Artsy, from the Heartsy

To some folks, nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like one of those overstuffed drug store teddy bears, paired with a packet of iconic Sweetheart candy. But we think you’re different. We think you’d like to give your special friend something handcrafted by a Minnesota artist. So without further ado, here’s a taste of some of our favorite artist-made gifts for Valentine’s Day. What’s missing? Feel free to tell us below!

Adam loves the Twin Cities. Your sweetie loves the Twin Cities. Perfect match!

1. Adam Turman Hearts the Twin Cities

Celebrate your lover’s love of the Twin Cities with a poster print made by the ever-more popular Adam Turman (watch his episode here). If you’re feeling sentimental, this one might be just the thing. To send a saucier message, you might take the pin-up route.

2. Loony Over Love

Aw shucks. Loons are crazy, but sentimental too. Wouldn’t your partner simply swoon…over this print of two loons by Brian Geihl? (We know, could have done better with the rhyme. Next time.).

3. We Like I Like You 

Not just one artist, but a whole store full of their work! If you haven’t been to I Like You in Northeast Minneapolis, you are missing out on a whimsical tour de force of Minnesota artisanship. Handmade jewelry! Screenprints! Candles! Homespun yarn! Little buttons that say “I heart MN boys”!  It will not disappoint.

Check out Karin Jacobson's jewelry at her trunk show February 12 & 13

4. Wear Your Love Around Your Neck

Sure, jewelry for Valentine’s Day is a bit cliché, but it takes on new meaning when the jewelry in question is crafted by talented Minnesota hands. Check out the jewelry of local maker Karin Jacobson at her trunk sale February 12 & 13 at the Grand Hand Gallery.

5. Give a Man a Class

Why give a man a fine art mosaic when you can teach a man to make awesome fine art mosaics? You know, as the saying goes. Artist Sharra Frank (watch her episode here) offers mosaic workshops for around $250. It’s the gift that keeps on giving (and guarantees you an awesome Valentine’s Day gift next year).

6. Love Really Pulls the Room Together

You’re past the stage of stuffing paper Valentines in your sweetie’s dressed-up shoebox, right? So why not graduate to a real, bonafide wall hanging, by artist Lisa Nankivil? (See how she makes ’em here). A little pricier then a teddy bear, sure– but art is an investment! (stuffed animals aren’t).

Painting by Lisa Nankivil: So your purple couch and green rug can live in harmony.

 7. Pillow Talk

Your significant other is as fine as porcelain (but not as breakable!), so build on that apt metaphor and get her/him a piece from porcelain artist Maren Kloppman, who makes beautiful vessels and pillows of porcelain (watch her in action here).

8. The Grand Hand Gallery

We mentioned Karin Jacobson’s upcoming Trunk Show at the Grand Hand–but it’s also worth checking out whether or not you’re looking for jewelry. You’ll come across work by a number of MN Original alums, including textile artist Kelly Marshall and jewelry maker Emily Johnson. We also have a crush on the stained glass work of Josephine Geiger.

 9. AZ Gallery

Come hang out in Lowertown (our hood!), while browsing the fruits of local artists’ labor at this local cooperative. Jewelry, painting, metalwork, ceramics, and more. Remember: As the AZ Gallery website proclaims, “Roses die…art lives forever!”

10. PDA: Photographed Display of Affection

How better to show off your affection than to kiss your partner, have your kiss photographed, then give him/her a print of the photo? For one thing, it makes it easier to prove that he/she did in fact find you kissable. Participate in the Smooch! Project by attending one of their upcoming shoots– some even allow (well-mannered) pups.


When you're in love, the world looks as cute as Amy Rice's illustrations

11. Something by Amy Rice Would be Nice

If your lover were a cartoon, she’d look like one of Amy Rice’s darling illustrations, don’t you think? If so, we’d have a crush on her too. Check out Amy Rice’s artwork here.



An Interview with The Chalice

Along with thousands of other Minnesotans, MN Original braved the frigid temperatures in Lowertown on Saturday, January 26 to sample beers from local and national breweries, listen to great local music, and put our Minnesota pride to the test. We also caught up the Claire, Lizzo, and Sophia from The Chalice to get their perspective on performing outside in the middle of winter. Read on for our interview!

