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Best Dance Performance of a Classic Minneapolis 2009 - University of Minnesota Dance Program students performing Missa Brevis

Last February, 21 University of Minnesota dance students performed José Limón's 1958 classic Missa Brevis with the commitment and gravitas of far more experienced professionals. But the real miracle was that they danced it with a sense of exuberance and simplicity that made this work about Eternal Verities (the indomitable spirit of humanity, the anguished quest for faith) throb with contemporary resonance. The molten core of Missa Brevis is a sweeping choral movement that subsumes the individual in a communal effort of great power and force. That doesn't come so naturally to Generation Nexters raised on the ornery individualism fostered by Facebook and texting in a world where the only constant is perpetual flux. Not to mention that most contemporary dance training focuses on athleticism, virtuosic moves from ballet to hip hop, and a post-modern sensibility that is often coolly ironic and highly idiosyncratic. But these young dancers gave Missa's monumental architecture and heroic solemnity a fresh jolt of youthful energy and a genuine sense of pathos. Perhaps that's because the tension Limón sets up between movement that is "bound" (purposefully confined and confining) and "free" (patterns that unfold and sweep across the stage) is what youth is all about—rampant idealism tugging against social norms.
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