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Walker previews 2009-10 performing arts season: Music, theater and dance at a glance

If you’re going to launch a rich and adventurous performing arts season, why not have a party? And give your potential audience sneak peeks at what the season will bring?

On Thursday, Sept. 10, the Walker Art Center will introduce its 2009-10 performing arts season with a program at the McGuire Theater followed by socializing in the balcony bar.

The McGuire is not perfect — the lobby is almost nonexistent, a lost opportunity — but once you’re inside, all is forgiven. It’s an intimate and beautiful space for all kinds of performance, from music to dance. The stage is so deep and high-ceilinged that the aerialists of Xelias could move right in.

The 44-page, full-color brochure for the season has been mailed. For performing arts lovers, it’s like paging through the Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book. (This is a good year for season brochures; the Southern and Northrop both sent tempting publications.) The 25+ events at the Walker will include four world premieres, seven commissions, nine artists on their U.S. debut tours, and companies coming from 17 countries on five continents.

I went straight for the music and was intrigued by South Africa’s BLK JKS (at the Cedar Cultural Center, one of the Walker’s presenting partners), Iceland’s Múm, the Dafnis Prieto Sextet (co-presented with Northrop Music), Erik Friedlander, Bill Frisell with Iraqi oud master Rahim AlHaj and violist/erhu player Eyvind Kang, and “King for Two Days: A Dave King Celebration,” with five bands (all featuring drummer King) over two nights. That’s March 12-13, all you Bad Plus/Happy Apple/Buffalo Collision fans.

Thursday’s event will be hosted by Philip Bither, McGuire senior curator of performing arts. Early announcements mentioned “clips, music, and surprise guests, live and digital.” MinnPost dug a bit and learned specifics.

If you go, you’ll see a live performance by Balinese gamelan ensemble Çudamani, who will appear Oct. 1-4 with the Ragamala Dance Company. You’ll hear taped interviews with the avant-garde New York theater troupe Radiohole, writer/director/actor Roger Guenveur Smith (who brings his “Watts Towers Project” to the McGuire in January), and the Guthrie’s artistic director, Joe Dowling, who will talk about the Walker-Guthrie collaboration in bringing the hit Irish play “The Walworth Farce” to the Twin Cities in October.

For most other artists on the season, the Walker will present DVD or audio clips.

Preview events are smart and fun, and the Walker isn’t alone. On the first Wednesday of the month, the History Theater serves up Sample Night Live, a buffet of appetizers from upcoming plays, dance performances, poetry slams, stand-up comedians and bands. Tickets are $20, but if you have a Saint Paul Public Library card, you can get up to four tickets free. Here’s how.

The Minnesota Orchestra offers season preview concerts each year. This year’s have already happened (in March), but you can make a note in your calendar for next year. The Minnesota Opera’s Out @ the Opera, a group for GLBT opera fans, will preview the 2009-10 season at the Jet Set Bar on Friday, Sept. 18. Details and RSVP here.

Performing Arts Season Preview, McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, Thursday, Sept. 10, 7 pm. Free.

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