The Minnesota Effect

This month the websites minnesotaplaylist.com and mnartists.org are co-publishing a series of articles on what they call “Feeling Minnesota.” The conversation is prompted by the question “does Lutheran practicality plus Scandinavian progressiveness multiplied by snow and divided by passive-aggressiveness add up to an aesthetic?”

It’s an interesting question, and it’s already inspired some strong responses. Critic Quinton Skinner thinks there’s something about the harshness of our winters that drives artists to perservere, while creating a thirst in audiences for visual stimuli in an otherwise barren landscape. Although I think I have to disagree with his claim that “outsized egos deflate here.” Might not our cold weather instill just a smidgen of sinful pride?

Lightsey Darst muses on the “Minnesota style” of the Twin Cities dance scene (which she points out is really the Minneapolis dance scene). Can there be a Minnesota style if almost all the choreographers in town moved here from somewhere else? Yes, she says, because – quoting Kristin Van Loon – “if you choose Minneapolis, you’re ‘okay with hiding under a rock and really making your thing.'”

Darst says the local dance scene is marked by both political consciousness and a deliberate lack of fashion. Dancers here often favor narrative over form (making it easier to justify/explain your work to the masses) and purposely avoid looking too beautiful or too hip.

Tom Poole writes that he sees a lasting influence from the now defunct Theatre de la Jeune Lune on young performance groups who combine movement and theater. So might Minnesota trace its roots all the way back to the Jacques Lecoq school in Paris?

Whatever the Minnesota style is or isn’t, the question is a provocative one. To think that amidst all the diverse art and artists, there is a common thread or quality that unifies them all. What do you think it is?

My vote? “Understated.”

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