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Online series peeks behind curtain of modern dance

It’s sad but true: Most people are still afraid of modern dance. Which is why the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center has launched the smart, entertaining and very accessible online series, “Men in Motion: A Dance Journey,” in celebration of Zenon Dance Company‘s  25th anniversary season.

“We strive to educate people about dance,” said Melissa Ferlaak, manager of the Shubert’s education program. “People usually have the wrong idea about modern dance — especially that it’s super-cerebral. They get scared off. If you log in and watch ‘Men In Motion,’ you’ll not only get a good idea about what modern dance is, but you’ll also realize that no matter what you feel about the dance, that’s the correct emotion, because it’s all your own personal interpretation.” 

The free program, which began March 24 and continues through April 18, with new postings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, takes a friendly, behind-the-scenes look at how New York choreographer Seán Curran is creating a new work, “Hard Bargain,” for Zenon’s four men — Bryan GodboutGreg Waletski, Eddie Oroyan and Stephen Schroeder — all of whom introduce themselves on the site. The debut occurs in mid-April at the Southern Theater.

Demystifying dance
So far, the site includes Zenon artistic director Linda Z. Andrews’ accessible, articulate definition of modern dance. Curran introduces himself and his eclectic history including dancing with Bill T. Jones/Arne Zane Company as well as Stomp!. He talks about lighting, costumes, music and working with the four male dancers. And he sings a delightful little aria in praise of lunch

“Linda brought up the idea of following Seán Curran and the piece he’s developing because he’s a dynamic personality and fabulous choreographer,” Ferlaak said. “He’s created a very masculine piece of dance for the Zenon men. It’s macho and athletic, but still beautiful.”

During its first week, the “Men in Motion” site received 25,000 hits from viewers in France, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Brazil and the United States. Viewership ranges from elementary-school children watching from their classrooms to dance professionals. Fun and informative, the content never talks down to its audience. It hits the right tone for a broad array of viewers, a feat that’s extremely difficult to accomplish. Another feature (Ask the Artist) allows participants to pose questions online and have them answered directly by the artistic team.

In addition to demystifying modern dance, the program documents the effort that goes into choreographing and staging dance. “People don’t realize the hard work these dancers, choreographers, artistic director, costume designers and lighting designers do to bring something to the stage,” Ferlaak said. “The real underlying purpose of ‘Men in Motion,’ and all of our creative-process programs, is to show how creating dance doesn’t happen magically.”

Upcoming performance of ‘Hard Bargain’
What: Seán Curran’s “Hard Bargain” premieres during Zenon Dance Company’s Zenon’s 25th spring season along with a new work for Zenon’s four women by New York choreographer Jeanine Durning. Other works on the program include “Garden” by Wynn Fricke, Cathy Young’s “The Secret Life of Walt and Kitty,” and Susana Tambutti’s “Like an Octopus” (first weekend) and “Mysteriously, This Won’t Happen” (second weekend).
Where: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; April 17-20; April 24-27
How much: $25
Phone: 612-340-1725
Online

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