Ordway Blog: Stay connected here with what is happening at Ordway and take a look at what is going on behind the scenes.
Tue, Apr 30, 2013 10:22 AM by Alan Post
Why is my biology class involved in a dance project? I confess, I’ve been a little reluctant to mention this project to my colleagues for fear of having to answer this question. Talk about a crazy collaboration! This semester my Urban Ecosystem Ecology students, Maria Dahmus’ Social Dynamics and the Environment students, Tim Scully’s Videography students (all at UST), are partnering with Wynn Fricke’s Dance Class at Macalester, Amy Miller at the Ordway Theater, and members of the Pilobolus Dance Company to create a dance piece that will be performed at Macalester College’s Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center on Friday, May 3 (7:30 PM) and Saturday, May 4 (2:00 PM).
Pilobolus has a long history of interacting with scientists. In fact, the name “Pilobolus” refers to a type of fungus that grows in barnyards. The group was formed by several biology students at Dartmouth College in the 1970s; today they are one of the most widely acclaimed modern dance companies in the world, performing on the Oscars, on Oprah, and on stages all over the world.
Originally when I agreed to participate in this project, I was intrigued by the possibility of using dance as a medium to communicate ideas about the interaction between humans and the environment to new audiences. Also, as someone who has spent a lot of time representing ecosystems through conceptual diagrams and mathematical models, I was fascinated by the idea of having dancers depict these intangible concepts of how energy flows through ecosystems, and nutrients cycle within ecosystems. Ecosystems are really about movement and transformation, and that’s what dance does as well.
Through participating in this process, I’ve come to realize that the analogy runs even deeper. I’ve been struck by how much the entire collaborative, creative process mirrors processes in nature. A Pilobolus dance begins with the choreographers engaging in a series of discussions with their collaborators–in this case, our Biology and Environmental Studies students. As our students learned about how ideas from nature can be communicated through movement, the directors (and some visiting dance students) grasped onto the themes of our courses. When the Pilobolus choreographers began working with the Macalester dancers, they didn’t create the dance ahead of time and teach it to the dancers. Rather, it emerged organically as the directors picked up on natural motions of the dancers (“There! Do that again! Make that motion bigger! Everyone on this side of the room do this motion!”). Through this process of the directors seeing interesting movements, and choosing some to amplify, before long, the room full of dancers is moving in complex patterns that–amazingly–seems to simulate ideas that we have discussed during our courses about interactions between humans and nature. As Pilobolus choreographer Renee Jaworski said, “We’re sneaky directors.”
Listening to Renee and fellow Pilobulus choreographer and master teacher Emily Kent talk about the creative process during their final meeting with my students, they emphasized that every piece is a document that reflects the people who participated, and the context. The fact that this process happened during a long, late winter has colored the performance. A comment that one of my students made about how a video shot by one of the videography students reminded her of the Red Queen Hypothesis from evolutionary biology (an allusion to Alice in Wonderland, in which you have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place) has become a dominant theme in the production, applied to the relationship between humans and our constructed environment. The themes that Renee and Emily brought up describing our creative process echo ideas from systems theory: interaction, feedback, sensitivity to initial conditions. The flow of information, over time, through a network, as it gets modified at each step. I had spent the previous weekend at a systems ecology symposium where scientists were using these words to describe how ecosystems develop, and now I’m hearing my students use this same language to describe the collaborative process between scientists and artists.
So, why is my biology class involved in a dance project? Join us Friday evening at Macalester to find out. I think you’ll be impressed.
-Chip Small, Biology professor at University of St. Thomas
Fri, Mar 22, 2013 10:37 AM by Alan Post
The Pilobolus Project has begun! Ordway is hosting an artist residency throughout the spring semester with Pilobolus, a world-renowned modern dance company, Macalester College’s Dance Department, and three University of St. Thomas courses – Social Dynamics and the Environment, Urban Ecosystem Ecology, and Videography. Pilobolus company members are visiting Saint Paul four times and together, with the student groups, are learning about ways in which societies and individuals interact with their natural and built environments. The environmental studies, biology, and film students have been busy the past month, collecting and presenting observations of how humans interact with the environment to Pilobolus and the Macalester dance students. Then through guidance during intensive rehearsals with Pilobolus, Macalester dance students have begun creating a dance piece inspired by Pilobolus’ aesthetic and the observations and analyses of the UST students.
