Basements can be full of surprises, especially the one in Joe Chvala's house.
On a recent evening his was packed with past and present members of the Flying Foot Forum, all furiously living up to the dance troupe's name. John Munson, Chan Poling and Steve Roehm of jazz trio the New Standards jammed in the corner, keeping the beat on piano, stand-up bass and vibraphone with their sly versions of familiar pop tunes. Costumes, theatrical set pieces, ersatz chandeliers and surplus tap shoes filled the rest of the charmingly worn red and purple studio.
Although the swirl of energy was directed toward preparing this weekend's Flying Foot Forum 20th-anniversary celebration, the raucous gathering of personalities was also like a family reunion/artistic convergence. By the time the curtain rises at the Cowles Center, nearly two dozen dancers, singers and musicians will share the stage thanks to either a longtime or newfound affiliation with artistic director Chvala, the Minneapolis maestro of percussive dance.
Among them are two sets of spouses first united by Chvala's choreography: Megan McClellan and Brian Sostek and Joanne Spencer and Joe Spencer.
"I should start a matching organization," he said prior to rehearsal. "I also have a couple in Sweden that met when I was doing a show over there, so I'm good at that."
While Chvala's knack for love connections is undeniable, he is best known for bold dance-theater projects inspired by Nordic mythology, antic fairy tales, circus spectacle and historic events.
"His work is so varied. I'm singing and dancing and chanting," said Karla Grotting, a company member since its inception. "He's dripping with creativity. I slave over everything I craft, but it just pours out of him with no effort at all. I tease him that if he's got a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant, then he's got a show."
It's tough to capture two decades worth of imagination-run-wild in one show, but Chvala has hit upon a fresh way to merge old favorites with new perspectives: a revue with the New Standards accompanying each dance work as well as playing on their own. Flying Foot Forum repertory selections include Chvala's classic stylized combat ensemble-work "Berserks," and the opening number from "Fireball," based on the Hinckley Fire of 1894, set to music by Peter Ostroushko (who also will perform).
In addition, Chvala invited several choreographers (including Grotting, Sealy and Tamara Kangas Erickson and Jeremy Bensussan) to create work using the New Standards' songs. "Reacting to [this] music was the perfect way to go," said Chvala, who has performed in the trio's Christmas shows and collaborated with pianist Poling on a theatrical work about the Bosnian war, "Heaven."
"It's like we've got little magic wands and we're playing a video game," Poling said. "Omigod, we hit a minor chord and they jump over there! It's really fun."