Black Label Movement opens its 2018 season at the Ritz Theater

The dance company opens their second decade of performance with “TeamWork,” a repertory show devoted to the company’s myriad of collaborations.

Maddy Folstein

In its 11 years, the dance company Black Label Movement has collaborated with dancers, musicians, visual artists, composers and even biomedical engineers. As Black Label Movement moves into the next phase of its artistry in the Ritz Theater, the company chose to honor this history of collaboration. 

Their 2018 season, which runs through Jan. 21, is entitled “Teamwork.” As a repertory show, the production highlights multiple collaborations through dance, music and an exhibit. 

“This is our first full season in our second decade as an organization … [and] the tendency when you’re doing [a show] like this is to do a retrospective … and I just didn’t find that galvanizing,” said Carl Flink, artistic director and dance professor at the University of Minnesota. “I felt like as a company … I wanted us to really show where we are and what is happening with Black Label Movement today.”

For Black Label Movement, that means exploring the physically-intensive aesthetic central to their missions as a dance company.

“Being in that physical space of the possibility of failure … is a place of discovery,” Flink said. “When you’re at the extreme space, you have to decide how am I dealing with this, and where am I positioning myself? Am I pushing myself away because I got scared, or am I going to pull through?”

For dancers, or “movers,” in the company, this risk-taking is thrilling and freeing. 

“It was really about finding your inner animal and not being afraid to dance,” said Crystal Edwards, the managing director of Black Label Movement who started as a mover in the company. “[You] really throw yourself into every movement from your core.” 

After performing at the Cowles Center for five seasons, Black Label Movement moved to the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, a space that breaks away from a traditional proscenium stage and mirrors the organic style of Black Label Movement. 

“When you clear out the curtains, the Ritz is an extremely raw space. … It has chipping here and there and this amazing industrial [feel] in the building. … Our aesthetic is very raw, very physical — trying to pull away a lot of refinement and getting at the root of movement,” Flink said. 

The nontraditional space in the neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis also lets the company better connect with its audience. 

“We’re hoping that this intimate venue will let us program things our way that make sense in this specific seating arrangement. … The Ritz hasn’t had a lot of dance recently … and for us and Northeast Minneapolis, we’re hoping that it revitalizes people to say, ‘The Ritz is here, and it can be a place for dance.’” 

The lobby of the Ritz showcases a gallery of the work from collaborators Bill Cameron, Lara Hanson and Anne Swan entitled “Eye Hand Gesture.” Curated by the University’s Arts and Architecture librarian Deborah Ultan, the exhibit explores the history of Black Label Movement through the lens of these collaborations. A parallel exhibit will also be shown in the University’s Wilson Library through March 9.

“Unlike the visual arts, where you might come back to a museum … and see a work of art many times, most people don’t think about seeing dances multiple times,” said Emilie Plauche Flink, an artistic associate of Black Label Movement who also worked on the exhibit. “I don’t think it’s encouraged from the audience’s point of view, and I think dance in America isn’t supported in such a way that we are … able to perform multiple times. … I think that it’s important to discover things in many layers, which just adds to the experience.”

As the curator of the exhibit, Ultan communicated Black Label Movement’s physically intensive movement through the staging of photographs and videos. 

“Part of my mission and philosophy in curating is taking risks, which is in sync with Black Label Movement, and I like to work in alternative spaces to see how we can make those challenges and break the boundaries of spaces,” Ultan said. “The intersection of where the energy of the artist … and the gesture of the dancer is a very exciting concept. … How can I as a curator make that statement happen for somebody to just walk into the space?” 

What: BLM No. 11 – TeamWork

When: January 17-20 at 7:30 pm, January 20 at 2:00 pm, January 21 at 4:00 pm

Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis

Cost: $10 for students, $20 general tickets, $5-$20 on January 17