L-R: SuperGroup, Nichole Canuso, Naka Dance, Elia Mrak
SCUBA National Touring Network For Dance returns for its ninth season with a stop at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis this weekend. Featuring four dance groups working in contemporary forms, each performance is a chance for Twin Cities audiences to see artists based in other cities.
Dance curator Laurie Van Wieren -- who runs the festival along with curators from the Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, ODC Theater in San Francisco, and Philadelphia Dance Projects -- notes that opportunities for artists to have their work seen around the country are few and far between. Though there are some national presenters, "you have to be in the 'in crowd,'" Van Wieren says. "This [tour] is still grassroots."
SCUBA network accepts applications from dance artists, with each city selecting three finalists. According to Van Wieren, different cities choose finalists through varying methods. While Minneapolis uses a panel to select artists in coordination with the curator, other cities just have the curator decide. The curators then meet and hash out which finalists will ultimately be presented.
When SCUBA first started, it took place at the Southern Theater. Van Wieren says that in those days, it was "the fanciest place" of all the venues. "People would come in the door at the Southern and go, 'Oh my God,'" she says.
When Van Wieren left the Southern Theater in the wake of its financial troubles, she made sure that the program stayed alive. "We had a regrouping," she says. In 2011, the curators had a big meeting in California where they re-worked how SCUBA was going to continue.
The following year, SCUBA took place at Patrick's Cabaret with just two artists. After taking a year off, Van Wieren says SCUBA is back on track, and the plan is that it will continue next year.
SCUBA is at the Ritz Theater this year, where Van Wieren was hired nearly a year ago. She has since left her position at the theater, and though SCUBA will take place there this year, Van Wieren says she is unsure which venue SCUBA will be at next year.
Included on the lineup will be SuperGroup, who performed at the Walker's Momentum Series at the Southern last year, with the addition of Byrd Shuler, one of their founders who has been on hiatus.
Also performing will be Nichole Canuso, who Van Wieren says has a theatrical style strongly rooted in gestures. Canuso's work is deeply personal, and reflects an influence by her mentor Wendy Houstoun, formerly of DV8.
Jose Navarrete, who performs with Debby Kajiyama from Kajiyama Dance Theater, returns with SCUBA after performing previously with the program at the Southern Theater in 2008. According to Van Wieran, Navarrete and Kajiyama's work takes on climate change, and is both very political and athletic. In the piece, the two dancers wear a sweater with long sleeves that connect to each other.
Finally, Elia Mrak will be presenting a piece he choreographed, to be performed by his female alter-ego. Van Wieren says Mrak calls the work a duet.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
345 13th Ave. NE., Minneapolis
$18 presale/$20 at the door.
In addition, there will be several related events on Saturday, including a panel discussion with SuperGroup on placemaking at 10 a.m., a technique/composition class with Elia Mrak from noon to 2 p.m., and a presentation by Kajiyama Dance Theater on their research in northern Japan from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.