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DANCING TO FIND THE ANSWERS

For the 12th year, Momentum: New Dance Works Festival is showcasing four emerging Twin Cities choreographers and their voices

All photos by Gene Pittman, courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

By Lianna Matt

Two weeks, four new choreographed pieces by some of the Twin Cities’ top emerging artists. That’s Momentum: New Dance Works Festival, for you, and it's hitting Southern Theater from July 13-22.

Now in its 12th year, Momentum is a grants-based program that produces emerging choreographers’ works each year in a New Dance Works Festival. The application process isn't only about talent, it's also about artistic vision and the choreographers' readiness to push themselves. It's about having questions and answering them through the process of creating dance.

The four group recipients this year are one of the more diverse groups, according to Michèle Steinwald, Momentum program director. Because of that, their similarities stand out that much more. Themes of human nature, progress and dreams weave throughout all four works, and Steinwald says there’s an urgency to the messages they carry, a “sign of the times.”

For the first week, a musical set in a post-climate-and-tech disaster world asks us to examine our choices and their consequences, and a party is thrown to celebrate a Black revolution and the freedom to be yourself. During the second week, a look at the next step in human evolution and the amoral aspect of dreams makes us reflect on who we really are.

“Dance is the first art form, and it really does communicate soulfully the question that we have mentally,” says Steinwald. “That critical thinking can be transformed through the body and lets the question be more personal and at the same time universal. … We all have bodies, and we can relate to a situation because of the self experience of observing someone else moving.”

Momentum: New Dance Works Festival, presented by The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in partnership with the Walker Art Center and Southern Theater, with support by the Jerome Foundation. July 13-15 and 20-22, $20, Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave., Mpls., 612-206-3600, thecowlescenter.org.

Fire Drill dance company and Tom Comitta collaborated on Bill: The Musikill for Momentum.

Bill: The Musikill

July 13-15
“They sell the fountain of youth in some form, and so you take this thing and you live forever as the world collapses around you.” So says Billy Mullaney, co-leader with Emily Gastineau of Fire Drill. If that’s not a hint of the self-ascribed nihilism of the piece, then bring in the live looping sound poetry of Tom Comitta; the choreographic throwbacks to children’s TV shows, workouts and musicals; and the tour of a commune (following Silicon Valley, all offices have become communes) in a post-climate disaster world. 

BLAQ, a company led by Deja Stowers, celebrates a world that's post-Black Revolution in their work Taneber/BLAQ Wall Street.

Taneber/BLAQ Wall Street

July 13-15
Deja Stowers and her dance company BLAQ have an idea: What would happen if Black people got fed up from fighting for their rights, had a revolution and won? They would celebrate.

In Stowers’ version of the taneber, a West African drum and dance celebration, she’s switching the drums for a DJ, and she’s filling the room with Black vendors and community businesses and organizations.

“It’s like scheduling a therapy session to laugh and sweat and dance and eat food,” she says. “When the shooting of Jamar Clark or Philando Castile happened, in the Black community you were still expected to go to work or present yourself a certain way, and sometimes it's just not feasible for our mental health as a community, so Taneber/BLAQ Wall Street is a place for us to get away and be ourselves.” 

The dance company Cathedral, performing in the upcoming Momentum: New Dance Works Festival

De’Light

July 20-22
Goodness, evil, the bizarre and the magical are all tangled in the mind’s dream world. Dance company // Cathedral \\ and its founder Dolo McComb are plunging you into the limitless of dreams to venture closer to the fulcrum of reality and perception. “Darkeness is not inherently bad or scary, but more so this place of the Unknown,” says McCombs. The monsters, mask work, soundscape and theatrical elements of De’Light may create a different mindscape than the audience imagines within themselves, but will the feelings De’Light conjures up be something new, or something realized?

Darrius Strong and his company look at superhuman, progress and identity in "6."

“6”

July 20-22
When Darrius Strong says he’s looking at human evolution with his company STRONGmovement, he’s going for the metaphorical—where should we go as individuals and a society?—but he’s also going for the fun, X-Men evolution, too. Telekinesis and superhuman strength are just two of the superpowers audiences will see in “6, which also features B-Girl (break dancer) and McKnight fellowship recipient Mona Lisa. Hip hop aesthetics will be dominant throughout the piece, but Strong says other styles such as African aesthetics will shine through because of the nature of contemporary dance, a “clash of many different forms.”

“6” follows a group of superheroes as they grow into their powers and grow into their own while trying to live with each other and push each other forward. “They’re superhuman but very much also just humans—humans in general,” says Strong, “going through these things to figure out their identity or where they come from.”

All photos by Gene Pittman, courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

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