MN Original: So performing outside in temperatures that are barely above zero for a crowd of beer-drinking music enthusiasts, is that the most Minnesotan thing you’ve ever done?

Claire: I think so, I think The Beer Dabbler is maybe the most Minnesotan event I’ve ever been to. I’m not a sports person so much so I’ve never, I haven’t been to that many sporting events in my life. But that was a really cool event. It was just like a bunch of people in solidarity out in the cold, in really good spirits, wearing flannel and beanies and 90% of the men had beards I think. And you know, just gathering to enjoy local music and drink local beer. There’s really nothing more Minneapolis than that I don’t think. So I’m seldom… I’m not a patriotic person, but that’s definitely made me kind of Minnesota patriotic. I was like, man, this is a cool place to live.

Lizzo: Yeah I’m from Texas, but I purified myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, so I think that’s the most Minnesotan thing I’ve done.

MNO: Yeah, probably so! So when you’re performing in a more extreme situation like that, do you think that gives you more energy? I mean, Lizzo, you were rocking it in short sleeves. How do you get pumped up for something like that?

Lizzo: Well I don’t know, it’s always an afterthought when it comes to the energy. I think it’s the people, you know, and I mean it’s the music. Whether it’s extremely hot, I mean I’ve performed in extremely hot and extremely cold, you know what I mean? The weather doesn’t really set you in your element, you know what I mean? And I think that goes for anybody. It’s kind of is an afterthought. Like for instance, up there I didn’t really notice how cold it was until I couldn’t feel my arms. On one of the last songs I was like, I can’t feel my arms, so I tapped on them a little bit to get some life going in them. Because I was steaming. I was standing there and looking at my body and there was steam coming off my head and off my arms. So it really was an afterthought when you’re doing what you love to do. I mean you can’t complain, you know what I mean? It was great.

Claire: I definitely felt inspired to move a lot. You know our shows are pretty aerobic, and kind of high energy anyways, that’s kind of generally what we do. But even more so I think we weren’t stationary very much during that set because it was way cold. I feel even more inspired to put on a really good show because that audience is, they’re troopers! I mean they’re standing out there in the freezing cold! Yeah it’s incredible. I don’t know, I can’t think of that many groups that I would stand out in the cold to watch myself. It’s an honor, honestly.

MNO: So what other performances and projects are The Chalice working on right now? What’s coming up next for you guys?

Claire: We’re kind of taking, not a hiatus, but we’re kind of putting The Chalice on the back burner right now because we all have a lot of other stuff we’re working on. And you know, starting with this group and kind of getting into this project was very, it kind of just happened, and we made a lot of sacrifices in other areas of our careers and stuff to kind of nurture this baby. When you’re presented with opportunities like we’ve been presented with, and when you have the opportunity to go on the kind of ride we went on over the past year, you don’t turn that down.

MNO: So I know that all three of you guys are very involved in the local music scene and tons of other projects outside of The Chalice. Lizzo, you were just in the tpt studios backing Greg Grease when we filmed with him [for a future episode of MN Original]. And Claire and Lizzo, we just filmed with both of you for an upcoming profile on Spencer Wirth-Davis of Big Cats. So can you tell me about the other music projects you have going on?

Sophia: I’m beginning a little project with Ryan Olson and Sypder Baybie and that’s coming out at some point this year, and it’s really, really fun. The thing about working with those individuals is that they’re brilliant and I feel I’m fairly new compared to Claire and Lizzo, and I love to be around people like that, that I respect and I feel they can coach me and help me become better. So I’m very blessed to have that opportunity. And Lizzo and I have a project coming out.

Lizzo: Me and Sophia are coming out with a mixed tape. And we performed some of those songs at The Beer Dabbler. And some of them, like the one where we went down in the audience, it’s more hip-hop, more rap, you know? Because The Chalice, I would describe as kind of a woman’s anthem, hip-hop pop, R&B. And so we’re doing it, we’re taking it to a new direction, we’re going somewhere else artistically. So it’s like a Jay Z and Kanye thing. And on top of that I’m coming out with my first solo project, which will be produced by Lazerbeak, and it’ll be called Lizzo Bangers, so that’s coming out pretty soon.

