Our first performance

In the shadow of a giant smokestack, on snow trucked to St. Paul from Northfield, we had our first performance of a snowblower ballet. It was a smaller scale, proof-of-concept version of the full event we plan to produce in January 2018 with more dancers, more snowblowers, more snow and a live symphony orchestra.

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But first there were a few obstacles we had to overcome.

Warm weather forced us off the ice at our original planned venue on White Bear Lake as part of the Art Shanty Projects. Happily, Can Can Wonderland generously offered us the use of their parking lot.

But a snowstorm that was supposed to hit the Twin Cities never materialized. So at the last minute, we jumped into a borrowed Dodge pickup truck and drove to Northfield where we shoveled the truck bed full of snow from a farm field, trucked it back and carefully spread it out on a patch of pavement at the Can Can location in St. Paul.


Then we worried about whether the snow would melt before show time. Whether anyone would show up. Whether the snowblower would start. Whether Tchaikovsky intended his music to be heard above the sound of a two-stroke engine.

Applications for arts grants often ask applicants to define what will amount to a successful performance. Before the performance, I told dancers Anna Roehr and Jarod Boltjes to just be careful. I told them I would consider the performance a success as long as this didn’t happen:


But people came, there was snow to throw, everyone seemed to enjoy Zoé Henrot’s choreography, no one was injured. It worked. If we can raise the money to match our Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant, we’re on to a bigger, better version of the performance in January 2018 on Harriet Island. Contact us at info@snowblowerballet.com if you’d like to help, or see our GiveMN link on our homepage.

Thanks again to Anna, Jarod, Zoé, Heidi Schmidt, Amanda Schroder, Chris Pennington at Can Can Wonderland, Molly Weibel and 1000 Words Photography for the photographs, Bethany Gladhill for the loan of the truck and the Awesome Foundation and the Knight Foundation for financial support.


Song and dance

There are a couple of opportunities to see and hear our artistic partners in the next couple of days. Zoé Henrot and the Saint Paul Ballet will debut their boxing-inspired ballet, “To Billy” at the Cowles Center Friday and Saturday.

And on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra plays in the “Welcome to Minneapolis” concert for the American Choral Directors Association national conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium, with singing by VocalEssence and the Singers, music by composer Dominick Argento and a singalong led by Garrison Keillor.



Did Balanchine ever have to shovel snow into the back of a pickup truck?

Fortunately for him, he never tried to put on a snowblower ballet. First warm weather forced our performance off White Bear Lake for the Art Shanty Projects. Then the snowstorm projected for the Twin Cities this weekend never materialized.

What do you do when you’re scheduled to do a performance at Can Can Wonderland on Saturday? You drive to Northfield and fill up a pickup truck bed with snow and hope it doesn’t melt by show time, 3 p.m., Saturday, in the parking lot just north of the giant smokestack, 755 Prior Ave. N.

Come see the only snowblower ballet in town!

It’s a free preview performance of a bigger, longer snowblower ballet with a live orchestra planned in January 2018. Assuming winter comes back to the Twin Cities. Like the old song goes, there’s no business like snow business.

Thanks, Bethany Gladhill, for the loan of the truck.

Winter is coming.

Just when we thought it was over. But this weekend’s snow storm is predicted to come just in time for a pas de deux with snowblower and snow shovel in our special preview performance of the St. Paul Snowblower Ballet at Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave. N., St. Paul.

3 p.m. Saturday. Free. In the parking lot just north of the giant smokestack. Come for the dance. Stay for the golf. Get a free windshield ice scraper.


You’ll still need it before this month is over. It might even come in handy next month. Look for us in these cozy hats. Maybe you can get one of the performers to sign your ice scraper.








The show will go on — but in a different location

The warm weather this week means we won’t be able to hold our special preview performance on the melting ice on White Bear Lake as part of the Art Shanties Project on Saturday.

But we’ve located an alternate venue right here in St. Paul. We’ll be at Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave. N., St. Paul’s smash hit new indoor Coney Island featuring an artist created mini-golf course and boardwalk in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and the Creative Enterprise Zone.

We’ll be performing 3 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot just north of the giant smokestack on Prior Avenue. Look for our banner on the fence. First 450 spectators get a free windshield ice scraper!

What we talk about when we talk about a snowblower ballet.

We had a rehearsal this weekend in our neighbor’s driveway of the preview performance we’re planning of the St. Paul Snowblower Ballet on Feb.25 at the Art Shanty Projects.

Thanks to the 60 degree weather and the lack of snow, it was literally a dry run.

