Interview with Mathew Janczewski about “TWITCH” and his brilliant celebration full of life and spectacle.

Resident company ARENA Dances, led by choreographer Mathew Janczewski, takes the Southern Theater’s stage for a celebration 20 years in the making. “TWITCH” is loud, bright, and a dazzling display of vibrant dance in the Twin Cities.

Mathew is featured frequently in the production he choreographed and envisioned entitled “TWITCH” which is only one of a string of productions ARENA Dances has slotted for this year. He’s very busy creating all over Minneapolis and St. Paul, but he took some time to chat with us about what inspires him to create.

QARENA Dances is celebrating 20 years, and we congratulate you and your artistic partners on a fantastic career, but were did this all start for you?

Mathew Janczewski: When I was a young boy, idolizing Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Bob Fosse and other dancers on television, movement was magical. I began making dances in my garage at the age of 16.

Q The premise of ARENA Dances, and this celebration is in a very close way associated with your career. Can you speak to how much your personal life flows through your creative process?

MJ: Living to me, is doing my work, creating dance. This process swings like a pendulum between concept dances addressing issues of family, identity, and socially conscious matters to sheer, direct investigations of energy, velocity and stillness. The work I create is deeply meaningful to me with a love of music, spatial patterns, intricate partnering and technical prowess while each dancer performs with honesty.

Q “TWITCH” is certainly not your first production on the Southern’s stage. Many people who come to see this production will be familiar with your work, and with the magic of our stage. What might people be surprised by this time?

MJ: I am actually getting to dance with the company! The music in “TWITCH” is an essential feature. It will be the premiere of “Picturing That Day/Candy Box” a quartet commissioned by the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation. It feels very special to me, and a very important work and I am excited to continue beyond this show — come see it in its infancy, be a part of the conversation of its creation!
I also want to say that, these dancers are having fun out there! It is a fun show, where the audience is laughing and having a good time enjoying the music and the dancing, the audience will see that and the experience is very participatory in this way.

Q Can you speak more to the premiere of a work within this work, how will these two efforts work together assuming that the music will have a life of its own in the future?

MJ: Yes. Back in 2003 I had a vision, a piece in Gold Sequined Costumes to George Gershwin music. Thankfully I journal a lot and I revisited it as inspiration for “Picturing That Day/Candy Box”. This work, is being commissioned by Kevin J. Mossier, who used to own the RSVP gay cruise ship line. This influenced what I initially started to make as I was thinking of the cruise ship’s entertainment similarities I saw to popular broadway show-tunes and choreography. I then was struck by his activism and voice, which led me to stumble upon the Walker’s gallery presentation of Jim Hodges a few years ago. And all the pieces of the puzzle came together during our creation. Hodges’ sense of inevitability and attention to a sensory experience became very important to me, I also really respect his activism with the AIDS epidemic as well.

Q You’ve been riding a lot of creative energy lately, how does “TWITCH” link up with your year-long celebration?

MJ: It is such an honor to celebrate our 20th. We are nearing its end with just 6 months left before the finale celebration at The Fitzgerald on November 11th.

Janczewski and ARENA Dances have a few more performances left in their run of “TWITCH” at the Southern Theater. Tickets are still available for performances, and members of our member driven ARTshare program will be admitted for free in addition to Four Humors Theatre’s production of “We Gotta Cheer Up Gary”.

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