NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre has made a name for itself around town for quirky, experimental work--like last year's performance piece that took place in every room of a bed and breakfast, or this winter's theatrical dance that used everything from dance to video to poke fun at the roles society imposes on women.
This summer, though, for the 4-year-old company's major concert, the plan is to stick to dance. Even the concert title, Got Dance? A Collection of Modern Dances, clues audiences in to the new agenda.
"This show is more artistic for us," says Tammy Rosen, a troupe dancer and the company's co-artistic director. "We vary between fun and experimental. Generally the audience likes the silly stuff better, but the quality of this show is so high that they'll enjoy it."
Leigh Ann Rangel, a dancer and choreographer who shares artistic direction duties with Rosen, agrees. "We have been trying to upgrade our company. This year we spent a lot of time on quality, and more time rehearsing. I'm really excited. We've got some great pieces."
In their efforts to ratchet up the company's professionalism, NEW ART enlisted three out-of-town choreographers. Cedric Andrieux, a dancer with the high-profile Merce Cunningham Company in New York, premieres his first choreography, "Welcome to Limoges," at the NEW ART concert. Bala Sarasvati, a dance prof at the University of Georgia, created "When Sun Comes." And Tommy Parlon, a dance professor at Kent State University, reprises "Fragile Knot," which NEW ART debuted last year at its Pima Community College concert. Also on the program are works by four of NEW ART's dancer-choreographers, including a trapeze solo by Nathan Dryden, and pieces by Cindy Alm, Jessica Swartz and Rangel.
The three outsiders visited Tucson at assorted times during the winter to set their works on the company, making for short, intense weeks of learning and dancing.
"They worked us really hard but they bring up the quality," says Rosen. "They all pushed us, at every level. They're all great choreographers."
NEW ART got hold of Andrieux, the Cunningham dancer, through a Tucson dancer who once worked with him in the Jennifer Muller Company, a modern troupe in New York. Andrieux first came out to Tucson to teach some NEW ART master classes, and then accepted the invitation to set a new work on the company. Danced to music by Eric Neveux, his piece is a trio for three women--company dancers Emily Rohlader, Alm and Rangel, who calls the dance "remarkable."
"It starts out with three women doing very gestural movement," Rangel says. "It doesn't travel. From there, there are three solos right after each other, and it ends with the three coming back together. It starts out very surreal, slow then fast. We're doing it with our eyes closed. It's a neat effect."
Her own solo in the work is athletic, full of boxing moves, while the other two are more lyrical. Rangel reports that Andrieux "seemed to think he's different from Merce, but I found a lot of similarities. Merce doesn't create with emotion. Cedric didn't want any emotion from the dancers, but it has a very emotional result."
Guest choreographer Sarasvati was one of Rangel's professors at Georgia, where the Tucson transplant got her undergrad dance degree. Sarasvati's dance, set to music by the Cargo Cult Cats, has already been performed this year by two other companies, Georgia's Core Concert Dance and a troupe in Japan. "It's a very high-energy piece: Eight people are constantly moving," Rangel says. "It's pretty complex, with a lot going on. It's fairly short, about five minutes, but it's packed."
The Parlon work, "Fragile Knot," deploys five dancers--NEW ART regulars Rosen, Rangel and Alm, and two dancers just emerging onto the Tucson scene. Heather Haeger and Melissa Crago, both graduates of Peggy Paver's dance program at University/Rincon High, have started up a new modern dance company called Morphos. Both the guest dancers have a gymnastics background that's well suited to Parlon's piece, which Rangel describes as "very athletic. It's an angst-ridden piece. There's a lot of flapping and flailing around, and throwing our bodies at each other."
NEW ART's Alm presents "Still," a trio that premiered in the company's Emerging Choreographers' Showcase last winter. The piece for three dancers won an award at the 2001 Arizona Choreography Competition, sponsored by Scottsdale and Glendale community colleges. Danced by Margaret Evans, Rosen and Swartz, the work is "a juxtaposition of lyrical and high-energy staccato," Rangel says. "It's very dynamic."
Dryden's trapeze solo, which he'll perform himself, was as yet untitled at press time. Swartz dances her own solo, "Coaster," to the music of Pink Floyd.
Rangel's "Autonomy," a work for five dancers, is an excerpt from her master's project at the UA, the evening-long examination of women's roles called Void Where Prohibited. "It's a resolution piece, about coming into autonomy," she says. Void reveled in a mixture of theater, spoken word, singing and dancing, but in keeping with the Got Dance? agenda, its "Autonomy" segment is pure dance.