‘Dancing Out the Dust’ performance to hit the Rochester Public Market 

click to enlarge Erika Ruegemer, along with creative team Elyssia Primus and Amanda Turk (pictured) will present "Dancing Out the Dust" at the Rochester Public Market on Saturday, Aug. 28. - PHOTO BY CLAIRE SALMON
  • Erika Ruegemer, along with creative team Elyssia Primus and Amanda Turk (pictured) will present "Dancing Out the Dust" at the Rochester Public Market on Saturday, Aug. 28.
A troupe of 26 dancers will descend upon the Rochester Public Market this weekend, but at first, viewers might not know they’re witnessing a performance.

Dressed in black and flesh-toned colors, duos and trios of dancers will be stationed around the outdoor areas of the market, periodically moving in unison, then traveling, with moments of stillness and improvisation between choreography and travel.

When you see the dancers, follow them, says the event’s artistic director, choreographer and dancer Erika Ruegemer.

Pied Piper-like, the troupe members will lead their curious audience, gradually and from many directions, to converge and witness the full group perform together outside of The Yards Collective. Afterward, viewers will be invited to join the dancers at The Yards to collaborate on a freeform wall art project.

The performance, “Dancing Out the Dust,” will take place twice on Saturday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. and again at noon.

The dance’s title is drawn from a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso: “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

“We will express the vulnerability and beauty of being human in a time when community care and partnership are more important than ever for our collective healing and growth,” Ruegemer wrote in the event’s description. “Together we can choose to rise up and dance out of the dust.”

“For me, ‘Dancing Out the Dust’ is like shaking off what we’ve been sitting in for so long,” Ruegemer says, adding that the dance is about connection, and our continuous need for it.

“I often think I can do so much on my own,” she says. “And during the pandemic, especially, living on my own for a long time, trying to run a business, deciding to move across the country — personally I’ve recognized that I need people.”

This Saturday’s performance of “Dancing Out the Dust” and the follow up performances during Rochester Fringe serve as Ruegemer’s farewell to Rochester, before she moves back to her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After spending almost 14 years in Rochester, where she trained and performed with several local dance companies including PUSH Physical Theatre, FuturPointe Dance, Flower City Ballet, and Frazee Feet Dance, and founded Rochester Dance Theatre, Ruegemer has decided it’s time.

Minneapolis is home, where she learned to dance, studied with various choreographers, and founded One Dance Company, which for a time existed in both Minneapolis and Rochester.

But her reasons for returning also have to do also with seeing how she can be useful to a community in pain.

Ruegemer says she went home in the weeks soon after George Floyd was killed by police officers, and that she was struck by the scene.

“I just had to be there,” she says. “And when I was there, I just kept saying another week, another week.”

She says over the years, whenever friends would ask when she was planning to move back to Minnesota, she would always tell them, “I'll know when I know.”

The fallout from Floyd’s death felt like that call to home, she says.

“I feel the city hurting,” she says. “And I know that that goes on everywhere. But there's a draw for me to be there, and maybe to bring the things that I've practiced and done and given to this community, and to see where they fit there. I want to go and listen to what is needed in the community.”

But before that, one last dance for Rochester.

When the dancers converge outside of The Yards, expect some intensity that reflects the collective trauma of the past 18 months.

“​​I didn't want it to just be pretty, I wanted it to be — not mad, but like, stomping on the head of evil,” she says. “To me, that's kind of what it is, dancing right on it and shaking up or moving out that dust, and saying ‘NO’.”

Ruegemer says that the ideas behind “Dancing Out the Dust” were the subjects of conversation between herself and two frequent collaborators, Elyssia Primus and Amanda Turk, who are the creative team for this project. “Especially during this time in the world with so much division in so many ways,” Ruegemer says. “We really have to choose to come together to make change, to make things better, to make sure everybody's okay, to make sure everybody's taking care of.”

She says the piece is “almost like the idea of the phoenix rising up and starting anew, but also recognizing what's there and what's been there. And what we need to reconcile and make better, fix and apologize. All the different layers of it. And that we need each other to do that.”

If the description of the performance sounds less like a formal dance piece than an avant-garde performance that may baffle some unwitting audience members, well, it sort of is. Throughout her years choreographing and performing dance in Rochester, Ruegemer has been as likely to create works, often in collaboration with musicians and visual artists, that erupt in various city settings and take place in and around crowds, as she has on a stage with a clear separation from the audience.

According to her artist statement, Ruegemer’s specialty is “creating temporary worlds within empty spaces or already existing environments with no clear division between the audience and the artists.”

A past performance in this vein was, “Scene & Herd: A Carnival of Animals,” which was performed along East Ave. and Scio St. during the Rochester Jazz Festival in 2012. Ruegemer and members of One Dance Co. wore makeup and bits of costuming to resemble different animals and performed by weaving throughout the crowds, leaping as gracefully as deer, climbing structures, and pantomiming other members of the animal kingdom.

Held in collaboration with The Yards, “Dancing Out the Dust” will take place at the Rochester Public Market on Saturday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. and noon. Free and family-friendly.

“Dancing Out the Dust” will be repeated in September, as part of the 2021 Rochester Fringe lineup. In collaboration with Rochester Contemporary Art Center, the performance will move to the East End on Saturday, Sept 18 and Sept. 25, beginning at 8 p.m. each night. The audience is invited to follow the dancers as they move from the East Ave. and Scio St. area to the park in front of Ong Siraphisut's BREATHE installation at 137 East Ave. And the show is a free, non-ticketed event that is recommended for all ages.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor, and can be reached at [email protected].
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