Providing a snapshot of Minnesota’s dance landscape, the Walker Art Center and the Southern Theater present the annual Momentum series, illuminating the skill and passion of the next generation’s most promising artists on July 21–23, 28–30: Fridays–Saturdays, 8 pm; Sundays, 7 pm at the Southern Theater. Featuring two companies each evening, the much-anticipated Momentum showcases new voices and ideas that speak to the latest combinations in dance while solidifying the Twin Cities as a hotbed of fresh, experimental, and often overlooked talent. Each company will present new work commissioned by the Walker and the Southern with the support of the Jerome Foundation. The Southern Theater is located at 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis.
Karen Sherman/Leah Nelson
Karen Sherman: Tiny Town
From weather to Wal-Marts, Tiny Town stands at the intersection of terrain, the body, and the physiological embodiment of environment. Karen Sherman’s idiosyncratic voice and clean, distinct movement have earned her a devoted following in New York; she brings to Minnesota a unique ability to craft singular worlds populated by disquieting images and curious people. Inspired by Midwestern landscape and climate, along with the region’s complicated sociopolitical histories, the work explores the possibility of disappearing into the lay of the land—geographical, emotional, anatomical, and cultural—and reappearing. Using contemporary choreographic language, Tiny Town physicalizes the silent spirit of one’s environment and ways it shapes human identity.
Leah Nelson/Abstraktions: Requiem for a Homegirl
Interweaving vernacular dance styles and high-art performance modes, Leah Nelson’s sophisticated choreography gives new context to dance history while at the same time creating a place where the popular meets the underground, and the story of a neighborhood and its complex struggles come to life. Requiem for a Homegirl surveys the resonant milieu of the street-wise, from economic inequality and racial injustice to family, church, and cultural pride. Integrating the politics of everyday life with fresh takes on the formal idioms of dance-theater, she expertly navigates the world of contemporary performance, layering abstract narrative with spoken word, beatbox, and classical opera to take the form in new directions.
Live Action Set with Spaghetti Western String Co./The BodyCartography Project
Live Action Set with Spaghetti Western String Co.: The Percussionist
The critically acclaimed performance ensemble Live Action Set with collaborators Spaghetti Western String Co. perform their latest hybrid theater-dance-music work, The Percussionist. As experienced stage, comedic, and dance artists, the group’s individual talents are a new convergence for Momentum, opening a fresh world of choreographic possibilities. Through physical theater, live music, and modern movement, they investigate diverse themes, from revenge and capital punishment to society’s obsession with what’s “normal.” Known for architecturally engaged works, the artists have created an upside-down and inside-out narrative deeply influenced by filmic imagery and the Southern’s performance stage.
The BodyCartography Project: Holiday House
For this work, Otto Ramstad and Olive Bieringa have crafted choreography that is neither fully set nor fully improvised. Working from their long history of dance on camera, the artists transpose the distinct languages of video and movement into one: the space and time available on film distilled into the perfection of the live moment. The company works with artists featured in past site-specific video works; the collective body memory of these locales is pivotal to the new material of Holiday House. Crucial dynamics such as cause and effect, the physical energy of unison and individual vocabulary, and the performer’s relationship to audience all serve to help navigate the tension between the comfort of the past and the excitement of the unknown.
Based in New York from 1988–2004, dance and performance artist Karen Sherman relocated to Minneapolis and works out of both cities. Her work is known for its humor and concurrent commentary on darker aspects of the human emotional landscape. She is inspired by science, social issues, and the impact of one’s surroundings on the individual. Her representations of sexual identity—and the experience of inhabiting the female body specifically—push beyond the conventional to give voice to the queer body, and are hallmarks of her performances. Her work has been presented by P.S. 122, Jacob’s Pillow, Danspace Project, Movement Research at the Judson Church, the Walker Art Center, The Southern Theater, and Red Eye Theater, among many others spaces and events throughout the U.S. She recently worked as choreographer/movement coach for the 2005 worldwide tour of the feminist punk-electronica band Le Tigre. In addition to dancing for many fine artists over the years, she is also a musician, fifth-generation lasso spinner, and former student of the flying trapeze.
