Article

Independent curator and dance producer Michèle Steinwald shares a photo essay and retrospective on her lecture/discussion series, MN Dance & the Ecstasies of Influences, featuring maps by guest editor Kristin Van Loon that illuminate the grassroots web of connections that make up parts of the Twin Cities dance communities.
December 13, 2019

Half of my family is from Québec, where license plates read, “Je me souviens.” Commonly translated as I remember, it literally means I remind myself.

The impetus to start creating visual maps in response to stories from Twin Cities’ dance communities was to “do something about the big white wall”—which was what Sage Cowles determined should be my first point of business when I mentioned to her in 2013 that I would be consulting for The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts in the new year. From her prompt, I dreamed of gathering enough data to commission the famous artist Julie Mehretu and have her design an all-encompassing depiction of the graphic information into an enormously colorful, multi-directionally dynamic mural covering the entire blank wall in the lobby of The Cowles Center. For myself, I felt the urgency to remind ourselves of the personal contributions that individual dance makers had made to establish the need for the dance center, bearing her family name, in the first place.

I was inspired by Mathew Janczewski’s public talk, “A Surprisingly Big Dance Town,” in 2011, the title of which referenced Caroline Palmer’s Star Tribune article, “Minneapolis: Big Dance Town,” from earlier that year, and by Linda Shapiro and Nancy Mason Hauser’s long-form interview documentation videos, the Minnesota Dance Pioneers Oral History Project, housed at the Performing Arts Archives (PAA) at the University of Minnesota Libraries. With those initiatives in mind, I decided to combine my interests with Sage’s. I invited Linda and Nancy to meet with me, as well as choreographer/writer Judith Brin Ingber and PAA curator Cecily Marcus, to develop the structure and purpose of the yet-to-be named discussion series.

With the goal of accumulating visual data from each event, I asked dancer/choreographer/co-founder of HIJACK (and hobby archivist/cataloger), Kristin Van Loon, if she would consider mapping the connections between the individual stories through live drawing during the soon-to-be programmed public talks. It is thanks to her willingness and commitment that we have this energetic imagery to reflect back on.

Any attempt to present a comprehensive history of Twin Cities dance lineages will take years to compile. As a way of intervening sooner, the series is intentionally flawed, privileging the anecdotal and highly personal to place individuals at the fore and leave room for additional stories to intertwine together as the process progresses.

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The case study, the proof of concept. The entangled lives of contact dance improvisers and their networks. Influencers from the outside. A national hub with several coordinated gatherings.

MAP PART 1 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn October 19, 2014 by Kristin Van Loon (with support from Olive Bieringa while Van Loon spoke)

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From History of Contact Improvisation in the Twin Cities

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With speakers Patrick Scully, Jane Shockley, Ric Watson, Kristin Van Loon, Linda Shapiro, Jeff Bartlett, Olive Bieringa, and Otto Ramstad

 

Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and more. A pencil drawing, geographically inclined, uncommitted to permanent marker.

MAP PART 2 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn January 18, 2015 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Legendary Spaces

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Marius Andaházy, Judith Brin Ingber, Steve Busa, Myron Johnson, John Linnerson, Paula Mann, Patrick Scully, Linda Shapiro, and Kristin Van Loon

 

Established foundations. Passing of the baton. Teachers take control. No educators of color present until Florence Cobb steps in.

MAP PART 3 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn March 1, 2015 by Olive Bieringa

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Educational Outcomes

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Diane Aldis, Colleen Callahan, Kathie Goodale, Mary Harding, Judith Howard, Linda Shapiro, and Kenneth Yoder

 

Works-in-progress platforms. Thematic influences emerge. Structured support. Grassroots initiatives. Stuff in between.

MAP PART 4 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn May 31, 2015 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Developing Dance

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Charles Campbell, Emily Gastineau, Paula Mann, Miriam Must, Louise Robinson, Anat Shinar, Molly Van Avery, and Laurie Van Wieren

 

Oral histories committed to memory. Waves of effort and care. Underlying stories.

MAP Part 5 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn September 20, 2015 by Kristin Van Loon (with orange lines added by Beth Sartor Obermeyer on August 27, 2017)

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From History of Tap in the Twin Cities

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Rick Ausland, Joe Chvala, Ellen Keane, Kaleena Miller, Beth Sartor Obermeyer, and Cathy Wind

 

The vast potential of the outdoors. Marylee Hardenbergh’s massive body of work. Nothing taken for granted.

MAP Part 6 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn January 10, 2016 by Kristin Van Loon (with support from Morgan Thorson while Van Loon spoke, and additions by Olive Bieringa at end of event)

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Outdoor Dances

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With BodyCartography Project, Concrete Farm, Marylee Hardenbergh, Judith Howard, Patrick Scully, April Sellers, and Pramila Vasudevan

 

Writing about the moving body in performance. Long-forgotten platforms. Rigorous. Righteousness. Evaporating opportunities.

