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Dancing with elephants at the Southern

No, you aren’t dreaming. Yes, there will be an elephant in a dance performance this weekend, or rather, a dancer in a plush pachyderm costume. Lionel Popkin, a former dancer with the luminous Trisha Brown Dance Company and now a professor of choreography at UCLA, creates work that juxtaposes investigative physicality with audacious humor.

This weekend’s show at the Southern Theater, “There is an Elephant in This Dance,” incorporates simple gestures, flowing choreography, finger biting and elephant interactions in a work that’s at once mysterious and playful. The evocative score is by cellist and composer Robert Een.

For an excerpt go here.

If the Hindu deity Ganesh comes to mind, you’re on track. Popkin’s childhood home was reportedly filled with images of the deity, revered in the Hindu religion as the Remover of Obstacles. As inspiration for this piece, the pachyderm plays an integral role as metaphor for physical and spiritual exploration.

Additional performers include Minneapolis choreographer and performer Morgan Thorson; dance legend Ishmael Houston-Jones; and dancer Carolyn Hall.

“There is an Elephant in This Dance,” 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Southern Theater, Minneapolis. Tickets $20-$24. 612-340-1725.

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