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Dana Oland arts column: Discover LED, Boise’s newest creative force

Choreographer Lauren Edson grew up in Boise, so she knows it’s a great place to live. But after living and working in New York City, Chicago and Portland, she now understands that Boise is a great place to create.

“You don’t have the distractions you have in larger cities,” Edson says. “It’s easy to get to a studio. Now that we’re raising our child here, we understand even more how wonderful it is. The culture is developing in such a great way that this is the perfect time to start something.”

Earlier this year, Edson and her husband, musician Andrew Stensaas, founded LED, a collaborative venture they hope will spark a creative fire in the city.

LED started out as lauren edson + dancers, a dynamic company started in 2013 by the former Trey McIntyre Project dancer when she decided to strike out on her own. She received positive reviews, bookings and teaching engagements from the get-go, but she wanted the experience to be about more than dance. She started collaborating with Stensaas on a few projects and saw magic happening on stage.

Now, LED is less of an acronym and more of an idea. It’s a multifaceted, multimedia venture that seeks to bring all stripes of artists from around the globe to Boise to collaborate, work and make art.

“We want to reawaken the performing art experience with live original music, movement, sound and visual design,” Stensaas says.

It’s an experience that is pushing both artists creatively, Edson says.

“Andrew continually pushes me,” she says. “There’s a constant dialogue between us. We put each other in some uncomfortable places, and we surprise each other in great ways.”

The couple is building on the Trey McIntyre Project legacy, and attacking dance as part of a larger artistic scheme through which to engage the community, Edson says.

“We want to continue the kind of high-quality work Trey and John Michael (Schert) started here,” she says.

Their first project is a collision of artistic mediums titled “This Side of Paradise.” Based on the lives and relationship of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, it blends dance, music, digital projection, design and fashion, with Edson’s choreography and Stensaas’ music at its core.

“The constants will be Andrew and I, at least at first,” she says. “But the company will be fluid. It will have the capabilities to do small tours, not a traditional model, and do engagement in the community. We’re keeping it project-to-project right now to stay nimble.”

This summer, they performed in Seattle and Portland, and in the coming weeks they have several engagement performances in the area.

For “This Side of Paradise,” they are collaborating with seven dancers, Stensaas’ musical group Edmond Dantés, a duo with guitarist and bassist Ryan Peck, six other musicians, digital artist and filmmaker Kyle Morck, graphic designer Stephanie Inman and “Project Runway” season 11 winner Michelle Lesniak, who lives in Portland.

The piece is inspired by the biography and writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, who arguably was one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic figures. She was a socialite, dancer, painter and writer who became a celebrity after her husband’s first book, “This Side of Paradise,” became popular. F. Scott Fitzgerald became the voice of his generation with his novel “The Great Gatsby,” using Zelda as inspiration for many of his women characters. They were both icons of the Roaring Twenties and both met tragic ends.

He died at 44 in 1940 from poor health brought on by alcoholism and hard living. She died in 1948 at 47 in a mental institution fire.

Now, Zelda is a newly minted feminist figure, after the publication of Nancy Milford’s biography that shows her as a victim of her husband’s overbearing nature.

The first section of the performance is “Barbarian Princess,” a character study of Zelda, followed by a study of F. Scott. The second act explores their passionate and tempestuous relationship.

“There is a through line but it’s abstract enough to pull in different facets,” Edson says. As much as it is about these two historical figures, “The Other Side of Paradise” is really about the struggle to create and collaborate, and bring two different ideas together to synthesize something new.

“Co-existing as artists is difficult in any era, but the struggle to meet (in the middle) can be really beautiful,” Edson says.

THE CABIN SEEKS A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Cabin executive director Britt Udesen departed this month to head The Loft Literary Center in her hometown of Minneapolis.

She started her career as an intern at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts before moving to Idaho in 1998. She was the director of education and humanities at The Sun Valley Center for the Arts in the mid-2000s and took over The Cabin in 2013.

For Udesen, this opportunity is a combination dream job and the fulfillment of a personal dream. She and fiance Matt Furber, who also is from Minneapolis, met in Idaho and are excited to move back.

“We will miss Idaho very much, especially because my whole family is here now, but Matt’s family is there, and it’s a direct flight,” Udesen says.

In her time here, she helped increase the Boise-based literary organization’s reach, diversified its offerings through collaborations with other Boise-based arts groups and worked to make it more accessible.

The Cabin turns 20 this year and is now a sustainable vital organization, she says.

“I hope in my time I helped make it a little bit more fun,” she says. “The quality was well-established before I got there, but maybe now it’s a little more alive.”

The Cabin’s board launched a national search for her position.

REDISCOVERED BOOKS EXPANDS

Celebrate the grand re-opening of Downtown Boise’s independent bookstore, Rediscovered Books, 180 N. 8th St., on Sept. 5. The shop is expanding into the space to its north that formerly was filled by Lux Fashion Lounge. Lux moved down the street to 785 W. Idaho St. earlier this summer. Rediscovered will use the larger space to expand all of its offerings and space for events.

Laura and Bruce Delaney opened the store nine years ago on the Boise Bench. They moved it Downtown in 2010. Since then, it has become a fixture in the cultural scene by hosting literary events and presenting name authors in partnership with area libraries.

The Re-opening Party will go from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with local author readings, live music and in store-discounts. Beer tasting from Post Modern Brewers starts at 5 p.m. Find more information at rdbooks.org.

ART IN THE PARK

It’s time to get Art in the Park on your radar. One of the Treasure Valley’s signature events, it draws thousands to Julia Davis Park for a weekend of art and music. This year, 260 artists will populate the park, with a variety of fine art and artisan craft from painting to jewelry to metal yard art. You’ll find about 50 Idaho artists in the mix this year, plus artists from across the U.S. and Canada.

Art in the Park is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 11-12 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 13 in Julia Davis Park, 700 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise. For more information go to boiseartmuseum.org.

Read more about arts and culture at Dana’s blog at IdahoStatesman.com/artsbeat.

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