Two performances will get me to the Walker Art Center’s Out There series running Jan. 9 through Feb. 2. One is the opening show with Miguel Gutierrez and his company Powerful People performing “Everyone.” Gutierrez will reconfigure the McGuire Theater, putting the audience on stage and the performers everywhere else.
Cool. I love work that upends the “we-watch/you-perform” expectations embedded in the traditional audience/performer dichotomy. Remember Sarah Michelson’s riveting “Daylight (for Minneapolis)” several years ago?
Also, local dancer and choreographer Otto Ramstad (of Body Cartography) is a member of Powerful People, and I’ve never really seen him dance except in Morgan Thorson’s “No Feeling for Harmony” several years ago at the SPCO Center in St. Paul’s Hamm Building.
Watching Ramstad tear through space with sinuous physicality was like having cobwebs wiped from my eyes. Powerful People’s everyday movements are juxtaposed with long periods of stasis — and staring at the audience. But Gutierrez also builds a momentum with its own compelling emotion.
‘Feed Forward’ is the finale
The other show is the closer in the series: David Neumann’s Advanced Beginner Group performing “Feed Forward.” Neumann interests me because, lately, I’ve been wondering whatever happened to Doug Elkins, whose wild dances incorporated modern, break dance and rap.
Then The New York Times wrote about Elkins and his new work based on “The Sound of Music,” and discussed how many of his dancers from the 1990s are now on their own, including Neumann. After watching a section of “Feed Forward” on videotape, it looks hilarious with its gymnasium-like set, goofy text and gawky movement vocabulary.
So why is Out There, now in its 20th year, so movement-oriented this time around? Philip Bither, the Walker’s senior curator of performing arts, selects the shows and has found that they “tend to collect around a discipline,” he says. Three years ago, the artists were all integrating video, projections and/or film in their work. Last year, language and text dominated the performances.
“This year, the orientation was around the body and movement,” he says. Hence Out There’s subtitle, “Moving toward the Future.” Out There is always about “work that lives between disciplines,” Bither explains. “It’s not clearly a theater or dance or music; it’s really hybrid work.”
This year’s quartet of shows — others are the more theater-oriented “Particularly in the Heartland” by The TEAM and “PERFORMANCE (career ender)” by Claude Wampler — are highly choreographed works, Bither says, “that explore the essence of performance while creating a theatrical experience for the audience.”
“I don’t think this work is out on some wild fringe or completely inaccessible,” Bither says of the 2008 Out There series. “I love it when work is innovative and connects with people in a major way. There is a humanity to each of these pieces as well. All of the works ask the audience to suspend expectations around how a theatrical experience should be shaped or framed.”
Hmm. Maybe I’ll check out TEAM and Wampler, as well.