St. Paul City-Artist-In-Residence Marcus Young and the artists of the Grace Minnesota have been encouraging folks to cut loose and dance in the streets since 2008. This year, on Aug. 1 in Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza, they’ll do so to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Minnesota’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
The idea behind the ongoing project, “Don’t you feel it too?,” is simple enough: Members of the public are asked to bring an MP3 player and headphones to the agreed-upon site, with a playlist of tunes that get their toes tapping, some comfortable shoes and a willingness to move differently through the world for a spell. Individuals then set out to groove their way through the city’s public spaces -- each one “easing into embarrassment, transcending fear” according to their own ability, dancing alone but in solidarity with their fellow performers. After an hour or so, everyone meets back at the starting point for cool-down and conversation.
According to press materials provided by the St. Paul-based conceptual and behavioral art studio, “Marcus and collaborators have led more than 150 sessions for the general public and special groups, including college and grade school students, youth experiencing homelessness, and arts festival participants.”
It’s not a complicated proposition; there's no wrong way to dance, after all. But for those of us who typically eschew such exhibitionism, there’s a real sense of transgression all the same. Because it's not just about dancing in public. Offer up any sign of your interior life, allow even a glimpse of artless expression of your unguarded feelings - for no particular reason, among workaday strangers - and you invite not just attention but open-ended engagement. Even scarier: In a buttoned-up world that prizes seriousness and self-control, the prospect of looking foolish is downright terrifying.
I suspect that's the real practice here - less to do with dancing than it is with dismantling, for just a little while, some of that carefully wrought emotional armor. In a video about the ongoing project, Young, Grace Minnesota’s founder, calls it “an act of bravery and craziness; it’s dancing your inner life in public… a type of purposeful self-embarrassment.” The disarming vulnerability of the gesture, the infectious happiness of its unlikely offering - what better way to celebrate Minnesota's anniversary of expanded freedoms for public expressions of love and commitment?
In addition to the special Aug. 1 session celebrating marriage equality, “Don’t you feel it too?” meets through the warmer months, rain or shine, on the following Fridays at 5:30 p.m.: July 25; Aug. 1, 8, and 22; Sept. 5 and 19; and Thursdays Aug. 7 and 14 at 4:30 p.m. All sessions are free and open to the public. If you’d like to participate, choose a session and gather the bottom of Peavey Plaza on Nicollet Mall, between 10th and 11th streets in Minneapolis.