identifying with the tangling of bodies, limbs, and minds like at a family reunion when we are all competing to be heard.
The music was composed by Chris Thomson, and we got to see him play the saxophone live on-stage with the dancers and their houses. Bergeron’s movement phrasing successfully complimented and contrasted Thomson’s rhythmic scores.
The costumes were created by Maggie’s dancer Sarah Baumert and they were architectured to compliment the houses. There were different fabrics, textures, and colors for each dancer. They had a natural, earthy feel within a structured sturdy shape that reminded me of a rustic farmhouse. There was weight. It was a nice contrast to the typical flowing chiffon we see at most dance concerts. Bravo!
Collaborating is no easy task, and I give Maggie Bergeron my highest compliments as she incorporated and blended so many voices to create a successful and enchanting piece.
3….2…..1……BLAST OFF!! Justin Jones is a problem solver, a mathematic wizard of Oz. In the SCREEN/the THING his outstanding cast including Anna Lawrence, Elliott Durko Lynch, Laura Grant, Christ Schlichting, Karen Sherman, Anna Marie Shogren, Morgan Thorson, and Kristin Van Loon endure 40 minutes of a space odyssey. The set entailed a trash can where [...]
3….2…..1……BLAST OFF!! Justin Jones is a problem solver, a mathematic wizard of Oz. In the SCREEN/the THING his outstanding cast including Anna Lawrence, Elliott Durko Lynch, Laura Grant, Christ Schlichting, Karen Sherman, Anna Marie Shogren, Morgan Thorson, and Kristin Van Loon endure 40 minutes of a space odyssey.
The set entailed a trash can where a rock was dropped into and it propelled a loud throbbing pulsating sound, a set drop which turned the Southern Theater’s arch into seven-dimensions, a white tiled 4 x 4 square, a blue-taped line across the stage, and Carl Sagan at the computer. Elliott Durko Lynch’s soundscape contained white noise, vaccum cleaners and chitter chatter, bells, ocean surfing, and ended with a bang with the Chariots of Fire. Jones is fearless at tackling a “physicist’s history of physics.”