Stay tuned for updates on the project and mark your calendars for May 3rd and 4th! The Pilobolus Project dance piece will premiere as a part of Macalester College’s Spring Dance Concert on Friday evening, May 3rd at 7:30pm in Macalester’s Janet Wallet Fine Arts Center. Then the following night, on May 4th, Pilobolus will premiere a new work during their public performance at the Ordway at 7:30pm.
Macalester and St. Thomas students involved in the Pilobolus Project take part in movement workshops and dance rehearsals with Pilobolus company members, during the first visit of the residency!
Thu, Oct 11, 2012 2:20 PM by Luke Anderson
Critics are buzzing about Billy Elliot the Musical at the Ordway! Below are several local reviews from Tuesday night’s opening performance.
Star Tribune, “This engaging ‘Billy’ takes gorgeous flight,” By Rohan Preston
Pioneer Press, “Glitz and grit: The musical ‘Billy Elliot’ soars with perfect balance,” By Rob Hubbard
BroadwayWorld.com, “Billy Elliot Pirouettes with Stunning Grace at the Ordway,” By Kristin Frosch
HowWasTheShow.com, “Billy Elliot The Musical at the Ordway,” By John Olive
Lavender Magazine, “Billy Elliot sets the Soul to Dancing,” By Kathleen Watson
Twin Cities Daily Planet, “‘Billy Elliot’ at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts: Entertaining, but challenging,” By Jean Gabler
Billy Elliot the Musical is at the Ordway through this Sunday, October 14 only. For ticket information, click here.
Fri, Apr 20, 2012 2:29 PM by Hannah Arkelin
Who is the mastermind behind the original and innovative dance works performed by Ballet of the Dolls? Minneapolis native Myron Johnson began his theatre career at the age of 7 and has since contributed his creativity and talents to the community as an Artistic Director, Choreographer and Dancer.
It all began in 1960 when Myron, on a whim, entered a building that used to be his nursery school, but had since become The Moppet Players’ theater. The woman who ran the theater asked Myron if he would like to try out for a play. He did and landed a part in the play, “The Swineherd.” The Moppet Players eventually became The Children’s Theater Company, where Myron performed, choreographed and directed hundreds of productions.
In 1970 Myron received a scholarship to study under celebrated mime, Marcel Marceau at the Paris Opera Ballet. He returned to Minneapolis after this amazing experience and became the Associate Artistic Director at The Children’s Theater Company. The 1980’s was a whirlwind of directing and choreography opportunities at The Guthrie Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, Loring Playhouse, as well as across the country at The Sundance Institute, Seattle Rep, among others.
In 1986 Myron fulfilled his inspiration to create a company that combined all of his interests: dance, theater, mime, and music. As Artistic Director of Ballet of the Dolls, Myron creates 5-6 original production every year that consistently challenge audiences and provoke discussion and reflection. Myron’s contributions to the Twin Cities’ arts community have been recognized. He was named Artist of the Year by City Pages in 2008 and he was the recipient of the 2009 Sally Award for Commitment.
With all that he has accomplished so far, we look forward to a future as a part of his audience where the impact of his message is felt through and through with every performance.
Tue, Apr 17, 2012 3:43 PM by Hannah Arkelin
We want to inform you that tonight’s event (April 17th) at University of St. Thomas, featuring Myron Johnson of Ballet of the Dolls, has been cancelled. There are, however, two more Ballet of the Dolls Open Rehearsals that are open to the public. Space is still available and it will be a great chance to view the company’s artistic process as they prepare for their public performance at the Ordway on Friday, May 4.
Here are the event details:
You are invited to engage in the artistic process as Artistic Director Myron Johnson of Ballet of the Dolls creates Faith, a new piece that will premiere at the Ordway on Friday, May 4. These three events will allow you to witness an example of a typical rehearsal for the company, and will provide context for what is happening at that point in the studio and the artistic process.
