Posted at 1:02 PM on October 21, 2011
by David Cazares
Filed under: Dance
Photo by Kristie Kahns
By Carolina Astrain
When many people think of Latin dance they think of folkloric genres like the Cuban rumba, Colombian cumbia or Spanish flamenco. But as important as those rich regional dances are, there's much more to Latin dance nowadays.
Luna Negra, an extraordinary dance company based in Chicago, aims to challenge conventional notions about Latin dance by fusing those regional dances into a contemporary vision. The ensemble performs Saturday at the Page Theatre in Winona, and Tuesday at the Ordway in Saint Paul.
Watching a Luna Negra performance is almost like watching a silent film acted out by dancers moving to a romantic Spanish soundtrack. The dancers' moves exude a classic and hypnotic quality, rich with nostalgia.
Founded in Chicago 12 years ago by Cuban-born dancer and choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, the dance company works to counter stereotypical notions views of contemporary Latin dance.
When Vilaro left Luna Negra in 2009, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano took over as the new Artistic Director. Originally from the province of Alacante, Spain, Sansano has an international reputation. He has been commissioned to create works for companies including Spain's National Dance Company, the Hamburg Ballet, Budapest Dance Theater, Ballet Junior de Genève and Nederlands Dans Theater II.
"I'm really happy because the city has really embraced the change," Sansano said. "There's been a lot of curiosity around Chicago on what's been going on with the group."
The Luna Negra show this season includes four very different acts, but only three will be showcased at each performance.
Bate or "heartbeat" in Portuguese was choreographed by Fernando Melo. Much like a Brazilian soap opera set to samba, the dance tells a story about how a man keeps his love for a woman hidden beneath his macho attitude.
"This is the first piece he's done for the company," Sansano said of Melo. "We premiered it last season and it's a really fun piece."
The group will perform Bate in Winona and Saint Paul.
One of the more conceptual acts is Naked Ape, choreographed by Fernando Hernando Magadan. The piece explores the connection between man and his animal instinct. To see Naked Ape be sure to catch the Winona show.
At the Saint Paul show, instead of Naked Ape, the Luna Negra dance company will perform Paloma Querida, or "Beloved Dove" in Spanish. The dance is choreographed by Michelle Manzanales. The Chicago Tribune described the dance as a "visual masterpiece."
The finale for both shows will be Flabbergast, a dance choreographed by Sansano, who dedicated it to his mother. It was the first piece that he created for Luna Negra in 2001. Sansano describes it as a Latin Chorus Line.
"It's all about having fun and dancing to the music we used to listen to during the holidays in my little town in Spain," Sansano said.
Since 2001, Flabbergast has been, "expanded and refined" according to another Chicago Tribune review by Sid Smith:
Luna Negra also aims to soon reach younger audiences with Luna Nueva (New Moon), which features avant garde dancing, and Luna Niño (Kid Moon), which presents dances to storylines similar to those of Harry Potter and Peter Pan. These projects are still as Sansano described it, "in the oven."
For Sansano, Latin dance is for everyone.
"I'm not the type of person who believes in 'right or wrong' way of dancing," he said. "We don't want our audiences to just be Latinos. We want everybody from the community to be a part of what we do."
Editor's note: MPR's Carolina Astrain writes occasionally for State of the Arts. Her editor is David Cazares.
Editor's note: This report comes to you from MPR's Tom Scheck and Tim Nelson. In full disclosure, my position is funded by Legacy Amendment money, so for ethical reasons I do not do any direct reporting on the topic.
St. Paul, Minn. -- A Republican leader says some of his colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature are considering a plan that would rely on a portion of the state's Legacy funds to pay for a new Vikings Stadium.
It's an option they say must be considered as Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers continue to discuss how to pay for a stadium. Other options include ticket taxes, a sports memorabilia tax, slot machines at the state's horse tracks or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.
But critics say voters didn't intend to use that money for professional sports stadiums when they approved a higher sales tax in 2008.
"I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table," said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.
There isn't an organized effort by legislative leaders to tap the Legacy funds yet, Daudt said. But there is increasing talk among members and GOP staff that this may be the only way that the Republican-controlled House and Senate pass a Vikings stadium bill.
Daudt said the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund could generate about $50 million annually to finance the stadium. He said that would be enough to pay both the state's and Ramsey County's share but is unsure if that would be the plan.
"You certainly can't argue that the Minnesota Vikings and these sports teams in the state of Minnesota aren't a part of the state's heritage and certainly part of the state's legacy," Daudt said.
The Legacy funding could also make it easier for Republicans to vote for a plan. There is bipartisan opposition to expanding gambling in Minnesota. Republicans fiercely oppose any tax increases. Many argue that a Ramsey County sales tax increase should be subject to a referendum -- a move that Vikings officials said would kill the deal.
Tapping the legacy funds could also face significant opposition. Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said he would go to court to stop any legislation that would spend Legacy Amendment funds for a Vikings stadium. Using the money for such a purpose would violate voter intent, he said.
