In her modern-dance solo "A Perfect Fit," Katie Rutterer writhes and wriggles as she struggles to put on multiple pairs of shoes.
"I throw myself about," she reports, "seeing what crazy shapes I can twist myself into."
She first created the solo for a UA School of Dance concert by modern dance prof Doug Nielsen, and will perform it in this weekend's NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre concert at Pima West. But it's become a perfect metaphor for the cascade of changes in her life that will have her stretching in many new directions.
Rutterer graduated this month from the MFA program at the UA School of Dance and turned 30 two weeks ago. And as of July 1, she'll start a new job as artistic director of NEW ART.
"The dance is apropos of graduating, and growing up," she says. "I'm excited."
One of Tucson's best dancers, Rutterer had been thinking of leaving town after graduation to try her dance luck elsewhere. Then the opening came up in the troupe she's been with the last five years.
"I thought, 'Why move away instead of doing something right here?' It's a good company. It has a good audience base. I know all the dancers. It's a good opportunity."
NEW ART's founders and longtime co-artistic directors, LeighAnn Rangel Sotomayor and Tammy Rosen, both decided to step aside and put more energy into their "roles of motherhood," Rosen says. Rosen has a 3-year-old daughter, Sotomayor an 8-month-old son. Rosen expects a second child in September.
"I actually stepped down last year," Rosen explains, while Sotomayor soldiered on. "Even when I was pregnant with (my daughter), I couldn't keep all the balls in the air. NEW ART deserves better."
But neither woman is giving up dance. In fact, they'll both be in the show this weekend, dancing a new version of "Origin," a piece about motherhood April Greengaard composed back in 2003. The work has now gone through three versions, each exploring some facet of fertility--or lack thereof--and maternity.
In the first version, Greengaard danced the part of a woman longing for a child, and Kelly Silliman danced with her newborn daughter.
In 2005, a pregnant Rosen danced it alone, with her great belly an important component of the piece. This time around, Kimi Eisele performs the part of a woman who has miscarried and still wants a baby. Rosen dances pregnant again, and Sotomayor dances with her son in her arms.
"It feels wonderful to be celebrating this time of life, to be able to dance it," Rosen says. "With the new baby coming, maybe I'll dance one piece in each concert."
Rosen and Sotomayor (along with a long-since-departed third founder) started NEW ART as an experimental troupe in 1997. They wanted to shake up the local dance scene by mixing media and by deploying multiple choreographers. They've lived up to the vision, collaborating with everyone from composers to the Community Food Bank, and creating ballet-like fairy tales and cutting-edge modern movement alike.
This weekend's concert, Works of Art: A Choreographers' Showcase, is a case in point. Free-flying former NEW ART dancer Nate Dryden was lassoed to come back to town as a commissioned choreographer to create a new work. Now living at least some of the time in Seattle, he's been jet-setting around to places as far-flung as Istanbul to teach Skinner Releasing workshops.
He selected what he described in press materials as "three of my favorite dancers"--Rutterer, Rosen and Amy Barr-Holm--to dance his new work "3 Dresses" in celebration of his time at NEW ART.
When Rosen got pregnant after work on the piece had begun in December, "Nate said, 'Great,'" Rosen reports, and accommodated her expanding body in his movement.
Dryden will also perform his trapeze solo "Reach." The program also offers up "These Walls," a quintet by troupe member Renee Blakeley that has five dancers emerging from a sheer fabric wall: Barr-Holm, April Douet, Laura Reichhardt, Amanda Morse and new dancer Corinne Hobson.
Eisele and Morse will reprise "So Many Miles," a dance about the food industry and food politics that debuted in a collaborative show with the Community Food Bank staged at the Tucson Botanical Gardens in April. Members Barr-Holm, Greengaard, Janine Holton and Alison Whitcomb contribute other works.
Rutterer says that NEW ART's commitment to using multiple choreographers and to collaborating with community groups helped attract her to NEW ART in the first place.
"There's a nice community aspect, and an opportunity for everyone to create and perform," she says.
A native of St. Louis, Rutterer studied dance at Washington University in her hometown. During college, she started dancing with MADCO (Modern American Dance Company), "a big company out there," and continued on for another year after graduation.
Her college boyfriend, now her husband, came out to the UA for law school, and Rutterer eventually joined him in Tucson, in 2002. She danced with Orts Theatre of Dance (now O-T-O) for two years, picking up the company's signature trapeze movement, and overlapped with NEW ART starting in 2003. She's also worked with FUNHOUSE, and she showcased her choreography in the premiere concert of Thom Lewis Dance in March.
"I hope to keep dancing with Thom," she says. "That's the great thing about this town: Everyone shares."
She also intends to keep up the NEW ART tradition of community collaboration. Special projects director Eisele has already lined up Kore Press, a local publisher devoted to writing by women, for next season's multi-genre presentation. A writer as well as a dancer, "Kimi has the contacts there," she notes.
Rutterer plans to work her own contacts at the UA.
"Next season, we'll get Amy Ernst," a UA modern dance prof, and Amber Duke, a new MFA, as guest choreographers, she says, following the pattern established by Rosen and Sotomayor.
"I don't plan any big changes," Rutterer says. "I have to learn the ropes." And stretch into those new shoes.