'Wasteland' is teen life set to music, dance

Posted: Jan 30, 2013, 7:33 pm
By Tom Weber
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

If you go

What: "Teenage Wasteland" by Minnesota Ballet Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8, 7 p.m. Feb. 9, 2 p.m. Feb. 10.

Where: Mayo Civic Center Presentation Hall, 30 Civic Center Drive S.E., Rochester.

Tickets: $24 VIP, $18 adults, $13 students, available at the civic center box office (no service fee), and through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000.

Primary dancers are guest professionals Bjorn Bolinder, Phillip Ollenburt and Arron Dala Villa, with local high school seniors Brigitte Benyei, Baihly Birdseye, Miriam Huettner, Allie Round and Ashley DeWeerdt.
Miriam Huettner was barely in middle school the first time she danced in what became "Teenage Wasteland."

Now, she's a high school senior and will take part next week in her final "Teenage Wasteland."

"It grew into this entire production," Huettner said. "It has continued to add different aspects of teenage life. I've kind of grown along with it."

Huettner is one of five senior dancers who will be a part of this edition of "Teenage Wasteland," which will be presented by Minnesota Ballet Theatre Feb. 8 through Feb. 10 at Mayo Civic Center. The show, which combines popular music and jazz dance to tell the story of modern teenage life, is directed by Ellen Huston and Jeremy Plummer, and is based largely on input from local teens.

Topics addressed include relationships, sexual orientation, bullying, self-confidence and tolerance. The new production is an updated and expanded version of the "Teenage Wasteland" shows presented in 2006, 2007 and 2009. The audience will see what goes on in the classroom, in the hallways, and even in the girls' restroom.

"It has serious moments, but like any good piece of entertainment, it entertains first and touches people, their funny bones and their serious bones," Huston said.

For the dancers, "Teenage Wasteland" is an opportunity to reflect the world in which they live everyday.

"We cover so much of the teenage life and what teens are going through," said Baihly Birdseye, another senior dancer.

But that doesn't mean the show is just for teens, she said. "If you're in middle school or an adult, you'll take something away from the show," she said. "It gives you a perspective on what others are going through."

Dancers will portray typical teen characters — the nerd, the art freak, the cheerleader, the sweetheart, among them. They're required to develop the characters and present that person through dance throughout the entire show. Brigitte Benyei, for example, will be "Vanity."  "I have to be the mean and popular girl in the school," she said. "To get into my character, I looked at who the popular girls in school are and how they dress and act."

In all, 20 local teens and four professional guest artists will perform in "Teenage Wasteland." Among them are high school seniors Huettner, Benyei, Birdseye, Allie Round, Mallory McCartney and Ashley DeWeerdt. "These are some of the best dancers Rochester has ever produced," Huston said.

"Most of us are classically trained, so getting to do jazz is a great opportunity," Birdseye said.

The show is also a stretch for Huston, who finds herself dealing with music and topics far removed from her career in ballet.

"I have to push myself," she said. "I look at this as an artistic challenge for me."

"Some of the numbers in the show are bold," Huettner said. "They talk about things people don't always like to talk about."

The dancers, though, say they're hardly fazed by the material. "It doesn't really surprise me," said Benyei. "This is my senior year and I've seen everything that goes on in school. We've lived through it all."

Now they're going to dance through it all.

Bookmark and Share

A rehearsal for Teenage Wasteland is held recently at the Rochester Athletic Club. The dance performance runs Feb. 8, 9 and 10 at the Mayo Civic Center.

(More photos from this story)

Ellen Huston, Teenage Wasteland Artistic Director

(More photos from this story)

Jeremy Plummer, Teenage Wasteland choreographer and director

(More photos from this story)

Local News Heading

(More Entertainment Stories)