The Maze of Post-Patriarchy: Off-Leash Area’s Minotaur

Words by Sanaphay Rattanavong

Minotaur, Off-Leash Area’s (OLA) newest work that includes contemporary dance and mask performance, appears to be a highly complex creature indeed. According to OLA Co-Artistic Directors Jennifer Ilse and Paul Herwig, their shows typically start more from a visual image as opposed to a concept. Herwig says that the Minotaur heads were originally inspired by Picasso sculptures, though “the show doesn’t really have anything to do with Picasso.” 

This doesn’t stop him from pointing out in a perhaps gleeful, ironic way: “Picasso is undergoing a revision as to how he’s viewed, whether or not to separate his art and his behavior as a man,” Herwig says. “So we sort of take delight in that we’re kind of stealing from this great misogynist to create a show about breaking the patriarchy.”

Like Picasso’s sculptures, the Greek myth of the Minotaur for OLA, is just a jumping-off point—even an opportunity to create a new myth from an old one. “By creating a myth it’s able to be a visual movement metaphor,” explains Ilse. “Rather than trying to… have a beginning and an end that tries to tell people what the solution is, we’re able to present it in a way that myths can do so well by using metaphor and people can bring their own interpretations from it.”

She adds: “The ending is more of a warning and a question.”

They pose the question, if patriarchy and oppression are all we know and all we’ve ever known, if this labyrinth is all we know, how do we know when we’ve escaped it? The obverse of this, as Ilse notes, is that “we all participate in the patriarchy and are part of oppressive systems whether we know or like it or not.”

The performance promises much to think on, for sure. But there will be plenty to feel as well. Ilse describes the sort of movements to expect on-stage: “The dance movement is a broad spectrum of modern and what would be considered contemporary movement. We work with a lot of improvisation for developing material. Some of the sections are structured improvisation, some are very set, more modern-based choreography. With that there’s all the mask work. Movement-based theater mask work is an intensive vocabulary of its own.”

She further describes mask work as an art form that “lives in between dance and theater.”

Herwig, after being the first Minotaur killed off early in the show, will switch over to live animated projection design. “It’s a basic animation painting/drawing software that I’ve co-opted for my own purposes,” he says. “Literally moving my fingers around on a tablet, I create/arrange the imagery, and I can do loops and effects almost like Tune-Yards does, except I do it with visuals.”

In addition, the live music and electronic sound score will be performed by Dameun Strange.

What’s in a name?

When Herwig founded OLA around 23 years ago (Ilse joined soon thereafter), it had a functional yet uninspired name. “[Herwig] chose the first name, which was really awful,” recounts Ilse. “It was called The Theater Gallery. Both hated it, she says. Herwig nods. One day, they found themselves at the dog park and they had their aha moment. “That’s it,” exclaims Ilse, “Off-Leash Area!”

“We’re multidisciplinary, so it’s different artists from different breeds that come together, it’s a little dangerous, someone might get bitten,” Herwig says.

Ilse adds, “There’s boundaries, but within those boundaries there’s a lot of freedom, which really speaks a lot about how we work. Even our performers, we give quite a lot of space to them for being a part of the creation, we bring them into the process quite deeply.”

Tek Box at the Cowles Center
528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
DATES: July 14-17, 2022
TIMES: All performances at 7:30pm
TICKETS: Admission is $10-$30
Reserve now at

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