When I first heard about the Main Street Project by ARENA Dances, I had no idea what to expect.
Having spent 14 years of my life in dance and six as a cheerleader, I assumed I had seen just about every style of dance possible at some point or another.
However, the Main Street Project was something that sounded completely new to me.
While staying at the College of Saint Benedict, ARENA Dances visited the Boys and Girls Club and the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud. At both places, they conducted and recorded interviews that asked people about the way we communicate with one another. Then, based on the interviews with those children and senior citizens, they choreographed routines that were, as I understood it, meant to represent what was said about communication. I was intrigued.
As I entered the Gorecki Family Theater at St. Bens, the first thing that struck me was the casual atmosphere in the theater. Dancers wore typical dancewear, not flashy, elaborate costumes, and Mathew Janczewski, artistic director and founder of ARENA Dances, ran onstage to talk to the small audience as if he were putting on a show at a family reunion.
The first few pieces, which were not part of the Main Street Project, showcased the talents of the dancers. I was extremely impressed by their expressiveness and strength. Having a dance background myself, I understood the difficulty of some of their movements and could tell they knew their stuff.
Their style was modern and contemporary, which can be really fun to watch. However, at times I felt like they were trying too hard. I enjoy when performances throw a curve ball – when they go somewhere completely unexpected and take you by surprise. I could tell that ARENA Dances was attempting to go that route and, at times, they pulled it off successfully. There were moments, though, when I thought their style was a little too dramatic, even for modern dance.
Finally, it was time for the dancers to perform our sneak peek of the Main Street Project. For the next 15 to 20 minutes, clips of interviews were projected on a large screen that was lowered from the ceiling at the back of the stage. The clips were broken up by different routines, and each seemed to represent a certain aspect of communication. For example; a few clips were played of interviewees talking about the effect technology has on communication, then a coinciding dance followed.
I’m typically one to enjoy having to figure out the symbolism or “hidden meaning” of a performance or work of art, but, for the most part, I felt pretty lost watching the Main Street Project. A Q&A followed the show, and it was then I realized that even the parts of the performance I thought I understood were meant to symbolize something else. I didn’t seem to be alone in thinking this, as other audience members spoke out to share their opinion, only to find that certain piece wasn’t intended to give that message.
Dance is something that each person experiences differently. Personally, I like dances that are meant to send a certain message, and am not a huge fan of being left to make up my own meaning. However, it was made clear that the Main Street Project is a working progress that wont be completed until 2014, so I assume there are a lot of changes ahead for the piece.
If you’re someone who likes very symbolic, contemporary dancing that leaves you guessing, I would definitely recommend checking out ARENA Dances.