Since Walker Art Center launched the Choreographers' Evening in 1971, this popular post-Thanksgiving event has exposed audiences to a range of local dance, from trendy to traditional to wildly experimental. Curator Sally Rousse, cofounder of the James Sewell Ballet and a feisty, fearless performer in her own right, took a brief moment to chat with City Pages.
City Pages: What can audiences expect from this year's mix of choreographers and dancers?
Sally Rousse: There will be a lot of color, text, and venerable views on brains, self-image, and war. There are several mature choreographers this year, some reaching new places in their work, and some newcomers who show quirky depth. The Battlecats—a breaking crew—went right to my heart. They are like the three muses in Balanchine's ballet "Apollo." Sonically, I think it's a very interesting lineup. So one can always pull a Balanchine: He said that if you are not enjoying the dance, simply close your eyes because the music is always good.
CP: Why do you think the Choreographers' Evenings are important, and why did you choose to curate this one?
SR: The dance series at the Walker has evolved into one of the highlights of the Twin Cities performing arts scene and is among the most prestigious and adventurous in the country. To share the same stage (and dressing rooms and toilets) with artists like the Forsythe Company and Meredith Monk is truly a treat and an honor. I would say that the event has become a significant step in developing work in this region; they cultivate professional dance-makers by giving them the opportunity to work in a supportive environment. I was very heartened to be asked by the Walker to curate the evening. It was like being handed the reins of a stagecoach for a spell. And I get to teach everyone a big ol' diva ballerina bow.
CP: Over the years, Choreographers' Evenings have gained a reputation as a place where dance makers can try out new ideas in an intimate, informal setting. How has changing the venue from the modest Walker Auditorium to the high-tech atmosphere of the McGuire Theater upped the ante?
SR: I think it's hard to feel informal in such a chic, baroque setting as the McGuire where very impressive dance and theater appears. There were equally impressive choreographers at the old venue, but it's true that the auditorium fell short, literally, as a stage where dance could really be served. It's a challenge to keep things informal and forgiving. I hope there will be some frayed edges in some of the pieces, not too polished. I like to see performances where I am concerned that the performers might hurt themselves—emotionally or physically—because they take risks.
Come see a myriad of performances tonight at the Walker Art Center. $20. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. —Linda Shapiro