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Dances with roses

Doris Ressl dances her beliefs. The founder of Ressl Dance! company and the Dances on the Lakewalk series believes that dancing should be a part of everyone's lives -- whether they're performing it, taking classes or just watching. So it's a natu...

Doris Ressl dances her beliefs.
The founder of Ressl Dance! company and the Dances on the Lakewalk series believes that dancing should be a part of everyone's lives -- whether they're performing it, taking classes or just watching.
So it's a natural for her to organize Dances on the Lakewalk, one of the most popular summer events in the city.
At this time of year, the Rose Garden is coming into its own, and it's a perfect time to bring a blanket or lawn chair and watch beautiful, lithe bodies gliding through a garden in fragrant bloom in time to live music.
"These spaces call for it," Ressl said. "To see movement in the Rose Garden and to hear music -- I think it adds another flower to what is already there."
Making art that is accessible to the public is another issue here, she said.
Dance, as an art form, she said. It is a shared community event, but it often occurs in buildings, admission required.
So, "It's important to bring dance to the public and not always expect them to go to the theater," she said. "I want to bring dance to where people go. And the spaces are so intriguing."
In past years, Dances on the Lakewalk has been held on the beach at Endion Station, at Lakewalk Place and in the garden.
This year, the performances will be concentrated in one place -- the lawns between hundreds of blooming roses with Lake Superior as the backdrop.
And it won't be just Ressl Dance! who will be performing on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Earlier this year, Ressl, who taught dance at UMD for 11 years, put out a call for choreographers throughout Minnesota to participate in the event.
Hijack, a dance duo from the Twin Cities, will be performing for the first time, as will Joan Najbar, who will bring three dancers with her from Ely.
Twin Cities dance choreographer Christopher Watson, who has participated in previous Dances on the Lakewalk with his company, will perform as well.
Locally, Lila Coates, who is the principal teacher for the Minnesota Ballet, has also choreographed a dance for the event. She and Leanne Vecchione, who has danced with the Minnesota Ballet, will perform her piece.
Dave Hagedorn and Dave Schmalenberger, who play drums, vibraphone and marimba, will accompany the dancers, as will Bernadette Savage, who plays the Celtic harp.
What will people see?
A variety of works in modern dance, Ressl said. Coates, for example, is doing a piece called "Entropy."
"Her choreography is usually very neoclassical," Ressl said. "She's really experimenting with a more narrative form here."
In the dance, Coates deals with the issues of women who have children and jobs and are trying to juggle a life that can become chaotic, entropic.
"The piece is very whimsical," Ressl said. "She's exploring a new thing here."
The two Twin Cities dancers with "Hijack" are "very, very physical dancers," Ressl said. She described their dancing as risky because the pair uses each other for difficult lifts. It's energetic dancing and a counterpoint to some of the other dances, she said.
Joan Najbar is "very musical," and her dance, "Garden of Roses," will reflect that interest, Ressl said.
Ressl Dance! will perform two works: "Rose Allegro" and "A Thorn in My Side."
"Thorn" is a composition set around a bench in front of the gazebo.
Ressl said in the past she hasn't been comfortable using props in her choreography, but that changed last year when she created a dance for the Seven Choreographer's Plunge, which was performed at the DECC.
She said she was inspired by seeing a
weaving at the Minnesota Art Institute created by a German artist in the 1920s. In it, there was a beautiful bench painted with art nouveau roses.
{IMG2}"I just loved the picture," she said, and created a dance, "Fragrant Memory," around the idea. It was a powerful piece and one of the most popular dances at the "Plunge' event.
For this event, Ressl turns to benches once again, built by her husband, Gordon Manary, and uses them as a backdrop for both dances.
"Thorn" is a playful dance. "It's like a child's game," she said. Dancers Ramona Treuer and Matthew Harrison will join her in the piece.
Ressl has also created a dance she calls "Rose Allegro," that focuses on friendship and a garden party. "It's more a visual, abstract feeling than literal," she said and benches are used here as well.
What's important to Ressl and the other dancers is that people come and enjoy themselves in the unique environment of the Rose Garden.
"The more dances we have, the more people will go see them," she said. "And you can't beat the price -- it's free."

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