Wednesday, April 18, 6 – 7:30pm
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, McKnight Theater
[345 Washington Street, Saint Paul 55102]
Wednesday, April 25, 6 – 7:30pm
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Drake Room
[345 Washington Street, Downtown St. Paul]
*Please enter through the Stage Door on 5th Street
Admission is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP to Amy Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-282-3017 to reserve your space.
Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.
One Time Only Performance!
The Ordway presents a new dance piece by award-winning choreographer Myron Johnson and his company Ballet of the Dolls. Faith: A Dance for Life, is a world premiere ballet work based on one man’s dream and/or reality in the time required to take a singular breath. Created from the inspiration of a work performed in 1991, Faith explores the idea of a man who finds himself in a life-or-death situation; an encounter filled with surreal and haunting moments where faith is put to the test. Humorous and outrageous, Faith follows one man’s story in glimpses of life that range from the very beginning to his final conversations with his “maker.” In familiar Ballet of the Dolls’ fashion, this presentation uses an eclectic array of dance and musical styles including ballet, modern and hip-hop all set to classical, world and contemporary music. Myron’s work is being created specifically for this one-night-only performance at the Ordway.
Thu, Apr 12, 2012 3:53 PM by Hannah Arkelin
Ballet of the Dolls was founded in 1986 by Artistic Director, Dancer, and Choreographer, Myron Johnson. After 26 years of works that include 150 original ballets, this group of artists continue to push boundaries while also appealing to both theater and dance audiences of the Twin Cities.
For a company that started in Myron Johnson’s loft in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, Ballet of the dolls has accomplished great things in the art community. The original company consisted of eight dancers, a costumer, a lighting designer, a sound designer and a marketing director who came together to explore a new way to tell amazing stories. This objective is also where the company’s name originated- dolls coming to life just like their stories.
After two seasons in the loft of their Artistic Director, Ballet of the Dolls gained a partnership with Ruby’s Cabaret which resulted in 250 nights of performances. In 2000 Ballet of the Dolls decided to make The Ritz Theater on 13th Ave in NE Minneapolis their permanent home. The Ritz Theater opened its doors in 2006 after renovations, and has since become an established venue in the Twin Cities arts community.
This innovative dance company has a mission “to fearlessly create challenging and surprising dance work that brings a sense of discovery to audiences and artists alike.” Ballet of the Dolls understands what it takes to manifest original dance performances that do more than simply entertain their audiences- they inspire them.
Thu, Mar 22, 2012 11:30 AM by Luke Anderson
As we move closer to Ballet of the Dolls’ performance of Faith: A Dance For Life at the Ordway on Friday, May 4, the dance company’s Artistic Director/Choreographer Myron Johnson is reaching out, along with the Ordway, to educators, students, and the Twin Cities community to engage them in the artistic process of creating his new piece.
Johnson and the Ordway are providing this unique learning opportunity through a series of open rehearsals, focus groups and discussion sessions. In February, Johnson held a focus group with school teachers to discuss his concept for Faith: A Dance for Life, generating support and ideas, and setting the foundation for translating the performance piece into a multi-cultural learning experience focused on faiths of the world. He also shared his artistic vision with faculty and staff of Macalester College’s Interfaith Council, which led to spirited discussion and intriguing questions about art as a tool for creating cross-cultural awareness and understanding.
Going forward, the Ordway and Ballet of the Dolls are offering various opportunities for the community to engage in the artistic process of Faith: A Dance for Life. They include the following:
1st Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, March 28, 6 – 7:30pm
[345 13th Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis 55413]
Parking available on neighborhood streets surrounding the theater
2nd Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, April 18, 6 – 7:30pm
Ordway’s McKnight Theater
[345 Washington Street, Downtown Saint Paul]
*Please enter through Ordway’s main entrance
Suggested parking: metered street parking or parking ramps near the Ordway
3rd Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, April 25, 6 – 7:30pm
Ordway’s Drake Room
[345 Washington Street, Downtown St. Paul]
*Please enter through Ordway’s Stage Door on 5th Street
Suggested parking: metered street parking or parking ramps near the Ordway
Admission is FREE, but space is limited. Please RSVP to Amy Miller at email@example.com or 651-282-3017 to reserve your space.
