Minnesota Dance Theater blurs lines

Minnesota Dance Theater concocts a witches’ brew of styles to kick off their season at the Cowles Center.

Dancers Clifford Williams and Katie Deuitch rehearse “Edifice Wrecks,” a new work by Minnesota Dance Theater’s artistic director Lise Houlton in collaboration with Dane Stauffer on Tuesday at Cowles Center.

Amanda Snyder

Dancers Clifford Williams and Katie Deuitch rehearse “Edifice Wrecks,” a new work by Minnesota Dance Theater’s artistic director Lise Houlton in collaboration with Dane Stauffer on Tuesday at Cowles Center.

Joe Kellen

Dance is never one thing. Sometimes, however, it’s easy to pigeonhole it with images of tutus and leotards.

“There are those who don’t want to see another ballet, and I’m probably one of them,” Minnesota Dance Theater artistic director Lise Houlton said.

MDT’s 2013 Fall Repertory is designed to avoid presenting another production of “Swan Lake.” The company is showing four pieces in its evening of dance, ranging from modern dance to ballet.

Houlton said she has nothing against “Swan Lake” — she’s just interested in exploring new territory. This is reflected in her world premiere piece for the Repertory.

“Edifice Wrecks,” Houlton’s work, combines modern techniques with something that was more foreign to her group of dancers: theater.

Houlton collaborated with actor-playwright Dane Stauffer to add a touch of acting to her work.

“It certainly is a different thing for me,” she said. “I wanted to help create something that went back to dance theater.”

Together, Stauffer and Houlton created a series of scenes and dances that sprout from a “what if” question.

These questions lead them into something that is not quite a narrative but allows for the dancers to explore worlds that take influence from Walt Disney to Walt Whitman.

 “At times they’re dancers, moving about the stage. At times they’re frames, framing the emotions of another dancer,” she said.

This sense of genre bending isn’t unique to Houlton’s work.

Charles Askegard, MDT’s new associate artistic director, mashes up separate schools of dance in the Repertory’s other world premiere, “Serenade for Two.”

Set to Stravinsky’s “Serenade in A,” it’s a bit more traditional than Houlton’s work. You can expect ballet shoes, but the dance isn’t solely concerned with keeping perfect posture.

“I’m asking them to reveal something about themselves,” Askegard said.

Finding a balance between the two styles is the most challenging thing about the piece, according to Askegard.

“You can use the floor, you can use the air, you can use everything. You have to limit yourself,” he said.

Aside from its two newest pieces, MDT will be reviving “Boccherini Dances,” originally choreographed by founder Loyce Houlton. Like “Serenade,” the dance explores modern and ballet, combining their possibilities.

They’re also putting up “A Stair Dance” by the acclaimed Eliot Feld. His theatrical and energetic work has flair of its own, focusing on something a little more explosive than classical structures.

As a whole, MDT’s Fall Repertory is meant to display the wide range of dynamics its dancers can handle.

“I think it’s very important to explore new choreography and to bring awareness to new composers and music,” Askegard said. “It’s a thriving dance scene and it’s exciting.”

 

What: Minnesota Dance Theater’s 2013 Fall Repertory

When: 8 p.m. and 2 p.m., Sundays, Oct. 4-13

Where: The Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $24-36