"The dances are by students, both undergrad and grad, and faculty," reports UA dance prof Michael Williams. "Not every piece that's been choreographed gets in. We have a process of adjudicating the show." (An unjuried fourth concert, on Tuesday, is an experimental choreographic showcase.)
Highlights of Spring Collection include a new work by Barbea Williams, Tucson's sage of African dance; a faculty-student choreographic collaboration; some live music; and at least one multimedia work by a student in the middle of starting his own troupe.
Concert Number One goes on the boards at Ina Gittings Dance Theater Thursday and Friday nights. It opens with "Dictionary of Hip-Hop Terminology," the multimedia collage of dance, video projection and a musical score, all by senior dance major Anton Smith. The young choreographer, Williams adds, is in the process of organizing a hip-hop company in town.
After the hip-hop, the concert swerves dramatically back to ballet. Professor Melissa Lowe, a former principal with Pacific Northwest Ballet, presents her "Invisible Sun," what Williams calls a "really lovely neoclassical ballet for five women on pointe."
Williams notes, "Every student in the dance BFA program does a capstone senior project, either in performance or choreography," and several of these are on the programs. Graduating senior Kevin Hermann contributes a modern/jazz solo to be danced by fellow senior Meghan Martinez. "Exit" is about "facing uncertainty, and exiting the university." Graduating senior Amanda Smith teamed up with professor James Clouser on "Arden," a large group piece about friendship and individuality.
"It's unusual, delightful and high-spirited," Williams says, "quirky and very character-driven."
César Rubio performs his own duet, "Ludico," with Rebecca Blaney. The piece, performed several weeks ago in a private concert for season subscribers, won a prize for best neoclassical choreography in the National Choreography Competition in Mexico City in 2000. Danced on pointe, it's nevertheless "very contemporary."
The show wraps up with professor Susan Williams' "Zuhm," the energetic jazz work for 24 dancers that also closed the faculty choreography showcase concert, Premium Blend, in early March.
Concert Number Two, on Saturday afternoon and evening, starts out with a big swing piece by grad student Kari Schroeder, who danced last weekend with ZUZI! Move It Dance Company. Eleven dancers sashay through the Lindy Hop and other stylized dances of the '30s in "The Swing of Things." Advanced high school student Todd Wilson, who's been dancing at the UA several years, partners Shayna Harris in "Sidetracks." Choreographed by Lisa Houlton, a former soloist at American Ballet Theatre, the duet is set to the songs of Rickie Lee Jones.
Williams reprises his "Five Six," an asymmetrical jazz dance for 12 that opened Premium Blend. The German band Jazznova delivers the unusual rhythms, in taped music counted out in 5's, 6's and 11's. Julie Pentz closes the concert with her "Speaking of ... ," danced by a tap ensemble of 16. Neil Dunn gives a live performance of his original percussive score, a "tap symphony in four movements."
The dance division added Concert Number Three, Williams says, simply because there were so many strong works available. Performed Sunday afternoon and evening, the concert opens with "Boyce Variations" by grad student Steve Casteel. "He choreographed a contemporary ballet to older music" by William Boyce, a late Baroque composer. It's danced by six women on pointe. Graduating senior Darci Burke choreographed what Williams calls a "really nice contemporary jazz piece," a work named "Primal Speak." A work for eight dancers, it's "about a hunt, with distorted body movement, unexpected twists and turns."
Barbea Williams, the local performer and choreographer, has been teaching African dance this spring as a guest artist with the division. "We've been delighted to have her," Michael Williams says. Her large piece for 14, "The Precious Boys," will be danced to live percussion, guitar and keyboard. Schroeder performs a comic solo by professor Sam Watson, "How to Catch a Man." Also danced at the private show, it interprets the advice literally--with a lasso.
Finally, Amy Ernst closes the last shows with "Songs of Sanctuary," a long lovely modern work that was first made as a tribute to the division's young dancers.