Claire: So right now I have a solo record that I’m working on, which is a pretty huge departure from anything that I’ve ever done before, so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s kind of like Beach House, or like Phantogram, really futuristic R&B, but also kind of indie, I guess. The word ‘indie’ kind of weirds me out, but I guess that’s kind of like the best way to describe it. And I’m stoked about that. So I’m knee-deep, halfway done with that at the moment. And then I’m also working on a little project with Katy Morley [from Gayngs]. We don’t have any of songs finished or anything like that, we’re just kind of messing around with that. And then I’m also working a different project, which is kind of rock and roll, like a soulful, foot-stompin’ blues/rock project as well.

MNO: What bands or musicians on the local music scene are you following and inspired by right now?

Claire: Katy Morley’s solo stuff, yeah she’s done some really cool stuff. It’s very kind of dreamy kind of atmospheric type stuff that is really cool. She does her own productions so I’m super excited about that. And then, this is probably like a broken record response to what’s exciting about local music, but I’m really excited to hear Polica’s next record, which is coming out this year, I believe.

Sophia: Everything coming out with the Totally Gross National Product, that whole crew, they make amazing music. Ryan Olson is killing it right now. Everything that I hear, I’m just like, ‘oh my God.’ That whole crew is going to come out with really beautiful stuff. I’m very inspired by what they’re doing. Lizzo’s new album is amazing, and Greag Grease too. So those people at the moment, they’re definitely inspiring me.

Lizzo: I’m really excited about the hip-hop. I’m really excited about the rap that’s coming out. Like Metasota, and obviously Greg Grease. And Bomba de Luz on the other side of things, Bomba de Luz has been really, really killin’ stuff right now. And the lady’s voice is just amazing. We’re gonna throw together a huge jam and she’s gonna like rock out with a bunch of other people. I mean, because that’s really what the scene is doing, you know what I’m saying? It’s just in this huge pot of collaborations. Everyone’s just been working with everyone regardless of genre or age. Because those Bomba de Luz kids are still in high school. In fact they’re working with Doomtree and they’re working with us. It’s almost like a family of musicians here you know, versus other scenes where it’s just a bunch of musicians.

Claire: And I think what’s really cool about the local scene is that we’re kind of off the radar, for better or for worse. You know, there isn’t a label presence here. It gives people a lot of freedom to kind of do crazy stuff and take risks and experiment because they’re not ruining the kind of chance of having the right person be there. And I think that musicians take pride in that fact but also that music fans here take pride in that too, and kind of like being a part of a kind of community that fosters that kind of creativity and that is welcoming about it. I think it’s something that music fans of this area like, have a lot of pride in you know, being the kind of fan base that will let artists change, just like Minneapolis is the kind of city that lets you do changes.

Check out some video highlights from The Beer Dabbler too! Special thanks to Mark Ryan Johnson for filming and editing, with music provided by Heiruspecs.

Their Feet Won’t Fail Them Now

The corner of 43rd Street and Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis may look lifeless and frozen like the rest of the city on a 15 degree day in January, but the interior of the Ballare Teatro dance studio is practically vibrating with energy. A rehearsal space for the Twin Cities band Rhythmic Circus, the studio erupts with sound: taps, stomps, saxophone squeals, trumpet bursts, soulful shouts and joyous words. For the talented and varied crew of this self-proclaimed “high-energy rhythm experiment,” this is just another ordinary rehearsal.

Be sure to check out Rhythmic Circus on the TV(!) this Sunday, January 20, on MN Original‘s 100th episode, at 6pm on TPT2.

Percussion, guitar, and horns provide the soundtrack, but it’s the exuberant tap dancers that bring Rhythmic Circus that really bring things to life.

Scheduling a Rhythmic Circus practice session, with at least 11 schedules to coordinate, is no easy feat.

Speaking of feet, Executive Director Nick Bowman has moved his on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, the Ellen Degeneres Show, and Dr. Phil. He’s been the master tap teacher for the touring dance convention West Coast Dance Explosion for 7 seasons.

Hamming things up is never a challenge for the cast of Rhythmic Circus.


The Lowertown Line Airs New Years Eve!

Exciting news, local music fans: we’re ringing in the New Year with Dessa and Trampled By Turtles! The pilot episode of The Lowertown Line will air on tpt2 on December 31, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. Check out the promo below:

The Lowertown Line was recorded with a live audience at tpt’s Lowertown studios on October 24, 2012. The program is hosted by hip hop artist Dessa and features rock and bluegrass style Duluth band Trampled By Turtles, who performed and shared stories with their inspiring musical guest – Alan Sparkhawk of Low, Retribution Gospel Choir and The Murder of Crows.

