For dance aficionados like me, this coming weekend promises heaven: three professional dance performances — wildly diverse in style, intent, content and production values — on three different stages.
If you’re new to dance, here’s a fabulous opportunity to immerse yourself in a weekend of work that will entertain, enlighten and edify. I’ll even help by putting each into an easy-to-understand category, so if you have to pick just one, you’ll be somewhat informed.
How to describe Zhauna Franks: She’s a force of nature, a state of being, a woman whose high kicks and angled arms have defeated disco Rat Queens and hip-hop rat minions as superhero-Barbie in Myron Johnson’s holiday chestnut, “Nutcracker?! (not so) Suite.” You can see her perform below.
A longtime member of Johnson’s Minneapolis troupe, Ballet of the Dolls, Franks is also a choreographer in her own right. In her new piece, “The Dream Channel,” she blends dance, theatrical movement and spoken text in a surrealistic work that, she says, “could be described as a cross between ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Truman Show.’ ”
The show is a non-narrative, but thematic examination of dreams and aspirations, with characters (which Franks also describes as “archetypes from film noir”) acting out particular fantasies. Kevin McCormick (who used to play Momma, in drag, in Johnson’s “Nutcracker”) is a host or narrator, Franks explains.
“In the show, Kevin performs commercials, which serve to highlight a common theme in the surrounding scenes, as well as to incorporate the broadcast element, as ‘The Dream Channel’ can be interpreted as a channel on television.”
Franks’ character “is inspired by the femme fatale.” That character, played by Stephanie Fellner (said Rat Queen), “is drawn from the truth-seeker archetype.” And Michael deLeon (Ken, to Franks’ Barbie) portrays “the haunted. But all of these archetypes are more suggested than displayed.”
In other words, get yourself a glass of wine, free your mind and let this show take you wherever you’re willing to go. “Based on the small amount of feedback I have received about the work so far,” Franks says, “the vague familiarity of the content of my show transports the viewer to a place that is both otherworldly and within themselves. Deja vu? It is for this reason that I am not working with a story. I want to let the individual viewer go to a place that is natural.”
What: Zhauna Franks’ “The Dream Channel”
When: 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday through Feb. 16
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE., Minneapolis
In 1982, a Belgian dance student, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, graduated from the New York Tisch School of the Arts, and began performing a duet she’d made, “FASE: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich.”
The four-part piece was heralded as a masterwork, in which music and movement combined to create an exploration of rhythmic structure at once aural and kinetic. And De Keersmaeker launched a career and her company, Rosas.
Rigorous. Austere. Pure. Elegant. Phenomenal speed. Seductive orderliness. The same words appear as critics describe “FASE.” But this is my favorite, from Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times, in 1998: “FASE … does much to explain why Ms. De Keersmaeker, once labeled a minimalist, has suddenly been seen as an expressionist.”
The possibilities for spiritual uplift exist in such art through the discipline of pattern, repetition and precision, which can be revealed the emotional freedom within. Check out a sample of FASE below.
What: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s “FASE: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich”
When: 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday
Where: McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
If you loved “The Lion King,” which earned Garth Fagan a Tony Award for choreography in 1998, then see how that inspiration manifests in Fagan’s own company, which hails from Rochester, N.Y. Fagan’s super-athletic, always-dynamic choreography is an eclectic mix of gravity-bound modern dance, the low hip sways and earthy surges of Afro-Caribbean movement, the speed and precise lines of ballet, and just enough idiosyncratic and artistic rule-breaking to make the choreography Fagan’s own. See the company perform below.
What: Garth Fagan Dance
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul