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A Q&A with Laurie Van Wieren, new dance programmer at the Southern Theater

Laurie Van Wieren, a long-time performer and dance artist in the Twin Cities, is the new dance-programming director for the Southern Theater. She’s the second person to take on the position this year; the job was created last summer as part of the Southern board of directors’ restructuring of operations and management. Dylan Skybrook, the first dance programmer, is leaving to attend graduate school in Sweden.

Van Wieren grew up in Chicago, attended The School of the Chicago Art Institute, and moved to Minneapolis to study with Nancy Hauser at the Center for Performing Arts. Van Wieren’s first group work was shown at the Walker Art Center’s Choreographers Evening in 1980, and she’s been making dance-theater every since. She’s received choreographic fellowships from the McKnight, Jerome, Bush and Rockefeller foundations, and she’s an adjunct teacher in the theater department at the University of Minnesota. Van Wieren is also the host and producer of a monthly choreography showcase 9×22 Dance/Lab, at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.

MinnPost: Given the Southern’s recent history with the arts community, what are you hoping to offer that might help further mend relationships between the Southern and the dance community in particular?

Laurie Van Wieren: First of all, I am a dance artist who has performed on the Southern Theater stage often over the course of my career, and have attended the Southern as an audience-member too many times to count. I have been a very active member of the dance community and was involved in the arts community’s concerns regarding the manner in which Jeff Bartlett [the former artistic director] was dismissed last year. We were all very upset and very worried that the artistic community would be left out of decisionmaking at the Southern. I believe that the Southern’s hiring of Dylan, and me, to be the dance-programming director, is a sign that the Southern Theater wants the arts community to be a steward of the Southern Dance Program. In these economic times, we feel that it is more important than ever to come together with friends, to cheer on Minnesota choreographers, and to be introduced to artists from other backgrounds.

MP: Do you have a curatorial perspective or vision you’re bringing to the dance programming of the Southern?

LVW: I want to bring a broad range of dance styles and approaches to the Southern Theater, with a focus on local dance makers, while still leaving space for exchanges with dance makers across the country. I want to partner with the other dance presenters in town to maximize what we can do in these challenging times so that we can all flourish. We go to see art, not to get answers but to consider new questions, new perspectives, new frameworks. I want to be curious and take chances. This is how I approach my dance making and this is how I will approach my dance programming, as well.

MP: With the Minnesota Shubert Center set to break ground this year, another dance venue will be poised to enter an increasingly competitive market in the Twin Cities. How is the Southern preparing, particularly with its dance programming, to differentiate itself in this market?

LVW: It looks like the Shubert Center is really going to happen. I am looking forward to communicating with the Shubert, as well as other presenters in town about how we can all work together.

MP: What words of advice did Dylan Skybrook, the outgoing dance programmer, give you?

LVW: Dylan laid the groundwork for what I am beginning to do. He said that working with Kate Nordstrom (music-programming director) and Jon Ferguson (theater-programming director) would a blast … and he was right! This is a really dedicated and hard-working group that has the best interests of artists in mind. I am honored to be here to lend a hand to the effort.

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