Off-Leash Area’s “Dancing on the Belly of the Beast”
Karla Grotting, Photo: Scott Pakudaitis

Off-Leash Area’s main stage show “Dancing on the Belly of the Beast” appeared at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis in June 2017, and I’m honored to have collaborated on this production. I wrote the music, and performed live at the show. This has been an intense and probing experience for all of us, one that truly honors the depth and significance of the enormous transition into adult orphanhood.

This is how Off-Leash Area describes the show:

Returning with their first MainStage show of the year, the Sage and Ivey Award-winning Off-Leash Area explores the existential complexity of adult orphanhood in “Dancing on the Belly of the Beast” at The Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.

Inspired by Co-Artistic Director Jennifer Ilse’s own personal experiences as an adult orphan, the show explores the universality of grief and death, and specifically the intense transition into this life stage which we all expect to reach when all of our parents have gone. Beast is a beautiful, ritualistic memorial, speaking to the intricacies of our family relationships, the complexities of grief, the voyage from guilt to gratitude, and finally to a freedom of the spirit.


Off-Leash Area continues its tradition of partnering with specific communities related to its chosen themes to bring authenticity and truth to the creation of its Mainstage productions. “Dancing on the Belly of the Beast” will be performed by a cast of 20 local dancers, all of whom have lost their parents. Additionally, Off-Leash Area conducted movement workshops with members of the general public who have lost close family members as part of their collaboration with grief counselors and local health care institutions.


The cast of 20 was be anchored by the core team of principal dancers: Karla Grotting, Ray Terrill, Christine Maginnis, and Jennifer Ilse. Co-artistic director Paul Herwig will bring his unique interactive vision to the set design, comprised of mobile screens with live choreographed painting, while composer Craig Harris provides an epic sound score.


Jennifer Ilse’s choreography and artistic direction beautifully reflect the gamut of emotions, and the intensity of the experience; Paul Herwig performs the set design live with Jesse Neumann-Peterson, and it is amazing to watch the transformation of the visual realm that accompanies the performers. Heidi Eckwall’s lighting design unifies the diverse elements on the stage to illuminate the story. And the tremendous cast of performers bring astounding intensity, deep emotion and understanding to the theme.


This is the scene Earth and Sky, a reflection of life on earth, and life beyond:


This scene is a sampling of excerpts from scene Emotion Gallery, expressing the mixture of emotions one experiences at the loss of the last parent’s passing.



This scene is Parent Passing Memories, a collection of remembrances of the performers’ last parent passing. 



Read Caroline Palmer’s review of the show in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


Click here for more information about Off-Leash area.