The Lowertown Line music special features a five-song set from Trampled by Turtles as well an insider Q&A hosted by Dessa about Trampled by Turtles formal training, song-writing process/style and their Duluth connections. During the set, the band also welcomed Alan Sparhawk from the Duluth band, Low to perform and Sparhawk joined Dessa and Dave Simonett in talking about his body of work, process and training.

“I was on tour when MN Original Series Producer, Ashleigh Rowe called me about hosting a new music special, and I jumped at the chance,” says The Lowertown Line host, Dessa. “Parked in a Walgreens’ lot in Chicago, I chatted excitedly with the producers, gesturing like a crazy person; the tpt team has a fresh and genuine enthusiasm for every project.”

Tune into tpt2 on December 31, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. for The Lowertown Line.

My MN Original: Alison Scott

With Twin Cities Public Television entering the second week of The Great Sustainer Challenge 2012, MN Original will take another break from the tv airwaves this Sunday evening. To help fill the void, we’re handing the keys to our blog over to Alison Scott, who appeared on MNO in its second season. We asked Alison to curate her own episode of MN Original and share a little bit about her choices:

Davina & The Vagabonds from MN Original #202 (original air date: August 19, 2010)

Alison Scott: I met Davina when she had just moved here. I’ve always found her story really fascinating. The fact that she up and moved here on a whim was really a gift for the Minneapolis scene. I love that MNO explores her writing space and the piano that fell off of a truck. She’s doing something different than any other musician in town, and this segment shows you why she is the way she is.

Robert Robinson from MN Original #303 (original air date: January 08, 2012)

Alison Scott: This guy is a freak of nature. Any vocalist will tell you so. I’m not a particularly religious person, but Robert Robinson can make me a believer any day. I also love that the choir (Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir) in this segment is made up of all sorts of folks. All kinds of music lovers will love this one.

Darin Back from MN Original #105 (original air date: May 20, 2010)

Alison Scott: I know I am in this segment, and I almost didn’t choose it for that reason. However, Darin Back is a genius, and I’m happy to recognize him any chance I get. MNO shows you exactly how he got where he is today, his background, his thought process, and how he shoots. If I was an aspiring photographer, I’d be taking notes.

Rhea Pappas from MN Original #103 (original air date: May 06, 2010)

Alison Scott: This segment is sooo cool! I need to hire this girl to do my next photo shoot. I’ve never seen photos quite like this before. Who knew clothes looked so cool under water!?! I enjoyed that MNO followed Rhea Pappas and her mom through the whole process, coffee and all. I love that her whole vision is about women, beauty, and empowerment. Very refreshing.


MN Original: What an awesome episode, Alison! Who would you like to see appear on MN Original that has yet to be featured on the show?

Alison Scott: I’d love to see the Minnesota Boychoir featured on MNO. My band and I have collaborated with them in the past and it was one of the highlights of my career. I also know that Kevin Bowe just shot his segment, so I’m really looking forward to watching that one when it airs. Kevin is always good for a crazy story or two!

Solid Gold: Elephants

Frontmen Zach Coulter, Matt Locher, Adam Hurlburt of the electro glam rock outfit Solid Gold have been playing together for more than 8 years. Getting their start in Madison, WI after two of the members met in an architecture class, their debut album Bodies of Water gained international attention for its layered and complicated sound. After taking a four-year break between albums, in which Zach and Adam toured with GAYNGS, the band released their second record Eat Your Young in 2012. Members also include brothers Jacob and Jeremy Hanson. In this video, Solid Gold performs “Elephants” from their record Eat Your Young, in Twin Cities Public Television‘s Studio A.

Special Thanks: B.J. Burton for audio mixing, and Bryant Locher for lighting assistance.

Photojournalism in Miniature

Kurt and Edwige Moses got started photographing miniatures when Edwige was working in the garden one day and Kurt was, as usual, shooting photographs in macro. He was about to take a photograph of a June bug when Edwige suggested that he place a tiny, “HO” scale figurine in the frame. The rest is history. The pair has been traveling in and beyond the United States ever since, photographing the miniature figurines in real world settings, for a project they call “Un Petit Monde.” Watch the video for more of their story.