Leah Nelson is a Zimbabwean dancer, choreographer, and producer who graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts. She has performed internationally from Brussels to Brazil, and extensively throughout the U.S. with dance/theater company David Rousseve/REALITY. Her recent performance abroad was a solo at the opening-night celebration for the Zanzibar International Film Festival in July 2004. She premiered her McKnight Dance Fellow solo YOUR place a dance/ theater piece choreographed by London-based artist Jonzi D, an exploration of racial identity using words, hip-hop, and modern dance elements. Nelson directed Sleeping Gods: Theater in the Spirit of Hip-Hop for the PS 122 production of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in 2000 and curated Hip-Hop Moves: Heroes and Innovators for the Walker Art Center’s Hip-Hop Dance Festival in October 2003. She is a co-founder of MN Spoken Word Association and is currently a Teaching Artist in schools. Nelson is Artistic Director of Nubia a pan hip-hop performing arts collective and believes in creating art by any means necessary. Nelson was recently awarded a 2006 Bush Artist Fellowship.
Noah Bremer (Live Action Set)
Noah Bremer, artistic director and founder of Live Action Set, was born in San Jose, California, and lived there only long enough to get two years of sun before moving to Seattle and enduring eight years of rain. He moved to Minnesota and enjoyed two years of snow, then to Illinois for a year of smog, and back to Minnesota for more snow where he studied theater at the University of Minnesota. He eventually escaped the snow for a year to study at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, California, only to return to his beloved tundra that welcomed him with open arms. Bremer is an actor, director, off-beat choreographer, and clown. He has worked with the Children’s Theater Co., Pillsbury House Theater, The Red Eye, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the Soap Factory, Illusion Theater, Southern Theater, and Works/Plays, among others. He was a recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board 2005 Artist Initiative Grant, City Pages 2005 “Artist of the Year,” and recognized by the Star Tribune for co-creating Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban, hailed as the “Best Experimental Work of 2005.” He is also a core member of the Lighthouse, a group of emerging artists presenting work in conjunction with the Illusion Theater.
Galen Treuer (Live Action Set)
Galen Treuer, born in Moscow, Idaho, in 1979, spent his second year living out of a 1969 Volkswagon Minibus before his parents settled in Duluth, Minnesota. After graduating from the Duluth Marshall School, Treuer attended Oberlin College where he majored in economics, minored in English, and dabbled in geology. At Oberlin, he danced, acted, choreographed, and generally had his perception of performance expanded. In 2001, he graduated and moved to Minneapolis. Since then he has performed with Jazzdance, Christopher Watson Dance Co., Zenon Dance Co., Gerry Girouard, Vanessa Voskuil, Wicked Sister Dance Theater, Rosy Simas, ARENA Dances, and The Children’s Theater Company, among others. Work with Noah Bremer and Live Action Set has encouraged an exploration of clown and physical theater. He has recently studied with Ricardo Puccetti of the Brazilian Lume Company, and has also worked with sweets and breads as a baker.
Megan Odell (Live Action Set)
Megan Odell was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and started dancing when she was 14 at a studio that focused on Horton and Graham technique. She moved to Minneapolis to attend Macalester College, where she intended to major in International Studies but never took a single class in that area. Instead, she discovered theater and took the leap into combining dance and theater. Since graduating from Macalester in 1995, she has worked with many local artists including Laurie Van Wieren, Risa Cohen, Heidi Geier, Christopher Watson, John Munger, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Brad and Cindy Garner, Jesse Walker, Amy Sackett, Adrienne English, and Skewed Visions. Odell was also a four-year cast member of the Scrimshaw Brothers’ Look Ma, No Pants! comedy show and is a company member of Matt Jenson’s New and Slightly Used Dance. She has almost earned her MS in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is a founding member of Live Action Set.
Vanessa Voskuil (Live Action Set)
Vanessa Voskuil, originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, is a diverse performer, choreographer/director, and educator. She is a current company member with Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater as well as Catalyst Dances by Emily Johnson, and is also an independent choreographer. Her work has been presented at Carleton College, University of Minnesota, Southern Theater, The Red Eye Theater, Minnesota Visible Fringe, and the Rogue Buddha Gallery. She holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota and is a founding member of Live Action Set.
The Spaghetti Western String Co.
The Spaghetti Western String Co., an acoustic quartet from Minneapolis featuring Michael Rossetto (banjo/guitar), Nicholas Lemme (mandolin/guitar/voice), Denise Guelker (violin), and Ethan Sutton (cello), has its roots in the winter of 2003. It was during this time that Michael enlisted the help of Denise, Nicholas, and a host of others, to record Do Right By People. Under the name ‘Spaghetti Western,’ a nod to Rossetto’s Italian heritage, the Do Right By People recording was named one of the top 10 albums of 2004 by City Pages and one of the top 20 albums of 2004 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Do Right‘s mix of haunting melodies combines acoustic instrumentation, antiquated drum machines, strings, and organs creating a cinematic feel. In the winter of 2004, Michael, Nicholas, and Denise were joined by the cellist Ethan Sutton and changed their moniker to ‘Spaghetti Western String Co.,’ a more fitting name for what at live performances had become an avant-classical string band.
