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.