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Chinese acrobats & Spanish dancers in DL this weekend

DETROIT LAKES - The Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center is expanding on the "cultural" part of its name this week, as it brings the artistry of not one, but two unique cultures to the lakes area.

On Friday, the DLCCC will host a Spanish Juerga, featuring the music of acclaimed flamenco guitarist Michael Hauser, at 6:30 p.m. in the DL Pavilion. This event is part of Detroit Lakes' 73rd annual Northwest Water Carnival celebration.

And after the water carnival festivities conclude on Sunday, the DLCCC's Historic Holmes Theatre will host a return engagement of the Golden Dragon Acrobats of China.

Spanish Juerga

Minnesota native Michael Hauser was born into an artistic family.

"My parents were both artists here in the Twin Cities," he said recently. "They came from New York, and they had phonograph records of (flamenco) music that I used to listen to."

But Hauser did not go to college to become a musician: instead, his degree is in forestry.

"I worked as a forester for the U.S. government," he said. "I went to Spain to study guitar, kind of on a lark."

During his career as a forester, Hauser was stationed in Liberia, West Africa for two years.

"I had taught myself to play flamenco guitar, but I decided I needed more formal instruction," he said. "It was my dream when I left Africa to go to Spain to study (flamenco) before I came back to the U.S., so I saved up my money, and that's what I did."

Hauser has made many return trips to Spain over the years, and he has continued the traditions of flamenco by teaching what he learned there to others, as a member of the faculty at Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas, both in St. Paul.

In the 1970s, Hauser married a flamenco dancer named Susana DiPalma, who founded her own dance company, Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, in 1982.

"Anybody in the Midwest who does flamenco, either dance or guitar, has probably been students of hers or mine," Hauser said.

Two of his former students, Bob and Marilyn Gilsdorf (longtime summer residents of Detroit Lakes), became close friends.

"We used to have a small cabin in the woods in Wisconsin, and we would go there and have some of these events which we called 'juergas,'" said Hauser, noting that the Gilsdorfs were frequent participants.

But the term "juerga" (pronounced weer-ga) is really a bit of a misnomer for what's going to happen Friday at the Pavilion.

"A juerga is more informal, less structured," he said. "What we'll be doing is more like a fiesta."

Nonetheless, they hope to create something of the atmosphere of a juerga by encouraging audience participation, he added.

"We hope to get some kids (and adults too) on the floor and teach them some dances," Hauser said.

So what can audiences expect?

"This group I'm touring with is kind of a new group," Hauser said. "There are four guitars, a saxophone, flute, percussion and two dancers.

"What we're doing is more 'nuevo flamenco,' tailored for American audiences. The rhythms are more accessible."

Golden Dragon Acrobats

Next Monday will mark the third visit to Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre by the Golden Dragon Acrobats. While those who attended the previous performances will notice some familiar elements, manager Bill Fegan stresses that company founder and principal choreographer Danny Chang tries to add something new every year.

"Danny Chang is always looking to change things, so when he finds new acts and new performers who meet his criteria, in (to the show) they go," Fegan said.

One new element added for this year's show is an act which is called a "Chinese ballet."

"It's really a dance movement number that is pretty spectacular," said Fegan.

One of the more startling elements is when the female dancer leaps up onto her male partner's shoulder -- and lands on pointe (i.e., with toes pointed).

"It's really unusual -- something we haven't seen before," Fegan added.

"Many of the acts you would expect to see -- the tower of chairs, the spinning plates, and the contortionists -- are still in the show, but there are always some new things, and some new costumes," he continued. "It's a two-hour show with plenty of action."

In addition, the dancers themselves often change from year to year.

"They all start (learning to be acrobats) when they are 7 or 8 years old," Fegan continued. "The first thing they do is learn to walk on their hands... they walk on their hands like most of us walk on our feet."

Many of the touring performers are as young as 15 or 16 years of age.

"They're all young," Fegan said. "People just enjoy watching their infectious joy and athleticism -- because they enjoy what they're doing, the audience perforce enjoys them. They find a receptive audience wherever they go.

"But like many athletes, by the time they get to their late 20s and 30s, their bodies begin to give out."

As such, people who go to see the show once every two or three years will see few familiar faces.

"They just keep touring year round," said Fegan. "We usually don't have anyone touring for more than two years. It's very strenuous, what they do."

Tickets for the Golden Dragon Acrobats show on July 21 are $20 for adults and $10 for students. For more information, contact the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469) or visit the Web site at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454