Art on the Edge

Concrete Farm tries to combine the best aspects of a formal dance company with a setting that promotes each member's autonomy as an individual artist. Members are free to take outside gigs or to bring other dancers in to work on their own pieces. Hardly the types to cloister themselves in a quiet loft, the collective further distinguishes itself by opening its studios to the community on a regular basis, soliciting feedback and promoting a dialogue about dance.

Modern dance history is filled with young turks who broke from their teachers to find their own choreographic voices. Mostly in their 20s, with some college dance training, the women in Concrete Farm share a love of improvisation, a certain weightiness of movement, and often a delightful cleverness of concept or staging. Hard to describe categorically, their dance is a combination of Judson Church experimentation and a more traditional theatricality. Their movements vary from rough-and-tumble partnering that looks something like vertical wrestling, to the basic locomotion of pedestrian walking. From what I've seen on the cabaret circuit, audiences are engaged enough by the group's work to sit on the edges of their seats and to laugh out loud. And local critics are already singing their praises.

As Linda Shelton (who runs the Joyce Theater, one of New York City's premiere dance venues) recently noted in the New York Times, for modern dance to survive, the "solutions need to be as creative as the artists themselves." With a tough row ahead of them, artists like those in Concrete Farm are working toward those solutions, but are also reconfiguring their expectations. "I think that defining yourself as an artist doesn't mean that you don't have to work. I identify partly as an artist, partly as an office manager and partly as a DJ, because the reality is I have to be a part of the work force in some way," says Thorson. "The luxury of saying, 'I don't have to work and I can only create' is completely unrealistic. That fantasy has long been leveled for me."

Dance, as any serious practitioner will tell you, is a labor-intensive, time-and-space-consuming endeavor. But the St. Cloud residency did open new vistas and new possibilities for the Farm collective. The group's first major show is being produced by established choreographers Shawn McConneloug and Georgia Stephens of SpaceSpace. This summer, they hope to produce Concrete Farm on Tour, dancing around the state on that most populist of stages, a flatbed truck.

"You have to make it happen," Thorson says, as much to herself as to her countless artistic peers. "You have to make it happen." (Concrete Farm perform Fridays and Saturdays through November 25 at SpaceSpace, 609 S. 10th Street, Minneapolis. $5 suggested donation. For information call 788-4248.)

--Joan Freese

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