Since the forming of this new quartet, SWSCo. has written two film scores, one for the 1934 bio pic, Grass, and another for the 1956 French film, The Red Balloon. They have performed these scores with the films at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis on New Year’s Eve 2005, the 2005 Greenman Festival in Duluth, and the 2005 International Film Festival in Mpls./St. Paul.
In the spring of 2005, the group recorded Quiet Mob, a collection of original material that mixes classical, jazz, European folksong, and new acoustic music. Quiet Mob captures the playful interplay of the group and their strength as composers. The EP was self-released in October 2005.
In September 2005, Spaghetti Western String Co. was nominated for the second year in a row for a Minnesota Music Award. In 2005, they won the award for ‘Eclectic Artist of the Year.’
Spaghetti Western String Co. has played extensively in Minneapolis/St. Paul as well as Duluth and greater Minnesota. In July of 2005, the quartet spent two weeks touring the Midwest and has plans to tour, write film scores, record a new record, and work with Minnesota schools to further the education of music.
Olive Bieringa (The BodyCartography Project)
Improvisational dance and performance forms, somatic movement practices, and video creation inform the core of co-director/dancer/ performer/video artist Olive Bieringa’s work. Born in New Zealand, she has been based in both the U.S. and Europe since 1988. She holds a BFA in Dance, focused on Improvisation, Composition and Performance from the Netherlands. She is a certified DanceAbility teacher, Shiatsu practitioner, and Somatic Movement Educator from the School for Body-Mind Centering©. Her training includes intensive work with dance innovators Eva Karczag, Lisa Nelson, and master BMC teacher Myra Avedon, among others. In addition to her seven-year collaborative relationship with Otto Ramstad (directing/ filmmaking/teaching), she has collaborated with directors and choreographers, including Deborah Hay, Yoshiko Chuma, Sara Shelton Mann, Eva Karczag, and Stephanie Skura. She has generated eight solo performance pieces that have been performed in various venues including the Florida Dance Festival, New Zealand Fringe Festival, and Danspace, NYC.
Bieringa has been teaching internationally since 1994 in university contexts, public workshops, schools, dance festivals, retreat centers, summer camps, and for dance and performance companies such as Axis Dance Company from California. She was a faculty member at the Wellington Performing Arts Center in 1996. She has worked extensively with adult artists with disabilities in San Francisco and Minneapolis. Her experience as a bodywork practitioner in Minnesota, California, and New Zealand since 1998 includes running her own practice, teaching for schools, and working in health clubs. She co-organized the West Coast Contact Improvisation Festival, Berkeley, CA (1999). She is the curator and producer of the Kinesthetic Eye: New Dance Cinema event that screens in Minneapolis, California, and elsewhere.
Otto Ramstad (The BodyCartography Project)
Co-director and dancer Otto Ramstad’s performance springs from a desire to share the experience of being human as a way to entertain share and educate. His dance is informed by a pervasive interest in movement that has led him to performances infused by the physical practices of Butoh, Capoeira Angola, Contemporary Dance, and Tai Chi. He is a Certified Practitioner of Body-Mind Centering.
Ramstad has long utilized public space as a place for the creation of art as well as a medium with which to create art. With a public art background including skateboarding and graffiti art, he has always brought actions and questions into contact with people in ways that integrate the physical and social landscape in “acceptable” and “non-acceptable” ways. His public work set in the context of people’s everyday lives invites participation on a conscious and unconscious level with degrees of confusion, surprise, and wonderment. He has been featured in the work of Karen Nelson, Sara Shelton Mann, Jennifer Monson, Mestre Jurandir, Scott Wells, Suzanne River, and Olive Bieringa.
In teaching, Ramstad creates an environment that supports individuals to draw from their own creativity and innate intelligence. Individuals can then interact with the material presented from a centered and grounded place that fosters embodiment. He has taught at Goddard College, The School For Body-Mind Centering, Unitec Performing Arts, and Wellington Performing Arts Schools in New Zealand, as well as at public workshops throughout the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand in dance, performance, and video for children and adults. Ramstad was recently awarded a 2006 Bush Artist Fellowship.
Tickets to Momentum: New dance Works are $18 ($14 Walker and Southern members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Supported by the Jerome Foundation in celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial and in recognition of the valuable cultural contributions of artists to society.