Best Dance Production

Fourth Wall by NEW ARTiculations

Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast

READERS' PICK: This extraordinary performance last February had so many Tucsonans in it that it's no surprise they voted it their favorite of the year. NEW ART, the city's feisty young modern dance troupe, imported an old friend from New York, Guidio Tuveri, a choreographer who is native to Italy. Tuveri dislikes the "fourth wall" that normally separates performers from audience, so he set this unusual piece in the bedrooms, kitchen, living room and back yard of the Royal Elizabeth, a restored 1878 mansion downtown. The audience members, at least 100 strong, were led around in small groups from room to room, and their meanderings around the place became an important part of the show. In each new space small groups of dancers performed boundary-hopping works. In the kitchen a self-confessed fat girl confronted viewers with their ideas about the body; in a bedroom three women sensually danced the story of their erotic experiences; a spoken-word piece about World War II poignantly recounted in text and movement the ruptured marriage of a woman whose husband died in the war. Most fun was the back yard, where a bevy of six brides in white gowns and veils competed again and again for a husband, trying to rope in one of three males who easily slipped out of their grasp. This strange retro piece highlighted the dancers' impressive acrobatic skills, and taught us once again that a dance is where you make it: slithering across the dirt, or swinging on ropes from trees.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre alighted at the UA Centennial Hall for two energizing concerts on April 8 and 9. At both shows, the dancers reveled in Ailey's "Revelations," the superlative fusion of modern and African-American rhythms that was named best modern work of the 20th century by Dance magazine. Old Negro spirituals set the ethereal musical tone, while flowing white cloth and Sunday-best costumes of yellow dresses and gray suits grounded the piece in the Texas back country of its inspiration. The rest of the dances, while not quite in the stratospheric realm of "Revelations," were merely superb. Most notable was the solo "Cry," a tribute to black women danced by Dwana Smallwood, a young dancer who has been compared to Ailey's protegée, the legendary Judith Jamison. Nearly everybody at the packed concerts was jumping for joy at the end of the dances, and a few actually wept at their beauty.

LOOSE CHANGE: Let's hear it for a trio of new dance companies. Thom Lewis, a longtime Tenth Street Danceworks dancer who has hung up his tights, joined forces with Leigh Anne Hartley to start up Funhouse Movement Theatre. Their debut concert, at Leo Rich Theatre, featured Lewis' nostalgic last performance, and offered up an entertaining mix of Lewis pieces, one shaped by circus movement and the other full of Irish stomping. Hartley contributed a serious evocation of the slaughter of the female mathematician Hypatia in long-ago Alexandria, danced to Arabian rhythms. Beth Braun, formerly of Orts Theatre of Dance, formed an ad-hoc troupe, Beth Braun Dance Partnership. The loosely organized group premiered with a magical evening called The Journey, employing many of the same stalwart dancers who jumped into the Funhouse. The concert was a collaboration between choreographer Braun and composer Arthur Miscione, whose songs were performed live. Ballet Tucson, an ambitious troupe started up a year or so ago by Mary Beth Cabana of Ballet Arts, uses adult ballet pros, a UA dance prof, college dancers and advanced students and apprentices from Ballet Arts studio. The company's February concert offered up a delightful mix of classical ballet and modern. The UA's Sam Watson danced his own modern solo, the hilarious "Wake-Up Call," and Chieko Imada, another Tenth Streeter, performed a Japanese-inspired Charlotte Adams composition. Resident choreographer Mark Schneider contributed a wild, futuristic "Firebird."

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