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Flying Foot Forum presents two nights of Works in Progress

While in residence at Park Square Theatre with French Twist, their homage to all things Parisian, Flying Foot Forum will also be presenting two nights of Works in Progress. On Mondays, July 2 and 9, at 7:30 pm Flying Foot Forum premieres their film-in-progress Split Rock Shuffle and a new work-in-progress for the stage based on Dreamland: The Novel by Kevin Baker. Company members will also introduce their own works in progress on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage. The entrance to this event is pay what you can.

The Glamorous Vampires in James J. Hill House
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

For the last two years, Flying Foot Forum has been steadily working on a new film project called Split Rock Shuffle, which follows dancer Galen Higgins during a wild day spent chasing and being chased by various people. The chase motif serves as the common connector to scenes filmed at many well-known Minnesota locales, such as the American Swedish Institute, James J. Hill House, St. Olaf College, Canal Park Lighthouse, SS William Irvin Freighter, Lake Superior Railroad Museum and, most significantly, Split Rock Lighthouse.

The Silly Chefs of La Cuisine at St. Olaf College
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

With Steve Campbell in tow as collaborator and camera man, Flying Foot Forum’s founder and artistic director Joe Chvala initiated the adventure to make this low budget/low tech film, learning as they went along. But Joe was not totally inexperienced, having worked in Italy during the summer of 2015 as a choreographer and dancer on a new feature film, Smitten, written and directed by the Academy Award-winning writer Barry Morrow. From that gig, Joe had picked up some useful technical know-how while himself steadily becoming smitten with filmmaking.

A feast for the eyes in “Split Rock Shuffle”
(Photo by Steve Campbell)

Joe’s approach was further influenced by the cinematic genius of French filmmaker, director, writer and actor Jacques Tati, whom Joe described as “the Charlie Chaplin of France, but not.” Tati managed to raise sight-gag comedy to a level of high art in his total of six feature and seven short films. You can also spot his influence in Tati-admirer Wes Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, which garnered nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, in 2014.

Besides Split Rock Shuffle, Flying Foot Forum will unveil yet another new work in progress–this one inspired by Dreamland, author Kevin Baker’s work of historical fiction set in early 20th-century New York during the Dreamland (a Coney Island amusement park) and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fires. In this case, audiences will experience a barebones staged reading with no sets or costumes.

Dreamland is a very timely story,” said Joe. “It’s about immigrants and people who are treated as outsiders by society and the terrible conditions they must struggle through in order to live. It’s about the illusion of a land of golden dreams and what people do when they realize that the promise of a dream land is not the reality of the world.”

Throughout each Monday evening, company members also plan to introduce their own new works in progress. These include a piece set to folk music by Karla Grotting, a tap-ballet combination by Jeremy Benussan, a flamenco dance by Molly Kay Stoltz, a drumming duet by Rush Benson and Charles Robison and more.

Be sure to catch Flying Foot Forum’s French Twist – Playing through July 15 – Information here

Come prepared to see the unexpected!

Flying Foot Forum celebrates an American’s View of Paris

PARK SQUARE PRESENTS FRENCH TWIST
Flying Foot Forum’s 25th Anniversary production celebrates
an American’s view of Paris from the Can-Can to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage is once again the home to Flying Foot Forum’s signature storytelling with FRENCH TWIST, a cabaret of gorgeous music, theatrical storytelling and percussive dance set in a Paris Nightclub that runs from June 22 to July 15, 2018. This 25th anniversary production starts with the premise of the company’s original production which premiered at The Guthrie in 2008, but now includes new characters, melodic new songs and inventive dances. Director/choreographer Joe Chvala fuses vaudeville, tap, cabaret, follies, opera, and percussive art forms to evoke American’s wildest imaginings of life in the City of Light.

The piece opens with “All Creatures Are Now Merry-Minded,” a riotous medley of caricatures of familiar characters from a myriad of operas. With boundless energy, the company dances its way through an amazing variety of classical music, including a Bach fugue danced on and off chairs. Act II introduces a medium who conjures up the spirits of bygone Paris, from the jazz artists of the 1920’s American expat scene to Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. “It’s eclectic, fun, wild, and of course there’s the Can-Can,” says founding Artistic Director Joe Chvala. “Some of us oldsters in the company have been doing the Can-Can for decades, so we have to remember to give the young dancers the truly gymnastic moves and try not to kill ourselves,” he laughs.

