The poetry of physics is something choreographer Charlotte Adams knows quite a bit about.
Atom-like, she routinely zips along a trajectory between four divergent points on the globe. A self-confessed "Tucson girl," known for co-pioneering the now-defunct company 10th Street Danceworks, she still owns a house in town. But her full-time job is in the Midwest, where she's assistant professor of dance at the University of Iowa. Twice in recent years, she's taken her new company, Charlotte Adams and Dancers, to New York City to perform at the prestigious Joyce Soho. And she spends as much time as she can in Los Angeles, where her boyfriend lives.
As if all these personal and professional engagements weren't complicated enough, this fall, she set a piece called, not so coincidentally, "The Poetry of Physics," on a team of NEW ARTiculations dancers here in the Old Pueblo. NEW ART will perform the Adams work, along with five others of their own, in their annual winter concert at the PCC Proscenium Theater. This year called Fortissima, the show will be two weekends from now, on Jan. 30 and 31. (For dances and performance art this weekend at Ortspace, see below.)
The peripatetic Adams is not easy to track down. Last week, she left me a phone message, saying she'd be in Tucson for another hour, then in Los Angeles for three days. Then Iowa. I tracked her down in California.
"I'm not coming back for the show," she explained cheerfully on the phone from Los Angeles, where she finds the year-round tropical flowers a fine antidote to Iowa's brutal winters. "I'll be going back to Iowa this weekend, and I'll just be getting into my semester. But they'll send me videotapes, and I'll be back in June, when they'll perform the piece again."
Adams said over the years, she's gotten to know the NEW ART folks, who founded their modern-dance troupe in Tucson around the time 10th Street Danceworks was winding down.
"We thought Charlotte would be a draw, because audiences here love her work," said Tammy Rosen, company co-artistic director, adding that NEW ART has a commitment to bring in guest choreographers regularly. Adams found time in October to come to the sunny Southwest for a week to teach the piece to 10 dancers.
"They're fun and wonderful," Adams enthused. "I had a good time working with them. ... We worked five days, long hours. We got the piece set."
Throughout the fall, the dancers soldiered on, rehearsing "Poetry" without Adams, but she had a chance to give it a final polish when she flew back to town for the holidays. A 10-minute dance in three parts, set to Rossini's comic opera music, it debuted in New York City in 2001. Then Adams and her Iowa dancers brought it to Reid Park in Tucson that fall.
"It's about pushing, pulling, falling," Adams explained. "It plays a lot with the music. It's like a French farce with people jumping from bed to bed in a country mansion. It has comical sexual overtones. Everybody is changing partners constantly."
Dressed in red slips and boxers and long pants in fire-engine red, the dancers include NEW ART's Rosen, Leigh Ann Rangel, Tara Fech, April Greengaard and Jamie Jennette. Guest dancers are Thom Lewis, co-founder with Adams of 10th Street, and now co-artistic director of Funhouse Movement Theatre; Katie Rutterer, who also dances with O-T-O; Nate Dryden and Julia Miller.
Max Foster, a talented 16-year-old who has danced with Funhouse and O-T-O, also has a part.
"He's wonderful," Adams said. "He's getting better and better. He's going to be amazing."
Also on the program is Rosen's trio "Valor Is Gone: The Melodrama." Like Adams' dance, it's set to opera arias, this time by Vivaldi, to be sung live by Kimberlee Fleming. Heather Haeger, Rutterer and Greengaard dance the piece.
"It walks the line between drama and melodrama," Rosen said. "It's half-funny, half-serious."
In a musical change of pace, Rangel, NEW ART's other co-artistic director, set a three-part work to Rolling Stones tunes. Rangel dances it, along with Rosen, Greengaard and Jennette. Kelly Silliman, a NEW ART member who recently moved to Virginia, put together a three-part Ella Fitzgerald suite before she left. Rutterer and Foster do a duet in part one; Rosen solos in part two; and five adult performers dance with five members of the NEW ART youth ensemble in part three.
Rutterer also dances to the Beastie Boys, in the solo "Spasm," choreographed by Greengaard. And Haeger solos in a work of her own, danced to live guitar played by Seth Peress.
What with the live opera singer, the live guitar player and two pieces danced to opera, "We wanted to use a musical term for the concert's title," Rosen said. Fortissimo, the name they came up with, is appropriate: It means strong and bold.
THIS WEEKEND, O-T-O Dance stages The Backroom, its annual mid-winter potpourri of visual art, performances and improv, in the Ortspace studio in the Warehouse District.
Sold out last January, this show always has the element of surprise, with the audience meandering between the large and small studios, getting art attacks along the way. Annie Bunker and the O-T-O dancers trip through the air on trapezes and frolic on the floor; choreographers Kevin Schroder and Caryl Clement present new dances. Poets Charles Alexander, Richard Tavenner and Karen Falkenstrom read; Paul Fisher and Wrenn Bunker-Koesters do performance art and theater. Odaiko Sonora, Chris Levesque and Roger Thomas II deliver live music, and Chuck Koesters offers up photography and video art.