Choreographer Charlotte Adams doesn't mind spending time around the house these days.
"I'm home a lot," she said one day last week. "It's sort of wonderful being on sabbatical."
She's earned the paid semester off after six years of teaching modern dance at the University of Iowa. Despite all the time she's spent working out of town, Adams comes back to Tucson whenever she can. Home is still the classic bungalow she's owned for years near downtown.
But she's not there every sabbatical minute. She's taking yoga certification classes so she can teach the discipline to her Iowa dancers. She's studying Spanish at a community branch of Pima College. Best of all, for fans of Adams, co-founder of the beloved, defunct Tenth Street Danceworks, she's been preparing to get one of her works back on a local stage.
"I mentioned to Annie (Bunker, artistic director of O-T-O) that I'd be here on break. She said, 'Let's do something.'"
That something turned out to be Adams' "Dissatisfaction," a modern dance that will highlight the O-T-O Dance concert this weekend at the UA's Stevie Eller Theatre. (For other dance events see below.)
"This piece is new for Tucson," said Adams. "It's really nice for me to do it here."
She first set it on her Iowa student dancers in 2002, and the next year brought it to New York, where her Charlotte Adams and Dancers performed it at the Joyce Soho.
"It has a playful sense of humor, though it doesn't slam you with it."
Six O-T-O dancers--Nicole Stansbury, Nicole Sasala, Lindsay Spilker, Lena Lauer, Kimi Eisele and Amanda Hamp--perform the athletic work to four piano waltzes by Chopin. Adams already knows Hamp, a former Iowa grad student who moved to Tucson to dance with O-T-O.
"She danced in several of my pieces (at Iowa)," she said. "She's a wonderful addition to the dance scene here. It's great for me to have her in this."
"Dissatisfaction," about youthful ennui and energy, was inspired at least in part by Adams' students.
"I'm always struck by young dancers' playfulness, their pouting," Adams explained. "They dare us to give them a good time. They're so physical with each other. At rehearsals, they lie all over each other; they massage each other. They're like puppies."
Adams herself danced with O-T-O, then known as Orts, in its early days, before forming Tenth Street with Thom Lewis. Her choreography was last seen in Tucson just last year, when NEW ARTiculations performed her piece "The Poetry of Physics."
"I like to keep in touch with the dance community here," she said.
Bunker said O-T-O has invited back a number of former collaborators for this weekend's concert, called 20 Years and Soaring Celebration in honor of the troupe's 20th anniversary. Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai and local artists Karen Falkenstrom, Richard Tavenner and To-Reé-Neé Wolf Keiser all have work on the program, which includes mostly repertory work and one premiere.
"Totem," a 1993 dance-music collaboration between Bunker and Nakai, routinely comes up on surveys as an audience favorite, Bunker said. Reprised just last October, the work is described as an "ethereal journey" through a "mythological landscape."
Odaiko Sonora, Falkenstrom and Rome Hamner's Japanese drumming duo, will play live music for another Bunker dance, "Crossing Over," as they did for the piece's premiere in spring 2004. The Bad Girl Storytelling Brigade will also provide an interlude of music and spoken word. Minus singer Cantrell Maryott, who's moving to Oregon, the performance-art Brigade will feature Falkenstrom, Hamner and To-Reé-Neé Wolf Keiser.
The hip-hop troupe The Human Project, which danced in the O-T-O November concert, returns with artistic director Anton Smith's "tri/R/archy." It's a "video dance piece," Bunker noted, "a fractured compilation of various pieces."
Bunker dances the solo "Fabrications," another audience favorite, choreographed by her friend Beckah Voigt.
"I dance it with a giant parachute," she said. "It's a whimsical, theatrical piece, with an original score by Ray Castrey."
"Speaking Places," a repertory Bunker work set to contemporary Scottish music by Skye Dance and to poetry by Tavenner, will be danced by Stansbury, Spilker and Bunker.
"It has ghost images of castles and gauzy panels," Bunker said. "It's about three women of different generations."
But Bunker and her husband, managing director Chuck Koesters, will also debut a brand-new piece, inspired by Hawaii, where they bought a house last spring. "Pahoehoe" is just the first segment in a planned Hawaiian suite. With music and video by Koesters, and trapeze and floor dance by Bunker, the work for six dancers conjures up lava at night. Pahoehoe, Bunker said, is the name for fresh lava, "when it emerges from the earth, smooth, sensual and ribbony."
Trinity Irish Dance Company step dances its way into town a month before St. Patrick's Day. Fresh from a November trip to Japan and a jaunt last week to Guatemala, the Chicago troupe lands at Centennial Hall Saturday night.
Fully loaded with 22 champion dancers, the company also has a panoply of musicians supplied with bodhrans (Irish drum), ullean pipes (elbow bagpipes), fiddles and guitars.
"We started long before Riverdance," company manager James Mallinson boasted by phone from the Windy City last week. "And we're the ones who are still developing new works."
The company grew out of Chicago's Trinity Academy of Dance. Founded in 1990 by Mark Howard, a Chicagoan born in Britain of Irish parents, Trinity the troupe originally had relatively modest ambitions. Meant to provide wider opportunities for the school's own dancers, Mallinson said, the troupe went on to unexpected success. Besides touring far and wide, the dancers have made television appearances, from late-night spots on the shows of Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, to slots on the early-morning talk shows.
Most of the dancers are CIA (conceived in America) as opposed to FBI (foreign-born Irish), but the accident of birth hasn't stopped them from winning dancing championships in the motherland.
"Some of our dancers are world champions in Ireland," Mallinson said.
The concert evokes a mythological Ireland of fairies and mists, but Trinity has nonetheless become known for "progressive Irish dance."
"You'll see a few very traditional pieces," he said. "But we're not all that traditional."
Irish dance typically calls for a rigid upper body and arms, but the Trinitarians loosen up the format. Their arms are not always stiff, Mallinson said. "We are influenced by modern choreography."
Tucson's own Theatrical Mime Theatre, run by Rick Wamer and Lorie Heald, opens its second season with two guest works this weekend.
The first features visiting LA mimes Eg Mahan and Dennis Schaller, of Silent Echoes Mime Theatre. They describe their work as "thought portrayed through intelligent movement." The second half of the show is devoted to "Manthology," performed by Stephen Chipps, a self-described mime and "mask actor" from Cleveland. Chipps has been performing his art for 20 years, and supplies his own vocal sound effects.