Denise Armstead's DA Dance troupe performs "Ignition," a piece that will be brought to the Dreamery Rural Arts Initiative stage this Friday, July 18. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Denise Armstead's DA Dance troupe performs "Ignition," a piece that will be brought to the Dreamery Rural Arts Initiative stage this Friday, July 18. SUBMITTED PHOTO

DreamAcres farm near Wykoff will be the setting for something very special this weekend. A dance group, Thunderground, will be hosting a performance of an original dance and a master class in dance as part of an Open Space artist retreat.

Dreamery Rural Arts Initiative artist and proprietor Eva Barr will welcome Minneapolis dance artist Denise Armstead and her troupe to DreamAcres, the community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. The acreage will serve as the stage for Thunderground, the performance of Armstead’s dance, “Ignition,” and a master class in dance, set for this weekend, Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20.

“The way it’s modeled, the idea is that it’s an arts retreat for all ages. Every other year, it takes a slightly different shape – one year it’s field classes and this year, it’s Thunderground, our camp based on the ‘Open Space’ concept,” Barr explained. “The format is that people come together under the loose theme of ‘the arts,’ and there’s time for creative reflection and generation of ideas…the goal is that people come with a willingness to be led by their peers and share themselves.”

Barr is pleased to welcome participants to Thunderground, a retreat that “takes the shape of what people want it to be.” She pointed out the weekend’s activities can encompass anything at all, from meditation and tai chi to composing poetry, creating puppets or learning to dance with Armstead during the master class.

A person can simply join and do nothing at all, added Barr as an alternative. Maybe one would rather enjoy sitting outside under the trees and sky — for the sake of absorbing the nuances of the farm.

Barr observed the format allows for liberation, empowerment, affirmation and most importantly, “a level playing field,” since the participants – who do not have to be considered artists of any kind, meaning that in the end, everyone is an artist of some persuasion — arrive with equal opportunities to express their creativity.

Barr greatly anticipates the arrival of Armstead and her troupe because this is the first time a dance troupe has come to present a performance as part of any workshop at the farm.

In turn, Armstead is delighted to share her enthusiasm for dance with a rural audience, as it isn’t often that she, a city dweller with a fascination for horses, and her dancers, also city dwellers, get to leave the Twin Cities dance community.

The are looking forward to the opportunity to perform for individuals who may not ever have seen their form of dance expression, particularly “Ignition,” the piece she choreographed while working with women residing at the Women-of-Nations shelter in the Twin Cities.

“Ignition,” according to Armstead, is a translation of the women’s experiences as they dealt with violence, but also a journey set to country and blues tunes.

She explained, “I’m a horse gal, and I have wide connections to farmers and horse people. I want to bring something wonderful and provocative to the stage — something that takes people on an emotional journey — that lends itself to peoples’ lives and what they might be going through.”

Armstead hopes to take advantage of working in the DreamAcres performance barn and on the farm’s hillsides, reshaping the way she and her dancers relate to the steps they take.

“We get to be experimental on a very small site,” she added. “How we adapt the work to show everybody how we do it in the boundaries we have. It will be challenging, but a fun challenge.”

She looks forward to the master class as well. “The next day, Saturday, we’ll be teaching the master class…there will be a great amount of freedom for people of all levels to participate,” Armstead added. “We want to see them participate, to challenge themselves and plunge into something they’ve never explored before, but in the environment of safety.”

Barr invited potential participants to venture out to the farm and take part in “what they’re interested in…no one is obligated to do anything, because they can join in, or not. This is a retreat for anyone who lives to share of themselves and maybe take a break from routine and home, with a slightly new approach.”

Thunderground opens Friday, July 18, with DreamAcres’ regular Friday night pizza gathering from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by DA Dance’s “Ignition” performance at 8 p.m. in the performance barn.

The morning of Saturday, July 19, features “allocation of space and time” for Open Space sessions at 9 a.m., followed by the dance master class with Armstead and company from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a farm lunch and Open Space throughout three hours of the afternoon.

There will be an evening meal and casual Open Space performance opportunities that night.

On Sunday, July 20, there will be morning movement, Open Space time, a farm lunch, two hours of Open Space time and a closing meal and farewell.

The Friday night “Ignition” dance concert, the master class and Thunderground itself are all “pay what you can,” beyond the $25 per day room and board expenses for overnight campers.

Rustic accommodations are available for those who wish to stay onsite – overnight guests will stay in cabins and trek under the stars to the bathrooms and showers adjacent to the dining facility.

All facilities are off the grid and employ solar electricity…participants should come prepared to experience “simple living.”

Meals are all prepared onsite, from scratch, with fresh organic vegetables from the gardens at DreamAcres, along with other locally purchased ingredients.

For more information on the Dreamery Rural Arts Initiative’s Thunderground Retreat, log onto www.dreameryruralartsinitiative.org, or call Eva Barr at (507) 352-4255.