Café Accordion Orchestra
“Songe d’Automne”
“Ochi Chyornya (Dark Eyes)”

An Evening with MN Original

MNO has had a partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center since the early days of season one and we recently teamed up with them to co-present the first of a new event series, An Evening with Minnesota Original. The inaugural event was held on November 15 at the MHC and the intention of the series is to bring together educators and local artists to discuss the creative process and explore MNO’s educator-ready content.

Photo courtesy Uchefotography.

Multi-disciplinary phenoms and MNO alums Shá Cage and E.G. Bailey led a rousing discussion on engaging students across disciplines through the arts—specifically spoken word poetry. From their dynamic spoken-word introductions of themselves to a participatory book-making activity to their interactive closing ritual, Shá and E.G. had the attendees eating from the palms of their hands (and begging for more when the time was up!). Educators walked away with concrete activities to implement in their classrooms, artists got to exercise their own creativity and community members received a fascinating history lesson on the roots of spoken word (did you know RAP stands for Rhythm And Poetry??).

MN Original presents an extensive catalog of similarly intriguing artists which teachers can bring into the classroom by way of the accompanying activity guides, searchable on our Educators page. Our ever-growing collection of more than 250 activity guides is written for educators by educators at the Minnesota Humanities Center.

The next event in the series will take place on February 28 with public artist Ta-coumba Aiken. Stay tuned for more details by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and signing up for our newsletter!

Turning a Building Into a Musical Instrument

Creaky floors, squeaky pipes, shuddering window panes– there’s no question that old buildings talk to us, and David Byrne’s new installation at Aria at the Jeune Leune, suggests that they sing to us too. Called “Playing the Building,” Byrne’s installation runs through December 4th, and has essentially transformed the historic building into an enormous musical instrument.

The installation, which was first realized at Färgfabriken in Stockholm, connects an old-fashioned organ to pipes, crossbeams, columns, and other components of a building, making it possible to press a key on the organ, and cause whistling, vibrations, clanging, and pinging throughout the space.

Aria has designated “Play Dates” during the installation, in which they’ve invited local musicians to come jam with the building. We stopped by for a recent Play Date featuring the band Brute Heart, as well as members of the public who dropped by to add to the cacophony.

Hear it below.

10 Questions with Rhea Pappas

Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, The Minneapolis College of Art and Design opens its doors to the public for an art sale featuring the work of MCAD students and recent grads. MCAD’s Annual Art Sale is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to purchase art directly from MCAD artists at unbeatable prices. Accordingly, we took the opportunity to catch up with an alumni of both MCAD and MN Original: photographer Rhea Pappas, who was profiled on the third episode of MNO back in May of 2010.

The MCAD Art Sale is open Friday, November 16 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Saturday, November 17 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets for the Art Sale tonight are $20 if purchased in advance from MCAD’s website, or $25 at the door. Admission for the sale tomorrow is free! Read on for 10 Questions with Rhea, and head to MCAD this weekend to see her art up close and personal!

MN Original: What tips do you have for newbies to the MCAD Art Sale (artists and shoppers!)?

Rhea Pappas: To the artists I would suggest to put in work that is some of your best, but you’re sick of looking at. Freshen up your life, studio, and make room more new creations. Also make it a deal for the art sale and donate one piece to the scholarship fund at least.

To the guests, bring your wallets, ’cause there is sure to be something you can afford that you will like or want. There are such great deals in almost all types of unique, one of a kind, visual art and it goes quick.

MNO: What inspires you?

RP:The water, nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, psychology, and the people around me.

Photo courtesy Rhea Pappas.

MNO: What was your childhood ambition?

RP: My dream was kinda wonderful, it was to get into college. Once I did that I was kinda like, “What do I do now?” I used to think I was also here to save all the animals, but that’s a different story for another day.

MNO: What is your essential tool?

RP: I would like to say I have one, but I don’t. It’s any of my cameras, my scanner, my computer, and Photoshop.

MNO: Skill you wish you had?

RP: I wish I knew how to program computers and build digital sensors.

MNO: Biggest risk you’ve taken artistically?

A photo from Rhea Pappas's "Embryo" series, courtesy of Rhea Pappas.

