Shortly after moving into the Macalester neighborhood of St. Paul, photographer Caroline Yang walked into her neighborhood hardware store and wondered at the sounds of pounding feet from overhead.

She soon found out what she was hearing was a rehearsal of the Saint Paul Ballet; now she knows the company intimately.

“Backstage” Caroline Yang

Yang spent close to a year as an “embedded” photographer, documenting the ballet’s transition to an artist-led organization. In order to keep the company financially viable, young dancers were stepping up to take over the marketing, finances and other administrative work.

“They’re all working at least two jobs to make this work.,” said Yang. “And they’re charismatic. There’s something really magnetic about it, and I just wanted to be around that. It’s inspiring, and at this point they’re like family to me.”

“Sunday Class” Caroline Yang

A selection of Yang’s photographs are the subject of a show that opens this weekend at Grand Central restaurant. She captures the beauty and grace of the professional dancers, as well as the giddy enthusiasm of young students. Less easy was capturing the devotion and exhaustive effort that goes into their training.

“The second week I was shooting it was during their holiday performances. They float across the stage, but once they come off the stage they’re heaving,” said Yang. “They’re really great athletes, and that’s one of the misconceptions that I’d like to dispel – that they’re just these willowy princesses. They’re trained to make it look effortless.”

“Snow Fight” Caroline Yang

One of those charismatic dancers is Brittany Adams, who also handles the company’s public relations. Adams says while it’s been a challenging year, the company is in a much better place. It’s expanded to a second space in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, and the financials are improving.

Adams says she hopes the photo exhibition gives the public a window into the ballet’s very intense world.

“We’re really chasing our dreams,” said Adams. “We’re doing it for ourselves, creating a company and world for ourselves where we can live as artists. We didn’t have a lot of help and we’re all really young, but we didn’t let that stop us.”

“Jarod” Caroline Yang

The collaboration between Yang and the Saint Paul Ballet also led to “Take Back the Tutu,”  a photo project for Emily Program and National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which focused on the strength and athleticism of dancers’ bodies.

“The Saint Paul Ballet Project” opens Saturday with a reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will feature a performance by Saint Paul Ballet Company dancers. Yang says she has a second group of photos waiting in the wings once this first exhibition is finished.

“It feels like something we’re working on together,” said Yang. “It’s less about the angle I’m going to shoot from, it’s about being there for moments that come up, and watching them grow.”

“Embrace” Caroline Yang

The Bookcase, an independent Wayzata bookstore that has been in business for more than 50 years, will close soon.

Owner Charlie Leonard broke the news in an e-mail and on Facebook, telling customers that changing shopping habits, as well as local redevelopment and road construction, caused a dramatic drop in sales.

“It was a drop that we hoped we could weather,” Leonard wrote, “as we have a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm for what the ‘new’ Wayzata is going to look like in a few years. But, in the end, we can no longer afford to stay in business.”

Leonard said the oldest Twin Cities independent bookstore will close its doors on Oct 18.

 

While Garrison Keillor is an icon in the world of radio, local theater critics have found his skills as a playwright lacking. His show “Radio Man,” now on stage at the History Theatre, left critics wanting to know more about the man, and less about the show.

The cast of “Radio Man” at the History Theatre
(Photo by Scott Pakudaitis)

From John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com:

I kept wanting to make connections between the Host’s past and what was going on in the PHC scenes. But Radio Man wouldn’t let me… Also, Radio Man is long, very nearly 3 hours. Do we really need so much Lives Of The Cowboys? And three (at least) quartets? There’s fabulous material lurking here, but I feel that playwright Keillor needs to work further on the script: be more generous with the autobiographical material. Give the Host a clearer arc.

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

Pearce Bunting, an intuitive actor, has located the cadence of his subject’s voice, the dour and blank face. His slightly unnatural gestures, though, caused me to wonder if he isn’t completely sure what is going on inside the character, largely because the playwright doesn’t want to tell him. We don’t learn much about the guy named Keillor. We see more of a “Radio Man” who prefers to live behind his creation of fiction.

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

“Radio Man” — which is being marketed as a behind-the-microphone peek at “Prairie Home Companion” and the man who created it — is really neither of those things. Keillor dribbles out personal information with an eye-dropper. There’s little discussion about the creation or evolution of the show and even less insight into its enigmatic creator, except for the somewhat discomforting conclusion that there’s but a hair’s breadth of difference between Garrison Keillor the radio-show character and Garrison Keillor the human being.

“Radio Man” runs through Oct. 26 at the History Theatre. Have you seen it? What did you think?