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Mathew Janczewski premieres new dance company, new work

Fifteen years ago, a young U of M graduate in dance started his own company, ARENA Dances. Mathew Janczewski choreographed works of emotional resonance that demanded technically rigorous, aesthetically astute dancers who could make his abstract movements transportive — in other words, generate a rare sort of kineticism that rewarded the intelligence and the senses of the viewer.

Dancers came and went. In the last few years, his troupe has looked lackluster. Many of the dancers seemed incapable of investing in his choreography; their performances were often slack and lifeless, pretty but boring. Janczewski also recognized he needed a change. His dancers showed up for rehearsal after long hours at their day jobs, and there was never enough time to really work on new choreography.

So last year, he released his old company and held auditions for a new one; a “day company,” meaning they’d hold rehearsals during the day like other professional dance companies. Janczewski says the change reflects “an evolution in my own artistic practice and a desire for a professional company. I can make more demands on the dancers because being in this company is their day job. But this model also opens up more doors for educational outreach, and opens up the possibility of paying the dancers more than I can currently.”

This weekend, the new ARENA Dances premieres at The Lab along with a new, evening-length work by Janczewski, titled “not so good at standing still.” The piece, Janczewski says is “really about my problem — I’m not good at being patient, at waiting, at not moving forward.” The evening opens with a new solo for Janczewski by local dance maker Jane Shockley.

The new company includes six dancers and two apprentices, all of them U of M dance graduates, except for one from St. Olaf College. “During auditions,” Janczewski explains, “I looked for dancers who stood out and had their own personalities, who took moves and made them their own, who could be expressive with the material. But I also looked for cohesiveness as a group.”

“The first time I saw them perform on stage, I was blown away,” he continues. “They elevated my work in new ways. They’re really invested and they really care.” His new piece reflects this change in his company and his work. “I’ve entered a new era of creativity, a new direction in my process of working,” he says. “That’s the theme of ‘not so good at standing still’.”

 8:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5:00 Saturday, 7:00 p.m. Sunday. The LAB Theater, 700 North First Street, Minneapolis $20-$25. 612-333-7977.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Michael Mcbride on 10/09/2010 - 02:18 am.

    I must say after reading this article I am both shocked and appalled at the slanderous comments stated above about Mathew’s past dancers. Having read this article I can believe that this particular piece of “editorial journalism” is nothing but a sad attempt to discredit an amazing group of people and dancers. It stands to be noted that of the dancers that were “let go” they either continue to dance professionally in well respected and well known companies throughout the twin cities or have chosen to begin higher education degrees. Furthermore, anyone who knows them or has seen them perform would call these dancers many things, however “lackluster or “boring” would not jump to mind when describing their dance performances. It truly concerns Ms. LeFevre that you would write this article about these particular dancers especially after so many wonderful reviews of all of their works in the recent years. It begs the question to be answered what changed all of a sudden for you to decide to make these unwarranted remarks. If this is the type of story you are looking for why would you not interview any of the dancers you are so rudely putting in the spotlight. I say shame on you and shame on Mathew Janczewski for finding it necessary to bring unwarranted and untrue accusations into an article which should be focused solely upon Mathews new work and company!

  2. Submitted by Mathew Janczewski on 10/10/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    I would like people to know, current and especially previous dancers, how incredibly thankful I am for their many years of dedication, blood, sweat, tears, and joy that we have shared together. It is with their commitment that I grew in my work. Thank you to all the dancers from the beginning in 1995.

    I have received much flack from this article, and I see in reading it that Camille’s opinion is hurtful and may cause anger. I also see that Camille’s opinion of my company in the last few year’s as “lackluster” and “pretty” but “boring” followed by her writing that “Janczewski also recognized he needed a change.” comes across that I agree with Camille. These are her words, not mine and I do not agree with her.

    I did need a change, but it was a change for my creative growth and by no means attributed to the dancer’s abilities to dance and perform. The change came about as to how I was going to create more effectively, and after many years of working in the evening as a pick-up company, much of the time creating new work at rapid speed in less than 30 hours, a change was needed.

    In order for me to choreograph at my best, I needed to shift the company to a regular day schedule. This shift was the only reason that many of the dancers were unable to continue with ARENA. Again, Camille’s article comes across that I “released” those dancers, as if they were simply fired. That is not the case.

    This change to a day company was extremely emotional for me, as in doing so many of the dancers were simply unable to make the shift; and after so much they have given of themselves- it was unbearable and scary. But, I had to recognize what it was that was going to help my choreography and realize the work better.

    While I am thrilled with what the change has created for me, I have not nor ever will forget how I was even able to get to this point. I question even writing this comment, I am no writer. However, Camille’s opinion is hurtful and any hurt that has been caused by this I am extremely sorry, but the anger and hurt felt upon Camille’s opinions, need to be directed to Camille.

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