It occurs to me that, though dancers often reflect on the beauty of our art form, we do not so often consider its remarkable power. Six years ago, I was lucky to experience firsthand how dance can be a pathway to friendship—friendship among dancers, within audiences, even between dancer and audience. It was September 2007. I was seated far back and almost entirely to the left of the Grand Tier in New York City Center Theater. Still, I was thrilled to be a part of that night’s audience—the Fall for Dance Festival had arrived!
The house lights dimmed and I settled into my seat with expectancy, looking forward to witnessing an inspiring night of dance. Each dance work I saw that night moved me. Yet, the last performance of the evening was the only one I remember. They called themselves Buckets and Tap Shoes. Led by co-founders and brothers Rick and Andy Ausland, this intense and multi-talented ensemble of Minnesotan musicians, percussionists, and rhythm tap dancers was a commanding, intoxicating force. Having never dreamt that five-gallon paint buckets and tap shoes could manifest such joy, I watched, spellbound, as these radiant, creative performers inhabited a thrilling space somewhere between hyper-precision and wildness.
As the curtain fell, I turned to a friend who was seated on my right and said, “We’re going to make friends with them.” Fueled by inspiration, admiration, and a taste for adventure, we hurried down to the post-performance reception and found the Auslands. Somehow, we convinced them to leave the crowd of fans in the lobby of City Center so that they could go eat vegetarian quesadillas with us. I haven’t spent a more magical night at the theater since then.
That is, until now. It’s February 2013 and I find myself backstage in a dressing room at Minneapolis’s Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts Theater. I hear the performance manager’s voice crackle over the intercom, “thirty minutes to curtain, the house is now open.” Shouting a quick “Merde!” I hurry out to the theater lobby and over to the will call desk, where I pick up my ticket for that night’s performance.
I enter the house and the air is filled with… balloons! Children and adults volley the multicolored globes across the theater, laughing and smiling at each other all the while. Thinking that it would be less fun—maybe even rude— to spend the next ten minutes sitting quietly in my seat, I join in. Instantly, I am refreshed, and I find myself wondering why more dance performances don’t start this way. Going to the theater is supposed to be a fun, community-building activity, right? Balloons continue popping up around me as the house lights begin to dim. A familiar sense of expectancy buzzes within me and I settle into my seat and I feel at home.
Tonight, six years after having seen them perform for the first time, I am honored and thrilled to watch Rick and Andy Ausland unfold their DREAMS. Drawing from material found in fifteen years’ worth of dream journals, sketch pads, and spiral notebooks filled with ideas for a “dream show,” DREAMS is the Auslands’ most ambitious project to date. They teamed up with musical director Tony Braasch and a cast of talented dancers and musicians to create and perform a brand new, multidisciplinary work—fourteen imaginative vignettes that explore the language and limits of dreams through music, dance, and theater. Soft drumbeats and a velvety smooth voice wind their way into my ears, and the show begins. I’m eager to see my friends’ dream world.
Dance has an uncanny ability to unite people, to create a caring, supportive, happy community. I think that, at least in some sense, that is the sort of world we endeavor to create. And so, I extend this suggestion to dancers and dance makers; explore our dance world and meet your neighbors. The friendships you find will enrich your lives beyond measure…and who knows what sort of beauty you might bring to the world together.