Inspiration can strike at any time, in any place. For Mathew Janczewski, founder and artistic director of Arena Dances, it came while he was driving home from a residency in Northfield. He was listening to public radio and heard a conversation between Sophie Chou, a data journalist at PRI, and Minneapolis composer Joshua Clausen.
Chou had taken the information from a year of mass shootings in the U.S. and converted it into a data sonification – non-speech sound. The sound she chose was a single note on a piano. The sonification was thousands of notes, each representing a mass shooting. Notes played more rapidly indicated a greater frequency of shootings; louder notes, those where many people died.
When Clausen heard the sonification (on the radio), it sounded to him “like an SOS that has come to us from a great distance.” Inspired – and with Chou’s blessing – he wrote a choral work called “Requiem” incorporating her sonification.
Listening in his car, Janczewski thought, “Whenever [a shooting] happens, there’s this big media focus and then it dies down. We have to keep it moving forward, keep it in people’s minds. I need to add something to this. ”
What he could add was dance.
This weekend at the Fitzgerald, Mathew Janczewski’s Arena Dances will give the world premiere of “Hold My Hand,” a new work by Janczewski set to Clausen’s “Requiem.” The music will be performed live by the MPLS (imPulse) Choir and soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw. Clausen has added five minutes to his original composition to make room for more dancing. Along with six Arena dancers, “Hold My Hand” will feature 10 student dancers from St. Paul area high schools.
“It was awesome having the students there,” Jancewski told MinnPost earlier this week. “You could chat with them, hear their voices, discover what thoughts, issues, feelings and fears they have, being in high school right now.” The students helped to shape the dance, adding more layers.
What was it like for Janczewski to work on this project? “Honestly, this has been the best experience I’ve ever had in my 23 years of making dance. I’m always interested in having community be part of it. For this work in particular, people were responding, jumping in, wanting to do whatever they could to fulfill it.”
Are people in the audience going to cry? “I have cried already,” Janczewski said. “There might be some tears, yes.”
But it’s not all grief and sadness. “Hold My Hand” – and the rest of the evening’s program – is infused with what Janczewski calls “undercurrents of hope.” Maybe we’re on the brink of learning the lessons of the past. Maybe we’re ready to start making progress. Meanwhile, we can come together, stand together and support each other.
Also on the program: “Run with Me,” a men’s quartet. The premiere of “One Room,” a trio danced to music by Nils Frahm. The premiere of a new work by Clausen, “You Are Water Too,” set to words by Ben Weaver, performed by MPLS (imPulse), Shaw and the new music ensemble Zeitgeist. And “Threshold,” a repertory work for six women. Themes include intimacy, equity, conversation and negotiation.
“Hold My Hand” will have a single performance Saturday at the Fitzgerald at 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($17.50-26.50). Representatives from three gun violence prevention organizations, Protect Minnesota, Survivors Lead and Moms Demand Action, will be on hand to talk and provide information and support.
Tonight at the Loft: Big Ideas: Fairy Tales featuring Daniel Mallory Ortberg. Writer, author, podcaster, dispenser of advice as Slate’s “Dear Prudence,” Ortberg has a new book, “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” that takes classic tales and gives them a contemporary spin, making them even darker. NPR called Ortberg’s collection “evil, antic and modern.” 7 p.m. in the Performance Hall at Open Book. FMI and tickets ($15/10)
Starts tonight (Thursday, Nov. 8) at Target Center: Cirque du Soleil: “Corteo.” Born in a village near Quebec City, Cirque du Soleil is now the largest theatrical producer in the world. Currently touring North America, “Corteo” – Italian for cortege – has been seen by 8 million people in 64 cities in 19 countries. The story: A clown imagines his own funeral, a festive parade in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by angels. The cast includes 51 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors from all around the world. FMI, times and tickets (start at $45). Through Sunday, Nov. 11.
Starts Friday at the Park Square: “Triple Espresso: A Highly Caffeinated Comedy.” The homegrown hit created by Bill Arnold, Michael Pearce Donley and Bob Stromberg has been hugely successful for 23 years. The longest-running show at the Music Box Theater in Minneapolis and the longest-running show in the history of Iowa (!), it has toured from Alexandria, Minnesota, to Ireland and Belgium, playing to more than 2 million people in 60 cities in 6 countries. (Not quite Cirque du Soleil, but still.) 7:30 p.m. on the Boss Stage. FMI, times and tickets ($25 for Friday’s preview, then $39.50-$52.50).
Saturday at MacPhail: “Masters of the Keyboard.” MacPhail launches its annual Spotlight Series with an evening of exquisite piano music. Co-hosted by series curator Mischa Santora and Classical MPR’s Steve Staruch, the program will include Bach’s A-major sonata for violin and keyboard (with Flying Forms’ Marc Levine on violin and Tami Morse on piano); Mozart’s D-major sonata for two pianos (Irina and Julia Elkins); tunes by Ellington and Monk, plus original compositions (Bryan Nichols); and an Arensky piano trio (Michael Sutton, Charles Asch and Irina Elkins). 8 p.m. in Antonello Hall. Pre-concert conversation at 7. FMI and tickets ($25/15).
Tuesday at the Southdale Library: Club Book: David Grann. The No. 1 New York Time best-selling author (“The Lost City of Z,” “Killers of the Flower Moon”) is touring for his latest, “The White Darkness.” A return to the theme of explorers (“Lost City” is about Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon), “Darkness” tells of Henry Worsley, a special forces veteran eager to retrace the steps of Ernest Shackleton. 7 p.m. Free. Can’t attend? A podcast will be available a few days later.
Hot ticket: “The Midnight Hour” with Greg Grease
“The Midnight Hour” is the debut album from Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) and Adrian Younge. They began working on it in 2013, then put it aside to score Marvel’s “Luke Cage” series for Netflix. Released in June, the album is a lush, layered, sophisticated fusion of soul, jazz and hip hop. Their U.S. tour will stop at the Cedar on Dec. 2, with Muhammad on Fender guitar, Younge on keys, a jazz rhythm section and a full orchestra. Greg Grease of Astralblak (formerly ZuluZuluu) will open; he released his first solo record, “Down So Long,” last September. FMI and tickets ($22 advance, $25 day of show). Muhammad and Younge played a Tiny Desk concert in July, if you want to take a look/listen.