Ballet of the Dolls’ Faith Panel Discussion: Dance Inspired by Faith and Spirituality
Tuesday, April 17
7 – 8:30pm
University of St. Thomas
Owens Science Hall, 3M Auditorium
Admission is FREE and open to the public
You are invited to a discussion with Ballet of the Dolls’ Artistic Director Myron Johnson and other Twin Cities-based dancers/choreographers who create artistic work inspired by their faith and spirituality. They will share examples of their artistic work and will explain how their styles of choreography evoke images and ideas that correlate with their religions and spiritual beliefs from across the globe.
Wed, Feb 15, 2012 1:22 PM by Luke Anderson
On Saturday, February 11, Ordway staff, Perpich Center staff, teaching artists and coaches, presented on the Dance to Learn program to 35 dance educators at the Perpich Center’s annual Dance Education Summit. Workshop attendees experienced select lessons from the program and learned about its structure and goals.
Last week, the in-school dance residency portion of the Dance to Learn program wrapped up at Sheridan Hills Elementary in Richfield and Fair Oaks Elementary in Brooklyn Park. For students at both of these schools, the dance instruction that they experience through Dance to Learn is the only dance instruction that they receive during the school day at any point in the year. In addition to the residency work, students attend professional dance performances at the Ordway throughout the school year.
For more information about Dance to Learn, please visit http://www.ordway.org/education/programs/dancetolearn/
Thu, Jan 5, 2012 1:39 PM by Marinda Bland
Ronald K. Brown Evidence, A Dance Company will perform its fusion of spoken word, traditional African dance and contemporary choreography at the Ordway on January 15. Ronald K. Brown, Artistic Director of Evidence, flew to Minnesota in early December to teach classes and workshops around Saint Paul as a part of the Ordway’s Education programming. Despite Mr. Brown’s busy schedule while he was here, one of his first stops was the shoe store to buy a new pair of winter boots to stay warm!
After teaching a Master Class at TU Dance Center on a blustery Saturday afternoon, Mr. Brown sat down with two interns to answer a few questions about dance, community education, and his upcoming performance at the Ordway.
Learn more about Mr. Brown’s visit to Saint Paul in December during the pre-show Ordway Extra in the second-floor Marzitelli Foyer at 6:30pm, just prior to the company’s public performance on Sunday, January 15. Dancers from the community who took part in his classes will be sharing stories about their experiences and inspirations through working with “Ron”.
Then have the chance to ask questions and hear from Mr. Brown and company members during the Talkback and Post-show Party!
You can find out more about Evidence and find ticketing information here. More information about the Ordway’s Education programming is available on the Education page, and you can keep up to date with the latest Education news on the Education blog.
Fri, Oct 28, 2011 1:19 PM by Marinda Bland
Over the week and a half of Target World Music and Dance performances in October, the Ordway will play host to more than 17,000 kids during its Performing Arts Classroom series. PACs, as they are affectionately known, are educational field trips that feature one-hour school performances representing a global spectrum of cultural art forms.
From October 24 through November 1, the Ordway offers eleven weekday matinee performances especially designed for students in kindergarten through twelfth grades. During this stretch of shows, kids get a chance to see Luna Negra Dance Theater (8, 224 students), Latin jazz vocalist Magos Herrera (2,856 students), and Vox Lumiere – Phantom of the Opera (6,179 students). Altogether, that’s a total of 17,259 kids. That’s a higher student attendance than we typically have at the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival!
Tickets are only $3.50 for 2011-2012 School Year Ordway Education school performances including the 2012 Flint Hills International Children's Festival! The Ordway welcomes all public, private, charter, and homeschools to Performing Arts Classrooms and Flint Hills International Children's Festival performances. We are proud to be the number one cultural destination for Minneapolis and Saint Paul public school students for ten years running!
This blog is a group effort by Ordway staff, actors, artists, musicians, dancers and all those involved in the creative process of performances, programs and events at the Ordway to provide a behind the scenes look at what happens onstage, backstage and in support of the work presented at the Ordway. We also hope to discuss pertinent topics in our industry.
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