Mooring Cells, Mississippi River
Original score composed for the site by David Means.
Dancers: Margo Van Ummersen, Kaori Mizoguchi, Suzanne River, Kay Tani, Lisa Buckholtz, Bev Sonen, Alice Bloch, Maggie Perrier, and Jim Malone
A dance on the mooring cells of the Mississippi River to celebrate the Summer Solstice.
Marylee’s remarks about this Dance in her Marian Chace Lecture:
In 1985, during my very first year at the University of Minnesota teaching DMT and LMA, I felt so proud to be sitting at the dance department faculty meeting. The head of the department asked, ‘‘Who will choreograph for the faculty recital in February?’’ Everyone slunk down in their chair, but I was eager and said I would. I asked twelve dancer friends of mine, and three weeks before the show, I was kicked off because my dancers seemed under-rehearsed. I went home devastated. Luckily, one of the visiting artists told me to just perform it when my dancers were ready. Another lucky thing was that one of my dancers was an architectural historian. She suggested performing it at the Landmark Center, in the interior courtyard. So, the next month, the spring equinox was on a Sunday and the show went on. Since the dance was only 11 min, we asked the audience to watch it once at eye-level, and then a second time from the fourth or fifth floor (Fig. 2). When I saw the video, taken from above, it really opened my eyes. I would never go back to the proscenium stage. For me, a truly mortifying event ended up changing my life.
A few months later, as I was walking over a bridge across the Mississippi River, I spied round concrete structures in the water, which I later learned were called “mooring cells,” used for large ships. I thought to myself, ‘‘Wouldn’t those make marvelous stages, one dancer on each?’’ After quite a bit of research, I found out that the United States Army Corps of Engineers owned those structures. When I telephoned, without thinking I asked if I could speak to someone with an open mind. The person on the other end said, ‘‘Oh you must mean Roger.’’ I invited Roger out to lunch, and told him of my vision of placing dancers in the river. He told me to send him two or three pages and he would ‘‘kick it upstairs.’’ It was nearly a year later when I answered the phone and some guy said, ‘‘They said yes.’’
‘‘Who is this?’’ I said.
‘‘It’s Roger, and the Colonel said yes!’’
Not only did they end up saying yes but also they ended up ferrying the dancers out to the mooring cells. There were nine dancers, one on each mooring cell. They wore costumes the shape of the mooring cells (Fig. 3).
This performance was the first annual Solstice River event. Between 1985 and 2016?, I choreographed eighteen? Such performances, always on the summer solstice and focusing on that spot on the Mississippi River.