RP: Whenever I take my camera underwater it’s a risk. It’s about $10,000 underwater and if it floods I’m outta luck. But emotionally, I was very honest about my Inspiration for the Embryo series, We Are Women series, and Loss of Innocence series and opened up about my battle with losing my cervix due to cancerous cells. These were a way to connect not only to my womb, but womanhood.

MNO: When are you most productive?

RP: Usually between 7:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. Best time of my day. Usually I’m left alone.

MNO: Who is your dream collaborator?

RP: I’ve had a lot of collaborations with a lot of amazing people. If I were to choose someone I’m dying to collaborate with it would be Cheryl Wilgren Clyne. I love her personality, her work, her energy, and her existence. I’d also love to work with the Golden Gopher basketball team and have some amazing ideas and ways to take inspirational photographs.

MNO: Most played song on your iTunes?

RP: Your gonna laugh at both of these:

1. “Separate Ways” by Journey. I just love this song and I love me some Tron and it has just gotten unhealthy and out of control.

2. “One Shining Moment” by David Barrett and Terry Pendergrass. I am a huge college basketball fan. I dream of march madness. Specifically for the gophers to win the NCAA championship. I’ve been going with my dad with our season tickets since I was 5. It reminds me of an inspirational time in my life.


Watch Rhea Pappas’s profile on MN Original:

Rhea Pappas from mn original on Vimeo.

Zenon Dance Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

Break out your pearls, Twin Cities arts fans: we’re celebrating Zenon Dance Company‘s 30th Anniversary! As Zenon prepares to launch their Fall Season with performances November 16-25 at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis, we talked with Artistic Director, Linda Z. Andrews about her reflections on her company’s first 30 years.

MN Original: In 1982, did you imagine that Zenon would be thriving 30 years later?

Linda Andrews: Y’know, I really didn’t. I had no idea. You know, it’s never been easy, it’s always been a struggle to stay in business. Any time you have a modern dance company in America, it’s tough to get support, to always keep paying your staff and paying the dancers, paying the artists. From the very beginning, I thought I could do it. I was a little bit cocky. And I had a very clear mission all the way through. My vision and mission have not changed, it’s absolutely the same, fundamentally the same as when I started. But it’s become enhanced and it’s expanded, so that makes me feel really good. I think those roots are still really strong. I think I’ve been really lucky: I’ve had three decades of dancers who have constantly inspired me with their artistry. I have just worked to keep challenging those artists and to keep a lot of creative growth alive for dancers at Zenon.

I guess the main thing that has propelled me through all these years is always focusing on artistic excellence, trying to reach for the impossible: for perfection. I am a perfectionist.

Linda Andrews and choreographer Danny Buraczeski, 1989.

MNO: You mentioned that your mission has not changed in 30 years. What is Zenon’s mission?

LA: Right, I do think it’s a lot about spirit that’s carried Zenon throughout 30 years. And my vision and mission is to strive for artistic excellence in our main stage performances, and also in Zenon’s outreach. I want to expose as many people to dance, to this artistic excellence in dance, as possible. The way that I do that, that I’ve developed throughout the years is presenting main stage performances, but also doing really intensive educational outreach into the schools and communities across Minnesota. And then the third prong, the third part of my vision is to have a very diverse and comprehensive dance school that has the best instructors available. I think this three-pronged approach to the community serves us well. And I never once thought that I wasn’t serving the Twin Cities and the State of Minnesota – that’s been clear to me from the beginning; that we are truly a non-profit arts organization. I think that mission gave us a lot of strength and ability to expose dance. And dance is still the one art form that is under exposed and under funded in America.

I think one of my chief messages to any of our audiences is that what Zenon presents — a mixture of current, modern, jazz and ballroom dance in this country — it’s educating youth and adults that this is part of culture as Americans, this is what’s happening with dance right now in America. I strive to work with a lot of emerging artists. This keeps Zenon right at the forefront of what’s happening in dance.

MNO: What would you view as the biggest accomplishment of Zenon in the past 30 years? What’s been the biggest surprise?

Zenon Dance Company publicity photo, 1986

Zenon Dance Company publicity photo, 1986. Photo courtesy of Zenon Dance Company.

