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In step with downtown: Dance company explores Main Street

Arena Dances will present “The Main Street Project” at 7:30 p.m. April 27, 2018, on the Red Wing stage. Dancers from “The Main Street Project” may be seen on downtown street corners and in the schools next week, in the days leading up to their performance at the Sheldon Theatre. Submitted photo

Arena Dances, a Minnesota modern dance company, asks the question: In an information-driven technological world, does "Main Street" still exist?

Sheldon Theatre Executive Director Bonnie Schock put it another way: "How do we find community when we're behind our cellphones?"

Opinions, reflections and perhaps some answers are explored in "The Main Street Project," a multi-media event that will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 27 at the Sheldon Theatre.

The show is one of two culminating events of "Meet Me on Main," a collaborative effort involving several Red Wing organizations. The finale is a projection show that will take place outside the Sheldon following the dance.

The internationally known company blends modern movement with techno-pop music, folk-inspired songs and filmed interviews with people from diverse communities and backgrounds.

"The work is abstract in form, giving shape to emotions, exploring the depths and the limits of what drives us as humans to connect, to break away, to survive," officials said.

The company was founded in 1995 in Minneapolis by artistic director and choreographer Mathew Janczewski. Born and raised in a small Midwestern town, he was trained at the University of Minnesota and has since created more than 30 dances.

Janczewski also is committed to educating people and making contemporary dance accessible to diverse, intergenerational audiences.

Activities toward that goal are planned in Red Wing during the company's weeklong residency, including workshops with Red Wing High School and Twin Bluff Middle School students along with local senior citizen groups. Janczewski will participate in a variety of public programs.

The dancers also will appear "here and there" in Red Wing's downtown throughout the week. People are encouraged to stop and watch the "Street Corner Dances," and perhaps join in or share their thoughts and feelings about what Main Street was, is and could be.

Arena Dances has toured extensively throughout the United States, and also has performed at dance festivals in Russia and Hungary.

"The Main Street Project," which debuted in the Twin Cities several years ago, was designed to explore how current attitudes, relationships and habits have changed in today's world.

According to the company, "The work illuminates themes of isolation and belonging in contemporary society to ask the question — 'Does Main Street' still exist?"

Schock, who has ties to the Twin Cities dance community, got involved when Arena Dances decided to take the Main Street show on the road.

"The Sheldon signed on as a partner when (Janczewski) applied to the Minnesota State Arts Board for a grant to tour this piece," she said.

"This is Legacy dollars at work," Schock added, referring to Minnesota's 2008 voter-approved Clean Water & Legacy Amendment.

She is confident that anyone who sees the performance will discover the relevance of this dance to everyday life in Red Wing. "This piece is about small-town Main Street," she said.

It can be hard for some people to believe that a dance performance will interest them, Schock said.

"I have found that once people come, they really find so many things in it that they enjoy. It is visceral, evocative and visually exciting."

Tickets to "The Main Street Project" are $20 for adults, $10 for students. It's a Kids Play Free event, which means one child under 14 will be admitted free with one paid adult admission. Visit the box office, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

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