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The Ecstatic Celebration: Omar Souleyman at The Cedar

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern Sam Segal shares his perspective on Omar Souleyman at the […]

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Omar Souleyman; Photo: Molly Hanse

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern Sam Segal shares his perspective on Omar Souleyman at the Cedar. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

In Modern Standard Arabic, the word “Hafla (حفلة)” carries the sense of both the English words “Concert” and “Party.” It might be more accurate then to refer to Syrian singer and electro-dabke wizard Omar Souleyman’s performance to a packed crowd at the Cedar on Friday night as a hafla. Slowly traipsing back and forth across the stage, Souleyman led one of the most frenzied and ecstatic dance parties I’ve ever seen in the Twin Cities. When I saw this crowd of supposedly reserved Minnesotans losing their minds like a bunch raving club kids to Souleyman’s synthesis of traditional Levantine celebration music and Western electronic dance music, I have to say I was a bit relieved.

International pop artists like Omar Souleyman are so often positioned as mere intellectual curiosities by Western press and promoters. A lot of the discussion around Souleyman seems to amount to little more than saying, “He wears a keffiyeh  and he makes electronic dance music?! How fascinating?!” When people come to shows expecting to see some think piece of a pop performance, they’re rarely ready to dance. In July, I was lucky enough to see the legendary Ethiopian pop star Mahmoud Ahmed at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. Sadly, while Ahmed and his band were laying down the rawest gutbucket grooves, most of the people in the crowd were standing stiff, flaccidly nodding their heads, or taking Instagram photos. It took over half a set of the 73-year-old Ahmed’s desperate coaxing before the audience allowed itself to stop observing and start participating (I don’t think it helped matters that two hardly-danceable free jazz trios served as the opening acts that night). Thankfully, those who attended Omar Souleyman’s party in Minneapolis came to play.

vacationdad

Vacation Dad; Photo: Sam Segal

The hyperactive cosmic slop of opening performer Vacation Dad provided a perfect entry point for the night’s festivities. Vacation Dad, the project of producer Andy Todryk, ramped up the BPMs on the spaced-out electronic exotica of his recordings in favor of lush, drop-heavy dance music. After a short set of Bernie Worrell meets Diplo magic, Vacation Dad cleared the stage for the man we were all here to see.

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Rizan Sa’id; Photo: Sam Segal

Building up the tension with the skill of a true showman, the performance began with Souleyman’s master keyboardist, Rizan Sa’id, alone on stage. Over the years, Souleyman’s band has trimmed down to the solo accompaniment of Sa’id, who somehow manages to conjure an entire dabke orchestra on two old Korgs. With a slow, somber melody emanating from the keyboard, Souleyman’s ghostly Arabic greeted the crowd from somewhere offstage. “He’s saying, ‘Goodmorning,’” a guy next to me told a child near him. The guy continued to translate Souleyman’s speech for another minute, but eventually he gave up, telling the child to “think of the words as music.”

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Omar Souleyman and Rizan Sa’id; Photo: Sam Segal

Over the years, Souleyman has replaced all traditional instrumentation with electronics, leading him to develop a totally unique style of manically sped up, overdriven dabke music. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, he referred to this style as a sport: “The fast music is a kind of sport, it makes you move—it’s like any sport where you jump or run. And it’s the same for the audience as well; they tend to dance even more to the fast music.” Well, if this concert was a sport, then Souleyman was our haggard veteran coach, effortlessly conducting our boisterous participation with stoic hand gestures and the occasional affirmative grin. We clapped when he clapped, and we shouted back in call-and-response joy when he pointed the mic towards us (no doubt botching the Arabic phrase he was looking for).

Throughout the show, I was doing my best to try and figure out which songs Souleyman was pulling from his massive catalog, but outside of the fact that I don’t speak Arabic, I could hardly quit clapping and jumping up-and-down long enough to even try. I’d come in with all sorts of political questions: What does it mean that Souleyman is performing music that is increasingly becoming a historical artifact with the devastation caused by the civil war in Syria? Does it matter that this audience might not understand the ethnomusicological context of his music? How much will a Western audience project its stereotypes of Arab identity onto him? But when the skittering beat took over and Souleyman’s gruff voice began calling out poetry I could only understand as another musical instrument, those questions really didn’t seem relevant. What was relevant was the moment and the simple awe of watching a pop star at the height of his powers leading a crowd in communal celebration.

Wanna Dance with Somebody?

So you think you can dance? In anticipation of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas’ performance at the Walker Art Center, Oct. 15–17, Northrop and the Walker are asking you to step up and record your own performance of Rosas danst Rosas for a #ReRosasMN video submission contest! Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s seminal work Rosas danst Rosas (1983) […]

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So you think you can dance? In anticipation of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas’ performance at the Walker Art Center, Oct. 15–17, Northrop and the Walker are asking you to step up and record your own performance of Rosas danst Rosas for a #ReRosasMN video submission contest!

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s seminal work Rosas danst Rosas (1983) is a mechanical, sensual, and compellingly emotional choreography that established her reputation as an artist in the post-modernist movement. Believe it or not, the simplicity of the dance makes this work accessible and it can be reproduced by practically anyone (it was even copied by Beyoncé!). De Keersmaeker says all you need is a chair.

Beyoncé, or as many know her as Queen Bey, received a little hoo-ha surrounding the reproduction of a Rosas danst Rosas for her music video “Countdown,” but De Keersmaeker took all of the negative publicity and turned it into a positive creative effort. That’s where you come in. Re:Rosas! The fABULEUS Rosas Remix Project started at the request of De Keersmaeker so that anyone and everyone could recreate Rosas danst Rosas.

