Rounding out the evening is Paper Nautilus, a solo Freeh choreographed earlier this year for Nic Lincoln, a fellow Sewell dancer. "He said, 'I want to be a sailor, and I have an image of getting a tattoo onstage.' So we got to talking about sailors, and I was in the middle of choreographing On the Town, which is about three sailors on shore leave in New York," Freeh explained, filling in the back story for a piece that has a retro World War II-era feel reminiscent of Jerome Robbins's famed 1944 ballet Fancy Free, yet with a distinct contemporary edginess.

"I have a total love affair with movie musicals," Freeh added. "I think it has something to do with the extreme heartfelt naiveté that is so hard to do anymore but you can if you are doing a period piece. I'm riffing a bit on tap dancing, and in Slippery Fish there's distorted tap dancing [too]."

As Freeh and Hagen wrapped up the interview by making plans for their next rehearsals and running through a laundry list of the usual administrative chores that rule independent artists' lives outside the studio, it seemed appropriate to reflect back on a moment earlier in the afternoon when both women stood in the middle of the studio, running through the opening minutes of Prelude. Each flexed her hands and fingers as if playing invisible piano keys. Hagen vocalized the notes. Her arms rose and fell with the ease of a dancer. Freeh did the same but also listened intently with the ear of a musician.

Freeh (above) and Hagen
Jack Dant
Freeh (above) and Hagen

Details

Penelope Freeh and Jocelyn Hagen will perform Slippery Fish and other works Sept. 28–30 at Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.343.3390. $15–$25 (pay-as-able Saturday at 5 p.m). Slippery Fish only with post-show discussion Sunday at 2 p.m.

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They were in sync with one another, never missing a beat. 

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