- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Here’s a scary but fun activity you can try this summer that doesn’t involve ziplines or bungee cords or jumping out of an airplane.

All you have to do is dance. Along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. To music that only you can hear.

It’s called “Don’t You Feel It Too?” - a sort of double dog dare you experience of transcending public embarrassment created by St. Paul behavioral artist Marcus Young.

Young, the public artist in residence for the city of St. Paul, has also created projects such as St. Paul’s sidewalk poetry competition, a kite-carried wish-making festival on Harriet Island and a Northern Spark sleepover event at the Walker Art Center called the Lullaby Experiment.

“Don’t You Feel It Too?,” developed by Young’s conceptual and behavioral art studio called Grace MN, was started in 2008 as an alternative to the contentious protests in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention.

For four days in and around Rice Park, Young and his collaborators wore headphones connected to MP3 players filled with their most beloved music, “music that if you don’t dance to it, you’re being dishonest to yourself.”

The aim: “Dance to your true inner lives at ground zero.”

Young said the experimental dance practice is intended to explore the feelings of fear and anxiety of unconventional behavior.

And what can be more unconventional than having a Minnesotan shake his groove thing on a public street for everyone to see?

“You realize how bound you are going through daily life, and how liberating life can be if you just let go,” Young told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1t5SZef).

After the RNC, Young kept the project going by regularly sponsoring “Don’t You Feel It Too?” sessions in the summer and early fall on Nicollet Mall. His goal is to capture the experience of dancing in public in the densest pedestrian space in the region.

Participation is free and open to the public. You don’t have to be an artist or an expert dancer or a raging extravert to do it.

Young compares it to a yoga class, “a practice of dancing truthfully, playful provocation, social healing and personal liberation.”

Every other Friday during the summer, participants are invited to meet at Peavey Plaza at 5:30 with comfortable shoes and an MP3 player. You get a half hour of introductions and instructions and a bit of warm-up dancing.

And then you just wander out among the throngs of Nicollet Mall at the height of rush hour and happy hour and “dance and transcend our fear.”

It’s an “extreme sport,” Young said. But “you control the level of risk and embarrassment and fun you have.”

“We were all petrified” when the project started in 2008, he said. “We didn’t naturally do it. We understand that feeling that everyone feels.”

St. Paul writer and landscape architect Diane Hellekson, 56, started participating in the public dance sessions about four years ago. “I thought it sounded pretty terrifying and also pretty fun,” she said. “I find it enormously liberating and stress-reducing, and it makes me very happy.”

“It’s the dancing plus the putting yourself out there,” said Brie Jonna, 26, of Minneapolis, who is another experienced “Don’t You Feel It Too?” dancer. “It’s the dancing plus being willing to be that crazy person out in public.”

Jesse Eustis, 36, of Minneapolis tried it for the first time on a recent Friday because it sounded scary.

“You are dancing in public. What would I do? Would I be able to feel free and uninhibited?” he said. “It was really liberating. I felt more free, in some ways, more free than I feel in a dance club. I could do anything. We were already breaking all conventions.”

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Online:

https://www.graceminnesota.org

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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