Barefootblogger: thoughts on dance

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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


“Hi! How are you?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

At first glance this bit of dialogue seems to be straight out of a language primer, like the first things you’d learn in French or German.

These are in fact the first sentences I shared with Merce Cunningham whom I just spoke with on the phone. He honored me with an interview for my September METRO piece as the Walker’s bringing him here for a the-world-will-be-watching series of performances in the Rainbow Quarry in St. Cloud. Down in the quarry. Merce on the rocks.

He was unutterably polite, and lucid. When I referred to Cage he said, “John” this and “John” that. Sweet.

He was speaking from his studio, a place where I’ve performed and where I danced something else for filming during my years in NY. Its famous location way west and on the water is always a bear to find the first time. Bethune Street I think.

Can you imagine? Almost 90, wheelchair-bound, and yet STILL in the studio everyday (with the fans audibly whirring even through my cell phone connection).

My sense of appreciation is deep and wide like the quarry. Part organic and part “man-made”, dug out, formed for use.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Weather Report

I just opened my balcony door again. Today has been fickle: alternately sunny, rainy then windy such that it scares my cat.

Today, four days into my jet lag after returning from an art-filled and magical trip to Europe, I wrestle with getting my life, my routine (such as it is in the summer), back on track.

Lass than an hour ago I received my feedback from the McKnight panel who selected this year’s three choreographic Fellowship recipients. (Not me.) I gained such insight into the process after having just served on the panel that selected this year’s dancer winners, that not much came as a surprise. The sad truth is that a heck of a lot of weight is put onto the work samples, and mine, in retrospect, was subpar. Ironic given that I actually paid for it to get done right. I just made bad choices. The feedback, as always, was enlightening. Though down, I know I’ll muster soon.

(Rainy. Windy.)

(A few words about sitting on the panel…

The five of us panelists bonded. We respectfully argued and metaphorically rolled our sleeves up, got our hands dirty, pulled our hair out. At the end of the second day it came down to a collective decision. I don’t know if any one of us would have settled on the exact three ultimately chosen, so completely were they determined by the sum of our decisive parts. I can honestly say that the process was truly democratic, and for that I am proud.

It was insightful, participating in a process that is so subject to human… well, humanness. With the sincerest intentions we passed judgement. We have subsequently left ourselves open to scrutiny, to questions regarding our choices. We are not allowed to discuss these and must pass along any inquiries to the program administrator, thereby protecting our process and that of future panelists.)

(Windy. Windy.)

Now, just a moment ago, I got a call from my performing arts contact at the Walker Art Center who has, hang on to your hats folks, arranged for me to interview Merce Cunningham next week for my September METRO Magazine column!

(Sunny. Windy. Windy.)

It’s almost too much to contain: all this art, all these things and people I care about. I sat at my mother’s antique desk and just sat there, then put my face in my hands, the better to swallow it all.

I feel home now. I deem jet lag over and resolve to plant my feet back into the Minneapolis (and St. Paul) soil. Monday I will start my new piece for the Fringe, “Small Aida”. (Yes, inspired by opera.)

(Let’s hope for lightning.)