In a video message posted on her website, De Keersmaeker said, “You can change the order of the movements, make your own movements… Have fun and I’m a very curious to see the result!” There have been more than 1,500 reproductions of her dance from over 30 different countries, each with their own individuality and creativity expressed.

So, how do you get started? Watch the step-by-step tutorial that breaks down the movements, structure, and full choreography. The contest starts today and runs through the night of October 13. Post your completed video through Vine or YouTube and tweet it with the hashtag #ReRosasMN. The submissions with the most retweets have a chance to win a grand prize package. The package includes:

If you aren’t too psyched about debuting your own performance of Rosas danst Rosas, you can still participate in #ReRosasMN by retweeting a video that has been submitted to the contest. Everyone who retweets a submission will be entered in a drawing for:

  • 2 tickets to Rosas danst Rosas (opening night)
  • 4 drinks while you enjoy the performance

All video submissions can be viewed here. Good Luck!

ReRosasMN

The fine print:
1. Contest open to legal residents of the United States of America.
2. All videos submitted must be original work.
3. All videos submitted must be received between 12 a.m. September 10, 2014 and 11:59 p.m. October 9, 2014.
4. You agree that it is your sole responsibility to obtain all permissions necessary for the grant of rights contained in full contest ReRosaMN Rules.

This Season, in ‘Graphic’ Detail…

Excited for the upcoming Performing Arts season? Here’s a little teaser about the nuts and bolts…     If you would like to learn more about the 13/14 season, join Senior Curator Philip Bither on September 5 at 7pm for the Season Preview event. After the free one-hour talk, stick around to join Bither onstage for a champagne toast, followed […]

Excited for the upcoming Performing Arts season? Here’s a little teaser about the nuts and bolts…

 

13-14 Performing arts infographic

 

If you would like to learn more about the 13/14 season, join Senior Curator Philip Bither on September 5 at 7pm for the Season Preview event. After the free one-hour talk, stick around to join Bither onstage for a champagne toast, followed by a backstage tour.

Backstage Haiku: She She Pop

She She Pop load in! Despite a long list of notes, s quick photo op!

She She Pop load in!

Despite a long list of notes,

s quick photo op!

Serious

Serious

Backstage Haiku: The Rude Mechs

  Come watch this tiger (possibly) eat an actor! Rude Mechanicals.

Ready to eat a Liz, a John or a Beth...but not a bird

Ready to eat a Liz, a John or a Beth…but not a bird

 

Come watch this tiger

(possibly) eat an actor!

Rude Mechanicals.

Backstage Haiku- Laurie Anderson

Crew member Karen is standing in for Laurie for writing light cues!

Crew member Karen

is standing in for Laurie

for writing light cues!

…being Laurie Anderson (temporarily)

Backstage Haiku- Voices of Strength

Curiosity- To make a bottle curtain? a THOUSAND bottles!

Curiosity-

To make a bottle curtain?

a THOUSAND bottles!

Running crew member Jeff strikes the bottle curtain

Running crew member Jeff strikes the bottle curtain

Backstage Haiku- So Percussion

For So Percussion, “Educational and FUN!” for the show Friday!  

For So Percussion,

“Educational and FUN!”

for the show Friday!

 

Twin Cities Dance

  Fall is upon us with the Walker’s dance season beginning next week. In addition to the upcoming world premieres and special engagements as part of our offerings, we are celebrating two big anniversaries with our local dance platforms, Choreographers’ Evening  and the Momentum: New Dance Works. It will be an amazing year to share […]

 

Fall is upon us with the Walker’s dance season beginning next week. In addition to the upcoming world premieres and special engagements as part of our offerings, we are celebrating two big anniversaries with our local dance platforms, Choreographers’ Evening  and the Momentum: New Dance Works. It will be an amazing year to share these experiences together and jump for joy!

Announcing:

The 40th anniversary of Choreographers’ Evening featuring: Judith Brin Ingber, Christ Up Dance Crew, Michael Engel, Emily King & Ryan Underbakke, Blake Nellis, Luke Olson-Elm, Rosy Simas, Joanne Spencer, Third Coast Collective, and Voice of Culture.

The 10th anniversary of Momentum: New Dance Works, in partnership with the Southern Theater, featuring: SuperGroup/Rachel Jendrzejewski and Leslie O’Neill on July 11-13, and Pramila Vasudevan/Aniccha Arts and Jennifer Arave on July 18-21, 2013.

Fifth annual Twin Cities National Dance Week photo includes (in no particular order): Chris Holman (Executive Coach), Allie Hankins (Choreographer), Taylor Fleege (Irish Dancer), Britt White (Irish Dancer), Jeffrey Berger (Dancer), Jessi Fett (Dance Educator/ Dancer), Sam Johnson (Choreographer), Otto Ramstad (Dance Artist), Penelope Freeh (Dancer/ Choreographer), Charles Campbell (Performer/ Choreographer), Lewis McKinnell (Performer), Monica Thomas (Choreographer/ Dancer), Theresa Madaus (Choreographer/ Dancer), Sarah LaRose Holland (Dancer & Accountant), Abi Sebaly (Unitard Minder), Michèle Steinwald (Curator), Corey Horbison (Production Manager – Cowles), Rae Eden Frank (Recycling Coordinator), Laurie Van Wieren (Dance Maker/Producer), Noah Keesecker (Composer), Laura Bohne (Education Associate),  “J-Sun” Jason Noer (Choreographer), Jeffrey Wells (Performance Maker), Erinn Liebhard (Jazz Dance Artist), Dana Kassel (Dance Administrator), Olive Bieringa (Choreographer), April Sellers (Choreographer), and Chris Schlichting (Choreographer).

Backstage Haiku—Random

For no real reason, backstage production office is labeled with “MEAT.”  

For no real reason,

backstage production office

is labeled with “MEAT.”

 

MEAT.

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