WORDS BY KATIE DOHMAN
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In 2019, Newsweek published a story that illuminated a new aspect of culture. It began with a grave that appeared to be that of a Viking warrior. Placed in a prominent location, with all the weapons a Viking warrior would be buried with, it had one key difference: The body was that of a woman. To scientists, it was a rather surprising discovery, upending what they believed to be true about the roles of Viking women.
Collide Theatrical Dance Company Artistic Director Regina Peluso, a lover of historical fiction, was inspired. She began writing a script and thinking about how to make original music work for a production about this woman and her story.
Then, the current story cliché: The pandemic hit. The project wasn’t abandoned, but progress became “very, very sporadic,” Peluso says.
Still, persistence paid off. Peluso recruited an all-star team to bring her dream of Skol! to life through Collide: longtime friend and vocalist and lyricist Katie Gearty (Dakota), musician Mike Michel (The Orange Goodness), vocalist and lyricist Rush Benson (Ordway), choreographers Heather Brockman (Ballet of the Dolls) and Kyle Wheeler (hot off Hamilton), and a 20-dancer cast to tell the story of Legartha—played by dancer Renee Guittar—a Viking woman who “is called to fulfill her destiny as a great warrior leader in a battle for the cure to a mysterious illness with the Christian army. Inspired by the Norse gods, her journey tests the boundaries of her faith, shakes the ground of the relationships with the men dearest in her life, and causes her to question the definition of female strength.”
Peluso says that while the story is based on some Viking history—a history that shows they may have had more power in their culture than many women do now in the present day—she’s also focusing not only on this woman’s physical strength, but also her empathy and compassion. “Those are not necessarily strengths women are heralded for,” she says. “But it changes everything in the story. While she does have physical prowess, it’s often forgotten the strength that compassion and empathy bring to our culture. The idea is always that to be powerful we have to be [physically strong] or super sexual—strength is important, but not as important as compassion and empathy.”
Audience members can expect a high-octane, nearly two-hour performance—the team had to narrow it down from an original 31 songs to 26—of theatrical jazz dance, fight choreography with spears and shields, The Griddy, football jokes, and music that incorporates rock, rap, pop, and spoken word—Peluso says think Gorillaz.
“One of the reasons I started Collide is that I wanted to make dance more accessible to people,” she says. “Even a non-theater or non-dance person will love it . . . you get some of the best musicians in the Twin Cities, dance, and a story on top of it. It’s a great bang for your buck.”
WHEN YOU GO
Skol! March 23-April 9
The Southern Theater (virtual tickets also available) 420 S. Washington Ave., Mpls., collidetheatrical.org