"There was no discussion in any of the legislative committee hearings or on the floor of the House and Senate about professional sports and it clearly is contrary to what was discussed during a very extensive campaign in 2008," Cohen said.
Voters in 2008 amended the constitution to require the state to collect a three-eighths of a cent sales tax for the outdoors, clean water, parks and the arts. Supporters of the idea argued that the money would be used to improve the state's quality of life. Minnesota Public Radio is among hundreds of organizations that receive money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Officials with outdoors groups also say it's a bad idea. Don McMillan with the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance said even though the plan would not touch funding for the outdoors, parks and clean water, he worries it could be a slippery slope.
"Opening it up to other uses is a dangerous precedent," McMillan said. "Once it starts there, I just fear that they're going to come after the outdoor funds and the clean water funds and try to subvert them."
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said he hasn't heard of the proposal. He said the team is still committed to an Arden Hills site that relies on a half-cent sales tax in Ramsey County. The team is neutral on where the state's portion of the funds come from, Bagley said.
"Bottom line on the funding source, it's up to the state to determine what makes the most sense," he said.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, who chairs the Legacy Committee in the Minnesota House, is also uncertain about the idea. He said he's heard rumblings about using Legacy funds for a stadium but said there have been no formal discussions. Urdahl said the plan would not be his top choice but every possibility should be considered. He also cautioned that other funding mechanisms need to be in place as well.
"I would not be in favor of Legacy money being used to finance the entire portion of that," Urdahl said. "If it came down to using Legacy money, it would have to be cobbled together with something else."
A spokeswoman for the governor said he has not seen the plan and has no comment yet, but he appreciates anyone willing to make a constructive suggestion to settle the stadium issue.(8 Comments)
How does the experience of adoption change based on the culture of the adoptee? Which has more power - Nature, or Nurture? These questions are at the heart of Mu Performing Arts' latest production, Four Destinies, which runs through October 30 at Mixed Blood Theatre.
Playwright Katie Hae Leo inserts herself as narrator of the play as she wrestles with her hypothetical characters: four "Destinys," adoptees from four different cultures, raised by the same parents.
Read on for excerpts of reviews by the local media; click on the links to read them in their entirety:
Sara Ochs, LaDawn James, Katie Bradley, Nora Montanez, Neil Schneider in Four Destinies produced by Mu Performing Arts at the Mixed Blood Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
In Act 1, Leo creates the Destinys, four grown-up adoptees, celebrating Gotcha Day with their well-meaning but dorky parents. The first Destiny is Korean, the next is African-American, then Guatemalan; these are all female. The final Destiny is a white American man. Midway through the act, narrator Leo announces that these "characters have gotten away from me." Frankly, I didn't believe her. The firm hand of the playwright was all too apparent as the same scene, with variations, is played and replayed, 4 times. Moreover (and as an adoptive parent myself, this bothered me a lot), I found the parents shallow, vehicles for cheap comic effect. During the intermission, I was, I will admit, a restive play-goer.
Ah, but then Act 2 happened, and it's wonderful. Leo puts her characters through their paces - and narrator Katie Leo as well. They do unpredictable and surprising things. They make significant human connections. They become multi-dimensional. They grow, make meaningful discoveries. In the second act the characters really do get away from their author and result is sublime. When narrator Leo tells us "Truth is a painted toy," we know precisely what she's talking about. When the play ended, I was seduced.
Don Eitel, Maria Kelly, Sara Ochs, Katie Bradley, Shanan Custer in Four Destinies produced by Mu Performing Arts at the Mixed Blood Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
The major flaw of the play, which has an unnecessary coda by the playwright character, is structural: The parents are unchanging in the first act, no matter the situation or the adoptee. Same party, same neighbors, same story. That may be true, but it grows a little tiresome.
"Four Destinies" takes off in the second act, when each Destiny, after long years of wondering about his or her personal history, finds out some important information. These scenes show that such knowledge can be tricky, leading to unexpected reflection in the heart and soul.
Shanan Custer, Neil Schneider in Four Destinies produced by Mu Performing Arts at the Mixed Blood Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
As a viewing experience, the script's rough patches hardly detract from this funny, colorful and tender production. Director Suzy Messerole has found all the awkward humor in adoption, cross-cultural miscommunication, and growing up. With the help of Mina Kinukawa's pleasingly retro set and some well-placed video projections by Joshua Iley, the four Destinies inhabit a vivid world that is only idealistic on its glossy exterior. In a community with so many adopted children of so many different backgrounds, Leo's play provides an important look into the particular issues surrounding adoption - both for parents hoping to help, and for children making sense of their mysterious DNA.
Katie Bradley, Sara Ochs, Don Eitel in Four Destinies produced by Mu Performing Arts at the Mixed Blood Theatre
Photo by Michal Daniel
Have you seen Four Destinies? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.(2 Comments)