“Janczewski’s choreography has a seamless quality rooted in intelligence, thoughtfulness and grace . . . The dancers perform his works with elegance and strength.” —Star Tribune
America’s obsession with outward physical perfection is scrutinized in
, an evening-length work by one of Minnesota’s leading choreographers, Mathew Janczewski. With his eight-member company ARENA and West Coast electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick, he explores notions of beauty and ugliness through movement in this Walker-commissioned work having its world premiere at 8 pm Thursday–Saturday, October 18–20, in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Following on the success of its 10th-anniversary season, ARENA performs one of its most ambitious works to date.
Co-commissioned by the Walker Art Center with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ugly, a major collaboration developed through an artistic round-table process, features direction by Peter Rothstein (Theater Latté Da of Minneapolis), story narrative by playwright Kira Obolensky, set design by architect Daniel Spencer, lighting design by longtime ARENA collaborator Jeff Barlett (Artistic Director of the Southern Theater), and costume design by Angie Vo. A video/live Internet installation completes the production.
Ugly explores notions and perceptions of beauty, examining various cultural influences throughout the ages and today’s mania of superficiality that drives styles and trends. The piece begins with the façade of the human form in its physical state and surroundings. The façade crumbles, stripping away and breaking through the surface of our technologically advanced society revealing water, dirt, and grass from the earth, signaling a return to a natural human state.
Subotnick’s complex compositions are an ideal pairing for Janczewski’s choreography, which blends purely kinetic, physical abstraction with a non-traditional “narrative” supported by a theatrical framework.
Formed in 1995, ARENA has performed in Minnesota, Iowa, Chicago, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. In 2001, the Walker recognized ARENA Dances in commissioning Struggle to Nothing as part of the Momentum: New Dance Works series. The company has performed in a variety of venues, including the Southern Theater, Patrick’s Cabaret, the Walker (Choreographer’s Evening), Red Eye, Minnesota Fringe Festival, and others. Bankrupt City Ballad, based on the dance marathons of the 1930s and premiered in the fall of 2005 in collaboration with Theater Latté Da, has been demonstrated and taught across the state through the Shubert Club’s educational outreach program.
In the summer of 2005, ARENA taught and performed at the 7th Open Look International Summer Dance Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the 3rd TOUCH Festival in Arkanghelsk, Russia. ARENA Dances has been a company in residence in the rural Minnesota communities of New York Mills, Winona, and Morris. ARENA celebrated its tenth year of performing in the Twin Cities with the performance of Ten at the Southern Theater in the fall of 2006.
ARENA’s dancers have all received secondary dance training and hold BFA or MFA degrees. They have performed with numerous companies, including Zenon Dance, Minnesota Dance Theater, Joe Chvala’s Flying Foot Forum, Gerry Girard, Shapiro & Smith, JAZZDANCE! by Danny Buraczeski, Shawn McConnelough, and TU Dance. Many also teach dance locally.
Mathew Janczewski, founder and artistic director of ARENA Dances, is a Chicago native who began his early dance training at DanceCenter North. At age 19, he moved to the Twin Cities and began his training at the University of Minnesota, where he performed the works of Doug Varone, Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris, Bebe Miller, Merce Cunningham, and many others. He received his BFA in Dance in 1994 and has danced with a variety of Minnesota choreographers, including Beth Corning, Shawn McConneloug, Robin Stiehm, and Cathy Young. Janczewski was a company member of Shapiro & Smith Dance and JAZZDANCE! by Danny Buraczeski for five years.
Since 1992, Janczewski has choreographed more than 30 contemporary works. His continued studies of ballet, hip-hop, yoga, tai-chi, and modern dance continue to influence his blend of movement. Most recently he has choreographed an original dance theater work Bankrupt City Ballad to a live big band; with text by Kira Obolensky and directed by Peter Rothstein. Over the years Janczewski has been recognized by the McKnight and Jerome Foundation, Land O’ Lakes Foundation, Target Foundation, Faegre & Benson Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts, receiving General Operating Support and Artists Fellowships to create and explore new works. He received a 2005 Sage Award for “outstanding performance” for Solo Lounge. He is a recipient of a 2005 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreographers, administered by the Southern Theater and funded by the McKnight Foundation.
Several companies in the United States have performed Janczewski’s distinctive movement. Special projects and commissions have included choreography for the Repertory Project of Cleveland, St. Olaf College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Macalester College, State University of New York – Potsdam, State University of New York – Brockport, Carleton College, University of Minnesota, Perpich Center for the Arts, Walker Art Center, and Zenon Dance Company and School.
Morton Subotnick is one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. Most of his music calls for a computer part, or live electronic processing; his oeuvre utilizes many of the important technological breakthroughs in the history of the genre.
In addition to music in the electronic medium, Subotnick has written for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, theater and multimedia productions. His “staged tone poem” The Double Life of Amphibians, a collaboration with director Lee Breuer and visual artist Irving Petlin, utilizing live interaction between singers, instrumentalists and computer, premiered at the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles.
Subotnick’s recent works include three CD-ROMs: All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis (1994), Making Music (1996), Making More Music (1998), and an interactive media poem, Intimate Immensity, which premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York in 1997. The European premiere (1998) was in Karlsrhue, Germany. Echoes from the Silent Call of Girona for string quartet and CD-ROM was premiered in 1998 in Los Angeles by Southwest Chamber Music.
In the spring of 2001, Mode Records released a CD and DVD surround sound version of Touch, A Sky of Cloudless Sulfur, and a new work, Gestures: It Begins with Colors. He has been touring in the U.S. and Europe with live performances of the Gestures.
Subotnick has pioneered works to offer musical creative tools to young children. He is the author of a series of CD-ROMs for children, a children’s Web site (creatingmusic.com), and is developing a program for classroom and after-school programs that will be available internationally.
Subotnick tours extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as a lecturer and composer/performer.
Tickets to ARENA Dances by Mathew Janczewski’s Ugly are $25 ($21 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.