Campus Partnership Creates Athletic-Emotional Dance Event
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMNTC) and University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) come together this month to create powerful dance that pushes the boundaries of athleticism and emotion.
Carl Flink is a professor of dance and chair of the Theatre Arts & Dance Department at UMNTC. Flink and his Twin Cities-based company, Black Label Movement (BLM), are in Duluth to perform their original piece, Wreck, with UMD Associate Professor of Dance and Musical Theatre Rebecca Katz Harwood joining the company as a guest mover. The piece tells the story of 13 people trapped in the last airtight compartment of a sinking ore boat.
“When I was doing the initial research for the work, I spent a lot of time watching the lake, ore boats and the industry they’re embedded in, and the shore. I was fascinated by the epic scale of the ore boats in particular,” Flink said. “That landscape unlocked the theatrical device of the last airtight compartment in a sinking boat. My goal is to examine how the trapped individuals try to find optimism rather than fighting each other for a few extra moments of life.”
Flink’s fascination with Duluth began with his father’s stories from his career on an ore boat in the 1950s. This fascination inspired him to obtain an Arts Tour Minnesota Grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board, which allowed BLM to experience living on the lake and in the unique community of Duluth. As a Duluth native, Katz Harwood is convinced that this piece will really resonate with Duluthians.
“It’s a beautiful work that speaks to a broad audience. Especially for those of us who live in Duluth; we live with the lake,” Katz Harwood said. “Carl created something that really gets the lake.”
The company will perform Wreck at the Machine Shop at Clyde Iron Works October 9 and 10 at 7:30 pm. Projections of 8 mm ore boat footage from the 1960s, taken by the late Great Lakes ore boat captain Harvey C. Almstedt, will transform the venue. A five-piece ensemble, conducted by Patrick O’Keefe, will play the original music written by composer Mary Ellen Childs.
“This is work where you can just enjoy the athletic physicality of the company, but you can also expect to see an evening-length piece that deals with intimate and challenging questions of survival and community, if you want to go deeper,” Flink said. “It’s a multiple sensory experience with a wonderful ensemble playing a dynamic, atmospheric score.”
Flink is very interested in the intellectual and physical side of his work. He wants to learn what Wreck means to his audience and how they see it. Towards this end, BLM will hold a question and answer session after the performance for feedback and to share ideas.
For those concerned by the seemingly dark nature of Wreck, Katz Harwood reassures that it isn’t a disturbing piece.
“The subject sounds depressing, but I don’t find the piece depressing because the music and movement are so beautiful,” she said. “It’s not nihilistic. It’s about how a group of people come together to face the inevitable.”
The grant Flink attained also enabled Black Label Movement to set up a five-week residency in Duluth, teaching at UMD and Stacie Juten’s Duluth Dance Center. Katz Harwood finds that these residencies bring something special to students and teachers.
“It’s really beneficial for students to experience different teachers,” Katz Harwood said. “I always love what I learn from them about how they teach and what they bring out of students.”
Students get the benefit of experiencing new teaching styles and unusual movement as well.
“We really wanted to build a connection. We’ve found students to be incredibly open and hungry for information,” Flink said. “My favorite thing about this has been the opportunity to connect with Duluth. We’ve started to send roots down in this city that is so embracing of the arts.”
Clyde Iron Works is located at 2920 West Michigan Street in Duluth. To reserve tickets for Wreck, email Black Label Movement or call 321-720-0677.
Written by Maeggie Licht, September 2012