But you’ll get the idea of what how we’re trying to combine the beauty of ballet with the homely familiarity of shoveling and blowing snow to create a good-humored, accessible but artistic event.

The warm weather may affect our ability to perform on the frozen surface of White Bear Lake as planned. Watch this space for updates.

And remember that this is only a preview of a bigger and better performance we’re planning in January 2018.


Boxing as ballet


Our artistic partner, the St. Paul Ballet, recently previewed some scenes of a new show about boxing and dancing that will have its world premiere at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts in Minneapolis, March 3-4.

“To Billy” is by Zoé Emilie Henrot, the St. Paul Ballet’s artistic director who is also choreographing the Snowblower Ballet.

The inspiration for this performance about the dual disciplines of boxing and ballet came about because the ballet’s studio is next door to the Element Boxing and Fitness gym in St. Paul.

As with the Snowblower Ballet, “To Billy” is supported with a grant from the Knight Foundation Art Challenge. Here’s the full news release:

MINNEAPOLIS – St. Paul Ballet will present a program featuring the World Premiere of To Billy by Zoé Emilie Henrot, along with the contemporary ballet Suite for Strings choreographed by Joseph Morrissey and Off The Base, an original work by Darwin Black. Performances will take place March 3-4 at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts.
To Billy
When St. Paul Ballet relocated their studios, they found themselves next door to a boxing studio and an unlikely partnership was born. Inspired by the real-life collaboration between the adjacent studios of St. Paul Ballet and Element Boxing and Fitness, To Billy offers a simple role reversal plot where a young boxer and a young dancer struggle with expectations and defy them to follow their true passions.
Created by St. Paul Ballet’s (SPB) artistic director Zoé Emilie Henrot, To Billy is a nod to Lee Hall’s Billy Elliot that challenged traditional gender roles in ballet and boxing, but the performance takes its story from the grace and humor of the fledgling relationship between SPB and Element. To Billy illustrates the timeless dream of rising from humble beginnings to “making it,” while setting the stage for future collaborations between SPB and Element as these two communities meld and mature.
St. Paul Ballet’s executive director Lori Gleason said, “During the last two years we have found that the stereotypes we fight in ballet parallel those in boxing – ballet is feminine, boxing is masculine; ballerinas are wispy and self-absorbed, boxers are brawny and tempestuous; etc. The truth is that we’re more alike than we are different. We both value discipline, strength, endless practice, footwork and so much more. We even share the fact that we have pre-performance rituals – in ballet, we prepare our pointe shoes; in boxing, they wrap their hands.”
Suite for Strings
Joseph Morrissey, Director of Dance at Interlochen Center for the Arts, choreographs the contemporary ballet Suite for Strings set to the music of Czech composer Leoš Janáček. A fast and furious piece set to a demanding tempo, Suite for Strings features a beautifully fluid partnering for four couples, making it a thrilling example of ballet’s evolution for today’s artists and audiences.
Off The Base
TU Dance company member and emerging choreographer Darwin Black premieres his original work Off The Base as the final piece of the program. The full company of St. Paul Ballet dances Black’s dynamic choreography exploring vulnerability and fear. With powerful imagery and a primal soundscape, Off The Base admits that to be alive is to be vulnerable and provides a canvas for building a new vocabulary for our fears.
About St. Paul Ballet
Founded in 2002, St. Paul Ballet began as a training school offering pre-professional and recreational ballet at the historic 1680 Grand Avenue “studio above the hardware store.”
St. Paul Ballet began a new chapter in 2013 with the vision to lift the human spirit through the art of ballet under the guidance of Artistic Advisor Christina Onusko and Executive Director Lori Gleason. In 2014, Zoé Emilie Henrot began directing the artist-led company of professional dancers (now six women, four men and three and apprentices) and is establishing a reputation for artistic excellence. The company performs a repertoire of classical and contemporary works, ranging from story ballets to innovative works by local, national and international choreographers that explore new directions for ballet to ensure its continued relevance and make ballet more accessible to its artists and audiences. Learn more at www.spballet.org.
About The Cowles Center
The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts serves as the Twin Cities’ flagship for dance, presenting 20+ productions each season in The Goodale Theater in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis. The Center’s campus includes three performance spaces, education studios, and administrative offices for more than 20 arts and nonprofit organizations – making it a dynamic and vibrant hub for the Twin Cities’ performing arts community and a place where dance can grow and thrive.
At a Glance
WHAT: St. Paul Ballet at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts
WHERE: The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, Goodale Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403
PRICE: $25-$35
March 3 at 7:30 p.m.*
March 4 at 7:30 p.m.
*A post-show discussion will begin immediately following the performance.