A World Without Tutus

Civic boosters are proud of the Twin Cities' theaters, orchestras, museums, and literary centers. so what happened to the ballet?

Sands and Pierce-Sands, an original MDT dancer who currently teaches and directs rehearsals there, are outspoken about what they regard as a lack of standards in the Twin Cities dance scene. "There is so much mediocrity tolerated here," says Pierce-Sands. "Schools like MDT create an environment of standards in both ballet and modern dance, and a sense of coming from a tradition, of being mentored and honed." In a similar vein, both stress the importance of Ballet Arts, a school that trains both professionals and a diverse array of students to perform contemporary and classical works.

The couple is also concerned about funding priorities for dance here, which they believe favor new, innovative work by emerging choreographers. "This community nurtures everyone getting a little bit of something," says Pierce-Sands. "Funders feel justified giving to the creative end, keeping a cap on the funding, which makes long-term development by talented and experienced artists difficult."

"We don't have a major ballet company because we don't want one," insists Ballet of the Dolls' Myron Johnson. "We like having lots of stuff here."

"New York didn't need another ballet company and Minneapolis did": James Sewell
Courtesy of James Sewell Ballet
"New York didn't need another ballet company and Minneapolis did": James Sewell

Sands disagrees, passionately advocating a "joined arts community" that might support both ballet and modern dance. "There's too much division in the dance community," he insists. "How wondrous it would be if all the dance organizations in the Hennepin Center for the Arts just pooled their resources, bought the building, and built a great big company with several artistic directors."

Any funders prepared to second that motion?

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