Flying High Now

"I PREFER NOT to use the term 'modern dance' in talking about my work. People hear the word 'modern' and they give you a suspicious look." So explains young choreographer Mathew Janczewski, the object of much buzz on the local dance scene. Modern dance is seldom glamorous these days, but Janczewski has decided to give it a makeover anyway. An accomplished 27-year-old dancer with a slew of big names under his belt (Jazzdance, Shawn McConneloug and her Orchestra, Robin Stiehm, Beth Corning, Cathy Young), Janczewski has formed a company, garnered an unprecedented number of grants, and will soon throw a debut performance at the McKnight Theatre, the Cities' most glittering dance venue.

Growing up in the very small town of Round Lake, Illinois, and feeling a tad culturally deprived, Janczewski developed the surreptitious habit of dancing in the living room on Sundays before church. "I'd put on a Gene Kelly video and just dance away," he says. "I also had the habit of choreographing in my garage when I was 16." Escaping to the University of Minnesota's dance program proved the right choice after his art-starved high school days. Within a few years, Janczewski was touring the country as a full-time member of Danny Buraczeski's Jazzdance. Numerous local dance jobs followed suit, adding gradually to the dancer's impressive CV. According to Janczewski, this journeyman experience guided him implicitly as a choreographer. "I was watching all the choreographers I was working for. Constantly. I watched how they used the space, how they arranged movement through space, how their particular styles evolved. I learned from every single one of them."

While choreography is a more recent pursuit, Janczewski asserts that the quiet impetus has been there for a while. "A lot of these dances have been in my head for ages," he says. "It took two years of coming to the studio, laying on the floor, and thinking, God, why do I want to do this?" Janczewski's own approach to crafting movement appears exuberantly physical, as evidenced in "Flight," a sextet set to music by Brian Eno. Here, the dancers seemingly fly through the space, whipping their bodies into precarious positions, then landing on their partners' shoulders, only to break out into the far reaches of the room. The sheer attack of the movement is intoxicating. "This piece is basically about going for it," Janczewski explains. "Really flying." (Jelena Petrovic)

Arena Dances by Mathew Janczewski debuts Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the McKnight Theatre at the Ordway; call 224-4222.

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