Modern dance crashes the corporate lunch break

SARAH HARPER | Updated 2/10/2014

The “Luncheon” series opens up in downtown Minneapolis' City Center for Valentine's Day week.

Kimberly Lesik kicked off the "Luncheon" series Monday at City Center.
Sarah Harper

This week in downtown Minneapolis' City Center, businesspeople finally have something other than their smartphones to stare at during their daily dash to grab lunch. Jaime Carrera is hosting a modern dance series called “Luncheon” this Valentine's Day week, ushering modern dancers onto a dance floor in the atrium from about 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day.

“Mostly what I wanted was for people to completely stop and be engaged by this thing that they might not even understand. I felt like that happened today,” Carrera said after Monday's performance.

With her light blue button-down, turquoise work pants and name-tag lanyard, Monday's performer was every part the skyway everywoman. But on second glance, Kimberly Lesik looked a little different, staring off into the distance and moving very slowly. When she made her way to the dance floor, her moves initially mimicked exercise routines — lunges, clenched fists and some cheerleading moves.

The local performer said she was surprised by how much freedom she felt in this unconventional space.

“Everyone's in their own little world — maybe they paused to watch, maybe they didn't,” Lesik said. “I tried to think that maybe these people are thinking about work, so I can do whatever I want.”

As the music changed and she shed her blazer, name-tag lanyard and socks, Lesik loosened up more and more, transforming from the lunch-break drone to the exercise-class drone to the very much non-drone modern dancer, twisting and shaking to the music.

On the first day of the series, not many people were in the City Center specifically to see the performance, but people stopped to stare on their way to Office Depot, hanging over the railing on the second floor and smiling as they came down the escalators. That's the point. This kind of performance hits a sweet spot — it's convenient and it's a welcome interruption to the day-to-day. The "Luncheon" series fits in nicely as part of the Made Here initiative by the Hennepin Theatre Trust to get more art on Hennepin Avenue (see also: the art displays in vacant Block E storefronts).

Later this week, older and more established dancers might mean bigger crowds. Sally Rousse, who will be celebrating her 50th birthday and 24th year of involvement with the James Sewell Ballet this March, is performing Wednesday. And Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon are scheduled for Thursday — as the duo HIJACK, they've been dancing together since their college days. This past December, they celebrated twenty years together in a weekend of performances at the Walker Art Center.

The Luncheon series is free, open to the public and just about as accessible as modern dance can be.

The performance schedule for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: Laurie Van Wieren and Jennifer Arave

Wednesday: Sally Rousse

Thursday: HIJACK (Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon)

Organizer Jaime Carrera