Rebellious Spirits

Yes, there are female ballet choreographers, and Minnesota Dance Theatre’s "Fierce/Feminine" features three of the best.

Fierce/Feminine photo by Erik Saulitis

Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker Fantasy is a holiday tradition for many Twin Cities families. But the venerable company, founded by Loyce Houlton in 1962, goes beyond classical ballet. Every spring, artistic director Lise Houlton says, “We have to find our way back to our dark side”—that is, to her mother’s legacy of adventurous dance.

This spring’s concert is Fierce/Feminine: Dance by Women Choreographers, a program that spans three generations of accomplished women. Dance is dominated by men—as company directors, choreographers, powerful dancers, and funders—so, Houlton says, on the day she and her staff needed to name the show, “We just felt a little rebellious.”

The rebellion starts from Loyce Houlton, whose groundbreaking “craziness and courage” still inspire her daughter and her company. This year, the younger Houlton is bringing back her mother’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, “a really beautiful piece,” a sweet world “seen through the eyes of a child.” Houlton digs into her mother’s rich archive as company depth and funds allow: “I try to bring back as much of her work as I can because I think she did some kick-ass work.”

Among the choreographers in Fierce/Feminine is Emery LeCrone, who is in her 20s but already an acclaimed ballet choreographer. Houlton is lucky to get LeCrone while she can and happy LeCrone “has opportunities to work with great dancers but is still interested in coming here.” In the male-dominated world of ballet choreography, LeCrone is a standout hope for a badly needed new future in ballet.

The show’s final piece comes from Joanie Smith (of Shapiro & Smith Dance) and is, Houlton says, “about as fierce and feminine as it gets.” May 16–19. The Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-206-3636,