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MDT opens 2009-10 season with eclectic program — and celebrities

Minnesota Dance Theatre has assembled an ambitious, eclectic program for this weekend’s performances. First, the show includes two premieres that should stretch the youthful, contemporary-ballet dancers.

Minnesota Dance Theatre has assembled an ambitious, eclectic program for this weekend’s performances. First, the show includes two premieres that should stretch the youthful, contemporary-ballet dancers.

Local jazz and ballroom choreographer Mariusz Olszewski (he used to perform with Jazzdance by Danny Buraczeski, and was a founding member of Beyond Ballroom Dance Company) has created “Duets … With Love, Elvis!” How did he get those skinny bunheads to do his bidding? “It was a little struggle,” he said during a phone chat. “They have to swing their hips, swing their heads, and rhumba. But the ballerinas are great! They are so much fun and discovering many things.”

Some of the other things they’ve discovered by working with Olszewski are jive, the Charleston and the waltz. And no doubt, they’ve never danced to Elvis Presley’s music the way Olszewski does — with tremendous precision and pizazz. The piece uses 10 Presley songs in as many vignettes about romance, love, fighting and making up. “This is timeless music, these are timeless emotions, and I’m using timeless dance styles,” he said.

The program also includes a new work by choreographer Caroline Beach, a veteran of the New York Choreographic Institute, set to music by John Adams. And “A Stair Dance,” a repetitive and rather simplistic work by Eliot Feld to music by Steve Reich, is on the program.

MDT’s also bringing out the big guns for this show, which doesn’t mean muscle. It’s star power. New York City Ballet dancers Charles Askegard (yep, the one married to Candace Bushnell, who wrote “Sex in the City”) and Kaitlyn Gilliland (MDT founder Loyce Houlton’s granddaughter and current artistic director Lise Houlton’s daughter) will perform in “Wingborne,” a signature piece by Loyce Houlton, and “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux” by George Balanchine.

Minnesota Dance Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. The Lab Theater, 700 North First Street, Minneapolis. Tickets $22-$29. (612) 333-7977.