A driving rain two weeks ago almost sidelined the dance Kimi Eisele was planning for this weekend's NEW ART concert.
"Dew Point" is about longing for the monsoon. "It's taking that moment in time in June, those weeks when the temperature is rising, and the clouds are building," Eisele said last week. "It plays off that feeling of listlessness, of false buildups."
But "weird weather" intervened, in the form of "two days of drenching rain."
Welcome as the downpour was, it took the edge off of Eisele's longing. She had to force herself to step back into the newly humid studio and remember the bone-dry air and white-hot temps of the usual pre-monsoon season. Luckily for Eisele, if not for the rest of the desert's dwellers, a series of arid 100-degree days followed.
Her dancers—Amy Barr-Holm, Corinne Hobson and Katie Rutterer—start out with sluggish movements; they glance impatiently at the sky and look for thunderclouds. Then they go into the "frenzy of anticipation."
The dance, Eisele said, is "really about waiting. First, you're desperate. Then you say, 'OK, I'm here.'"
The monsoon-madness dance is one of nine short modern works to be performed on Pima Community College's Proscenium stage Friday and Saturday nights, in an eponymous concert titled simply NEW ART. Company members choreographed seven of them, and two guest choreographers, Charlotte Adams and Amber Duke, provided the others.
The troupe usually brings in choreographers from out of town for its guest slots, company director Rutterer noted, but this year, in the interest of economy and a lower carbon footprint, they decided to "dance locally."
Duke earned her MFA in dance at the UA last year, graduating in the same class as Rutterer; she just finished her first year teaching dance at Flowing Wells High School. Her "Three Cups" was inspired by the proverb that prefaces Greg Mortenson's best-seller Three Cups of Tea, about his successful effort to build schools for girls in Taliban territory. The saying notes that the first time you share tea with someone, "you are a stranger." The second time, "you are an honored guest," and by the third cup, "you become family."
"Amber made three duets that represent the three stages of friendship," Rutterer said. Six dancers—Renee Blakeley, Polly Deason, Amanda Morse, Barr-Holm, Hobson and Eisele—make their amicable overtures to the electronic music of Albert Mathias.
Adams, a celebrated co-founder of the defunct Tenth Street Danceworks, one of the first modern troupes in town, has been teaching at the University of Iowa for a decade. And she's taken her Iowa troupe, Charlotte Adams and Dancers, to New York to perform at the Joyce SoHo theater. She meets the local rule, though, because she keeps a house in Tucson and lives here half the year.
Her dance, "Katie Feels Guilty About Library Fines, Amy Feels Guilty About Lost Dogs," is a collaboration with Rutterer and Barr-Holm.
"We started it last summer," Rutterer recounted. "We wrote down all the things we feel guilty about. I do feel guilty about library fines" over at the Himmel library, near her house.
The dancers wear "layered petticoats that weigh us down. We fall down and get up again." Eventually, to the music of Circus Maximus and Accordion Tribe, they "stumble to redemption," as Adams puts it in a program note.
Rutterer's own "15 Minutes" takes the modern dancers in an unexpected showbiz direction. Decked out in skimpy black and red leotards, fishnet stockings and high heels, five women shake and shimmy like Bob Fosse showgirls.
"It started with a song I really liked by the Lascivious Biddies, a jazz-vocal group of women. It's a silly song about being famous. I always wanted to be a musical-theater star. Cabaret is my favorite musical."
The dancers—Blakeley, Eisele, Hobson, Morse and Rutterer herself—try to find their inner Broadway babe while each competes for that elusive 15 minutes of fame.
Rutterer's other piece, "Social Dis-Ease," turns inward, exploring her own shyness.
"Amanda is the main character. She observes the other dancers and then jumps in and tries out their movements. Then there's an intimate duet between Amy and Amanda, about opening up to another person."
So far, the dance has had four titles, and might get still another, Rutterer joked. The music, a song by David Byrne, "might change at rehearsal tonight," she said last Friday. "The dancers go with the flow."
Former co-artistic director Tammy Rosen contributes a quirky solo. Blakeley's entry is a group work; a dance teacher at Pistor Middle School, she recently won a Lumie art award for her work as an arts educator. And Morse, who spends her days running the garden at the Community Food Bank and teaching Tucsonans to eat locally, branches into local choreography with a work of her own.
The H2O Eisele and the rest of us are hoping for turns up on stage in Barr-Holm's "Standing Water." Last performed in February as a guest piece at Ballet Arizona's choreography showcase, the trio is a celebration of the Slip 'n Slide.
Water is pooled on a large sheet of plastic stretched across the stage. Hobson, Morse and Rutterer, exchanging fishnets for swimsuits, throw themselves onto the wet plastic and do a full-body glide, throwing their arms out wide, embracing the water.
It's not rain, but it will do for now.