MAP Part 7 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn April 10, 2016 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Covering Dance

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Rob Hubbard, Judith Brin Ingber, Camille LeFevre, Caroline Palmer, Susannah Schouweiler, and Linda Shapiro

 

One of my favorites. Disparate entities, overlapping approaches. Remount, repertory, recreate, reinvigorate, restage, reset, reprise, reconstruct, remake, rethink, can never replicate. Curiosities and ingenuities.

MAP Part 8 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn June 12, 2016 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Recovering Dance

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

With Linda Andrews, Edgar Galvan Contreras, Carl Flink, Nora Jenneman, Donald LaCourse, Nancy Mason Hauser, Zoe Sealy, and Denise and Rick Vogt

 

Decades, fonts, symbols, signatures as autographs, and a slightly adjusted layout. No title needed. Remembrance, to be acquainted with without ever meeting.

MAP Part 9 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn September 25, 2016 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Remembering Prince

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

Hosted by Ashley Selmer with Brittany Lynch, and Craig Rice

 

Lineage. Leaders. Family relations.

MAP Part 10 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn November 6, 2016 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From The History of Rooted Dance

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

Hosted by Maia Maiden with performers, choreographers, and dance crews (including Herbert Johnson III, Tamiko French, A+, All Day, Deadpool, and S.H.E.) from past ROOTED shows

 

Circular. Cultural care.

Repatriating statement. Repairing lifeways.

Invitation extended to Native voices only. Some reparation.

MAP Part 11 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn February 26, 2017 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From A Survey of Native American Dance in the Twin Cities

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

Hosted by Rosy Simas with Athena Cloud, Lumhe Sampson, Winona Tahdooahnippah, Larry Yazzie, and Sandy WhiteHawk, with blessing by Janice Bad Moccasin

 

Rhythm, joy, pleasure. Poverty, pain, displacement. Resilience, community, love.

MAP Part 12 (approx. 48” x 38”)

Drawn June 4, 2017 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From Moving Narratives in Latin Dance

At The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

Hosted by Giselle Mejia with René Thompson, Eliecer Ramirez-Vargas, Leo Paixao, and Manuel Rubio

 

Camaraderie, empathy, perseverance, physicality, strategies, ethics.

MAP Part 13 (approx. 48” x 72”)

Drawn October 8, 2017 by Kristin Van Loon (with support from Carl Flink while Van Loon spoke)

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From ART + ATHLETICS

At the Ordway

With Brian J. Evans, Carl Flink, Deneane Richburg, Morgan Thorson, Kristin Van Loon, and Pramila Vasudevan

 

Groups of kids. Adult content. Magical worlds. Making it up. Upholding rituals.

MAP Part 14 (approx. 48” x 72”)

Drawn November 5, 2017 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From WINTER TRADITIONS

At the Ordway

With Alberto Justiniano, Derek Phillips, Elizabeth Simonson, and April Sellers

 

Purpose. Power. Determination. Identity. Representation.

MAP Part 15 (approx. 48” x 72”))

Drawn March 4, 2018 by Kristin Van Loon

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From DANCE + SOCIAL JUSTICE

At the Ordway

With Karen Charles, Ananya Chatterjea, Deneane Richburg, Patrick Scully, and Arwen Wilder

 

Telling full stories.

MAP Part 16 (approx. 48” x 72”)

Drawn November 10, 2019 by Kristin Van Loon and Liping Vong

Photographed November 29, 2019 by Alice Gebura

From The Craft of Choreography

At the Minnesota Museum of American Art

With Deja Stowers, Kaleena Miller, Chris Schlichting, and Chitra Vairavan

 

Each map carries the residue of its event’s traces. With 16 separate events, framing topics, and the contributions of 100+ speakers and their personal stories, everyone can watch the talks and dig into the archival collection anytime, and draw their own conclusions.

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Special thanks to The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts (2014-2017), Ordway (2017-2018), and Minnesota Museum of American Art (2019) for their partnership in producing MN Dance & the Ecstasies of Influences, and to my esteemed colleagues and advisors (Judith Brin Ingber, Cecily Marcus, Kathryn Hujda, Nancy Mason Hauser, Linda Shapiro, and Kristin Van Loon) for tirelessly guiding the series onward.

Performing Arts Archives collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries: https://archives.lib.umn.edu/repositories/9/resources/7254

The Cowles Center’s YouTube channel videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyTsRheFILhCC-SxaHg8QOu2UDNbn-Rwi

Marked by four major influences, Michèle Steinwald is a feminist, DIY, artist-centered, pseudo-forensic, embodied, community-driven, cultural organizer:

  • At age 14, she saw Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in Rosas’ Bartok and fell in love with contemporary dance (1986).
  • At age 15, she produced her friend’s post-punk band Pestilence at the all-ages music venue One Step Beyond in Ottawa, Canada (1987).  Seven people came. She knew all but one.
  • At age 21, she studied with choreographer Deborah Hay and was forever changed (1994).
  • Since her teen years, she has deliberately watched the TV series Law & Order, noting human behavior and gut instincts through problem solving.

This article is part of the series by guest editor Kristin Van Loon.

MN Artists