LA: The biggest accomplishment, I don’t know! In terms of biggest accomplishment, there have been so many accomplishments that it’s difficult for me to choose one over the other. I think the biggest accomplishment is the development of the dancers. I’ve been able to create careers for these wonderful performers. I’ve been able to really develop actual careers for these artists, and to do it consistently. So I’m extremely proud of that. Along that line is our work, what we’re able to do in the schools. I have a 100% success rate with this residency model that we use, which is very comprehensive and creative. We choreograph based on curriculum. How many times I’ve been brought to tears watching these children perform, and how many times the teachers have cried watching this. I am a lucky woman because I am able to actually do what I love and have a passion for, and touch people’s lives in a positive way.

I guess I’m surprised, I think it’s too bad that we can’t be further along economically. I’m still kind of surprised, partially, that for as much work as I put into this, it’s still difficult to build an audience and get funding. So a lot of that is still a very basic struggle, even in our 30th year.

MNO: How has the Twin Cities dance scene changed in the past 30 years? And in that evolution, how is Zenon continuing to push the envelope?

LA: I think the main thing is that the level of the dancers is so much higher than when I started this. That was one of my goals: to get a real, New York-level of dance here. I think there are more choreographers working. There aren’t a lot of choreographers that come out of the Twin Cities that are known. But I think the Twin Cities has developed into a very positive climate for dance, and we have a good reputation nationally. Choreographers love to come and work in Minnesota. It’s one of the few spots in the U.S. that has a lot of stuff going on in dance, a lot of energy. And we’ve got The Cowles Center for Dance, an actual dance theater. Very few cities in the U.S. have that, so I think that’s just amazing. Now we just have to settle in and really work at building that dance audience, which is really needed here in the Twin Cities. It’ll take a while, but I think that will come as well.

MNO: Can you give us a preview of the first show of your 30th season? How did you choose the pieces and the choreographers? What does this show represent for you?

“Storm” by Daniel Charon for Zenon’s 30th Fall Season, photo by Stephanie Colgan.

LA: It’s two separate weekends of dance, with the second weekend being more of a retrospective of classic Zenon, some of the pieces that have stood out. I think for me, always, when I choose my seasons, it’s very much my instinct. It’s something that I feel, or that comes to me. I definitely wanted to present [dances from] Luciana Achugar and Netta Yerushalmy. These two women are doing really interesting work. Luciana, the way she works is so primal and so different from everybody. That type of modern [dance] you don’t see that much outside of New York and that’s what Zenon does. So we’re bringing in this more post-modern, quite experimental, abstract work. I try to balance it out with a piece like “Storm,” which was insanely popular and well-received; a very epic and American, big movement and modern dance piece, something very inspiring and people get very inspired watching it. And then also premiering this new tango piece. I wanted to premiere another piece by Mariusz Olszewski because he’s so good with what he does with Latin. So it’s just a very interesting fit.

This combination, it’s not out of bounds for my company. So other people would say, when I started Zenon, “You can’t mix modern and jazz, what are you doing?” And I said, “Why the hell not, they’re both so American.” And Zenon really is the epitome of American, modern, jazz, ballroom dance: the whole contemporary dance scene. So in that way, we’re continuing to really push dance. And that’s what exciting about American dance – just continuing to push the boundaries, and we’re part of that out here in the Midwest.

“Structures of Feeling” by Luciana Achugar for Zenon’s 30th Fall Season, photo by Steve Niedorf.

It’s like live performance, there’s always that quest for the moment of spirit, the technical, everything coming together, to create an evening of transcendent dance. This doesn’t happen every night but it happens a lot. It’s those moments that really inspire me. And that is artistic excellence, and it is the human spirit, and the spirit of Zenon.

Watch Zenon Dance’s profile on MN Original, and click here for more info on Zenon’s 30th Anniversary shows!

A Day at the Dog Park with Michael Crouser

When photographer Michael Crouser develops a new project or series, he often spends years studying his subjects. He takes hundreds, if not thousands of photographs with his film camera, developing each image by hand in his own darkroom. In the end just dozens of these photographs become part of the final series. Such is the case with a series he captured at local dog parks in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Brooklyn, New York. The result is a stunning collection of photographs that offers a different perspective of man’s best friend, as Michael shares in this MNO Extra.

Michael’s photographs are captured in his book, Dog Run. Information about this project and others can be found on his website. To learn more about Michael Crouser, check out his full MN Original segment: