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Shubert takes it to the streets, and ‘copperhead’ strikes

The Battle Cats will perform in the Shubert parking lot.
Courtesy of the Shubert
The Battle Cats will perform in the Shubert parking lot.

When the flagship building of the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center opens in 2010, the center “will have dance for everybody,” says education director Melissa Koch.

Yes, the facility will be home to concert-dance troupes like Zenon Dance Company, Minnesota Dance Theater and James Sewell Ballet. “But we’ll also program hip-hop and other forms of popular dance,” Koch adds. Which is one reason the Shubert’s current online education program, “Follow the Creative Process,” is showcasing the creation of “Revolution,” a new work by the Battle Cats, a Twin Cities-based hip-hop group.

This Saturday, the Shubert hosts “Hip-Hop Dance: From the Streets to the Stage.” The daylong event, in the theater’s parking lot, includes breaker battles (i.e., hip-hop dance competitions), dance workshops, a panel discussion on the four founding aspects of hip-hop (dance, MC-ing, DJ-ing and graffiti), and the premiere of “Revolutions.” Partners on the event include Rhymesayers Entertainment, Intermedia Arts and KMOJ-FM.

And it’s all free. “With this event, anyone walking by can come in and watch, or dance or talk,” Koch says. “That’s the dynamic we want with the Shubert Center when we’re open — that we’re inclusive, not exclusive.”

New online content about the history of hip-hop, the creation of “Revolutions” and the three primary performers — Seqal (Travis Johnson), J-Sun (Jason Noer), Daylight (Damien Day) — is posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through Oct. 11. Noer, who has been teaching via the Shubert’s education program for three years, is particularly articulate about the cultural, political and social conditions that gave rise to hip-hop on either coast in the 1960s and ’70s.

He’s also thoughtful about the role hip-hop plays in 21st century youth culture. As Koch says, “J-Sun talks how hip-hop dance is a blueprint for self-improvement. Despite hip-hop’s popularity, that’s a message that can get shoved to the side. But for J-Sun, it’s about rising out of negative circumstances.”

When: Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.
Where: Shubert Center parking lot, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Tickets: Free

Also this week: ‘copperhead’

Several weeks ago I attended Karen Sherman’s “one born bad” in the basement of her home with six other people. A sort-of prequel to this weekend’s “copperhead,” the basement piece was an investigation of space, perception and proximity as we in the audience — given assigned names for seats in a confined space beforehand — watched the performers up close, or in mirrors, or through doorways that partially obscured our sightlines, or only listened as the action occurred out of view.
Here’s what I learned from this show: Joanna Furnans has long fingers that take on an alien aspect (think E.T.) as she waves them at her sides while loudly chomping on a piece of candy. Hannah Kramer can dispassionately describe participation in a sex cult lying naked on the floor before she gets up and takes a shower. When Anna Marie Shogren is done urinating in a nearby toilet, her butt cheeks hop on the toilet rim before she wipes.

Now, peeing “on stage” can be effectively and childishly charming — as in Argentinean director Diana Szeinblum’s “Secreto Y Malibu” presented by the Walker Art Center at the Southern Theater in 2003; here, it seems merely an attempt to try something shocking, but it isn’t.
As doors slammed for the last time, Sherman got up and threw a pile of folded papers on the floor and left. We audience members looked at one another then noticed our “names” on the papers, picked them up and opened a program. This defiant challenging of audience expectations (sometimes disquieting, always amusing), whether it pertains to the social niceties of acknowledging your audience or maintaining a “comfortable” physical distance from them, will also be incorporated into aspects “copperhead,” a work that investigates the intimacy of violence.

Sherman possesses a ferocious intelligence and an intriguing non-dance movement vocabulary that makes for a visceral, compelling viewing experience. But her pieces often lack a formal sense of construction that would contain and give shape to unruly content. That may be the point.

When: Thursday-Sunday (Oct. 2-5)
Where: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. South, Minneapolis
Tickets: $19 (plus $1 Southern Theater ticketing fee)
Phone: 612-340-1725

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