Dance (and theater) at the ‘Lab’ and the ‘Gym’

MDT dancer
Courtesy of MDT
Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Melanie Verna is featured in Mathew Janczewski’s “Trebuchet” and Lise Houlton’s “Point of Departure.”

Minnesota Dance Theatre hasn’t been living up to its own hype. Dance that dares? The contemporary ballet company’s public-relations refrain has been used to promote shows like last fall’s repertory concert, which was frothy and spirited, but hardly daring. And last spring’s “Orpheus and Euridice” was a floaty pastel confection with little real emotion or substance.
   
Ever the optimist, I nonetheless have hopes for this weekend’s show, titled “Extreme,” for the following reasons.

1. Justin Leaf, formerly of James Sewell Ballet, has joined MDT. He’s a lean, soulful dancer, with a wicked sense of humor and movement style of grace and generosity.

2.
Minneapolis modern-dance choreographer Mathew Janczewski, after deftly portraying Drosselmayer as your favorite gay uncle in MDT’s “Nutcracker Fantasy” last year, was commissioned to create a new work for the troupe, titled “Trebuchet.” His pretty and intelligent style might be a good fit for this company.

3. The program includes duets performed by special guest artists and New York City Ballet hot-shots Ask La Cour and Kaitlyn Gilliland, granddaughter of the late Loyce Houlton, MDT founder, and daughter of Lise Houlton, MDT artistic director. They’ll dance the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s “Agon” (a classic work of sculptural and erotic abstraction) and the pas de deux from Act 2 of Peter Martin’s “Swan Lake.” This is a rare opportunity for Twin Citians to see modern and classical ballet performed at this caliber.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Lab Theatre, 700 N. First St., Minneapolis
Tickets: $23.60-$29.50
Phone: 651-209-6799

‘The Woyzeck Project’: Leave your expectations at the door
Among creative types, there’s something of a mania about Georg Büchner’s unfinished stage play “Woyzeck,” started in 1936. Werner Herzog made a film of the play, about a soldier who, driven insane by poverty and jealousy, stabs his lover to death. Robert Wilson and Tom Waits crafted it into a musical. Icelandic director Gísli Örn Gardarsson’s version, with music by Nick Cave, is currently playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The Woyzeck Project
Photo by Leiah Stevermer
Dan Dukich portrays Georg Büchner in a vignette from “The Woyzeck Project.”

This weekend, a local version continues through Saturday. It was created by three innovative performance faculty in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theatre Arts & Dance — puppeteer Michael Sommers, actor Luverne Seifert and choreographer Carl Flink — and their students. “The Woyzeck Project” is a “landscape of Woyzeck’s mind,” said Flink.

Arrive at 7, 8 or 9 p.m., and you’ll see “the work” scattered throughout the Norris Gym in its entirety. There’s something of a performance loop, Flink says. But as you enter the cavernous gym (slated for demolition), you’re on your own. There’s no plot, no narrative and no guide. Wander from vignette to vignette. Look for the tiny doors. Don’t stand too close to the chain link. Be prepared to get down on your hands and knees. Don’t expect to sit. (For a taste, go here.)

“Somehow we created something that sits perfectly between extremely experimental and completely accessible,” Flink said. “Some people have already come back three or four times.” The show opened last week. 

“Norris Gym is one of the most evocative spaces I’ve ever been in,” Flink added. In assembling this work, “I don’t feel like we made any concessions to making this an easy experience for the audience, but it’s not designed to repel the audience, either.”

Where: Norris Hall, East Bank, 172 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis
When: 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Tickets:
$5-$15 ($2 more at the door)
Phone: 612-624-2345

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