Karen Sherman relocated to Minnesota from New York in 2004, and has since become a fixture on the Twin Cities dance scene, both as a choreographer and as a performer in other artists’ works. Her Tiny Town was featured as part of Momentum: New Dance Works in 2006, and she has performed in several other Walker dance events — including roller-skating in NTUSA’s Chautauqua! last winter.
Sherman was kind enough to send some of her thoughts about the Twin Cities dance scene for a story in the July-August issue of Walker magazine; below you can read them in full. John Munger and Carl Flink also shared their insights about the state of dance both locally and nationally: click here for John Munger’s interview; we’ll follow soon with Carl Flink.
“One quality that I feel really defines the dance scene in the Twin Cities is rigor. I think many dance artists here are truly pushing themselves, looking for ways to go deeper into their work and are asking questions about dance as a form in general. There is a desire to find one’s own voice but also to transcend it, or at least to use that voice to say something unexpected in each new project. Maybe the long winters facilitate that kind of concentration — I mean, what else are you going to do all winter? Plus, there have long been some excellent funding sources and fellowships available to Minnesota artists that encourage and make possible considered artistic exploration. Unfortunately, those sources have taken a hit over recent years and dramatically so in the last few months. That’s really a shame because those resources set us apart from other cities and have helped build a creative infrastructure that actually generates hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.
Dance artists here are also very aware of what is going on nationally in a way that I don’t see in other cities. The Walker of course enables many local artists to see what’s going on by bringing in national and international artists, but I have many colleagues who fly all over the world to take classes, teach, see shows and so on. There is a real dedication and genuine desire to know what’s going on, to be inspired by other people’s work, and to further one’s own inquiries.
I’ve also been impressed by how artists from different forms of dance take interest in each other’s work. That seems partly due to the smaller size of the TC dance scene compared to New York, where the dance scene is so vast that you could choose one form of dance — ballet, contemporary, modern — and basically see only that all year long. We don’t have that kind of density in the Twin Cities, which is good and bad, but overall I find there is enough dance in general here that you can attend shows year-long, but not so much of one kind that that’s all you see. I almost never see anything but contemporary dance in New York so it’s been nice to branch out in my own viewing.
The Twin Cities could use more venues that present fully-produced work by local artists, venues with a less commercial bent, ones more akin to the Walker. There aren’t quite enough opportunities like this locally and artists who are making new, full-evening pieces every 1-2 years are limited as to where they can perform them — they tend to show at the same theater every time because the options are limited. At the same time, this has made a lot of us seek out touring opportunities, either on a DIY level or gigs that are commissioned and fully supported. That requires a lot more money and administration to make happen, but it means we get to go a lot of great places and meet so many other amazing artists. I think we have a reputation for this now. When I perform in other cities, artists often tell me that they hear great things are happening in Minneapolis or that they have seen some of my colleagues perform in their city or some other town. They have rarely been to Minneapolis themselves so this speaks to how Minneapolitans get around, but it also means we should figure out more ways we can bring them here to show us what they’re doing. But you kind of have to invite them to come in the summer or it’s just too cruel.”