One of the new numbers depicts Loie Fuller, considered by many to be the godmother of modern dance, even before Isadora Duncan. Loie was an American actress who became a sensation at the Exposition Universelle with her Serpentine Dance, using long flowing fabric and colored stage lights. In Joe Chvala’s talented hands, her swathes of fabric suddenly turn into the sky above the city and the setting for a great tap number in the spirit of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron from the 1950s movie AMERICAN IN PARIS. There will even be a little Flamenco woven into the evening courtesy of Molly Kay Stoltz of Zorongo Flamenco.

“This show is perfect for the Boss Stage,” says Chvala. “It transforms beautifully into an intimate nightclub setting, as we learned with PASSING THROUGH PIG’S EYE last summer. More than that, the lobby, its proximity to the Dakota’s Vieux-Carrė jazz club and the whole ambiance of the Historic Hamm Building put you in the right mood for the atmosphere we’re creating.”

The fact that Flying Foot Forum is celebrating 25 years comes almost as a surprise to its founder. “What became a company started first as a big performance, and then we just kept going,” Chvala says. “Once we established ourselves as a company, I remember going to the 20th anniversary concert of an African Dance company and thinking ‘I wonder if we’ll ever make it 20 years.’ It’s truly wonderful that three of our original dancers and musical collaborators like rhythm-wizard Peter O’Gorman are still creating with us. Each generation of new dancers, like the amazing Brandon Jackson who plays La Bijoux in French Twist – keep adding to our aesthetic as they bring their unique energies to the process.”

Flying Foot Forum’s unique style of percussive dance continues to ripple out through choreographers and companies in Minnesota and beyond. “Over the years, we’ve worked with so many great dancers and choreographers like Brian Sostek and Tamara Kangas Erickson,” confirms Chvala. “Sometimes I see a show and think ‘I wonder if that idea was inspired by something we did?’ After 25 years, we are still finding new ways to explore our art form. It’s been a tremendous gift to have this crazy idea take off.”

***

Celebrate 25 years of Flying Foot Forum with their new production of FRENCH TWIST, featuring the fabulously furious feet of founding members Jan Campbell, Joe Chvala, Karla Grotting and veterans Jeremy Bensussan, Peter O’Gorman and Charles Robison are joined by Brandon Jackson, Falicia Cunningham, Molly Kay Stoltz, Kaleena Miller and Michael Hasenmueller.

The creative team for the production includes Cynthia Forsgren (Costume Designer), Robin McIntyre (Scenic Designer) and Eric Jensen (Music Director)

Flying Foot Forum’s FRENCH TWIST Performance Schedule: Previews begin Friday, June 22, and continue through Thursday, June 28. June 29 is Opening Night, and the run continues through July 15. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for Saturday and Sunday matinees, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are on Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 408 St. Peter Street.

There will also be two nights of works in progress created by Joe Chvala and company members including a work in progress premiere of a Flying Foot Forum film project Mondays, July 2 and 9.

Time Travel with Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum

Flying Foot Forum

Want to travel through Saint Paul’s past, present and future without strapping into a time machine or wrinkling through a tesseract? Then get ready to come on over to Park Square Theatre to learn how to do just that, but on your own power.

From August 25 to September 11, Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum will perform their time-bending new production, Passing Through Pig’s Eye, which they describe as “a roving performance of wildly entertaining and eclectic dance, music and comedy” for all ages. Audience groups will be led to six different locations throughout downtown Saint Paul “where performances happen and history is revealed in intriguing, percussive ways.”

Flying Foot Forum founder Chvala himself is a history buff who holds a philosophical outlook on time. “Everything we do counts. Everything we do changes history,” he says, noting how in just a split second you may or may not be hit by a passing car depending on what you happened to be doing.

“We are all just passing through this world, with limited time,” he adds. “All we can do is appreciate the time that we have.”

With the time that he’s had, Chvala created Flying Foot Forum in 1991 as a unique percussive dance company. The dancers make percussive music with their bodies while performing step dance, tap, clogging, hambone or any rhythmic manner of movement; with their voices while reciting verse, singing or noise making; or in relation to the works of musicians and instrumentalists. In Passing Through Pig’s Eye, the Forum will also feature some less percussive contemporary dances as contrast.

Joining Chvala in Passing Through Pig’s Eye will be some of the most amazing dancers, singers, musicians and actors in the Twin Cities: Rush Benson, Jeremy Bensussan, Ayana Dubose, Brian Evans, Karla Grotting, Galen Higgins, Betsy Hutsing, Scott Keever, Adam Kiesling, Michelle Lemon, Natalie Nowytski, Peter O’Gorman, Charles Robison, Colleen Somerville-Leeman, Molly Stoltz and Darrius Strong.

Come to enjoy the time of your life! And we’ll even promise you a safe return to 2016.

Flying Foot Forum II

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