Among the contenders is a pair of familiar modern troupes: ZUZI! Dance Company, presenting its annual spring concert in the Historic YWCA Theatre, and O-T-O Dance, offering up an edgy show in its own warehouse studios. A trio of UA grad students strut their multimedia stuff in an MFA concert at the university's Stevie Eller Theatre, and a posse of hip-hoppers takes over the stage at TCC Music Hall.
ZUZI's annual spring show "tends to highlight company choreographers," says artistic director Nanette Robinson.
This year's edition, Swift Encounters: Dances for Spring, offers up work by no fewer than nine company members as well as one guest choreographer, Meg Zertucha of Fort Lauderdale. The former teacher of ZUZI managing director Emily Willard, Zertucha brings two brand-new Florida-style jazz pieces to the Southwest, giving ZUZI's modern dancers a chance to go sultry. "Turn Me On," to the Norah Jones song, is a dance for five; "Sweetest Goodbye," to the music of Maroon 5, features 14 woman jazz dancing.
"We're stepping out," jokes Robinson. "UA Dance, watch out!"
ZUZI member Jenn Hoefle teamed up with Tucson videographer Julie Rackow and poet T.C. Tolbert on "Rewriting Our Bodies," a multimedia piece about the ways advertising shapes women's ideas about their bodies.
Beth Braun and Nathan Dryden reprise their "Red Vinyl," a comic group piece that debuted in Braun's showcase concert last month. Dancing to the music of David Byrne, the dancers are clad in assorted mismatched garments--bras, pants, skirts--that have only red vinyl in common.
Ojeya Cruz Banks composed the quartet "Nina's Ashes," an "Afro-modern tribute to Nina Simone" whose title, Robinson says, alludes to the scattering of Simone's ashes in Africa. Wendy Joy's "Untitled" work for 15 takes its inspiration from Keith Haring, the late great graffiti artist of New York's East Village in the punk heyday.
"We looked at his book of graffiti art and we created vignettes from some of his shapes," Robinson notes. "It's color-driven, too: We all wear different colored tops."
Yumi Shirai and Nicole Buffan dance on a trapeze in "Sentimental Overs," set to Japanese music. Zan Savage solos in her "In One Mouth and Out the Other," an "abstraction of American sign language," and Carie Schneider dances with Shirai and Scott Bird in her trio "Transformations."
"And of course we have our wonderful kids," Robinson says of the Many Limbs Youth Aerial Company. "They co-created an aerial piece, 'Soaring, With Wings.' It's a sweet, dramatic play on Cirque du Soleil."
Giving up, for the time being, the multiple genres of its usual warehouse shows, O-T-O returns to pure dance in this weekend's two-night gig in its cavernous studio in the Warehouse District.
Like ZUZI, O-T-O brings in a guest choreographer, Liliana Cattaneo, artistic director of the Xdrop troupe in San Diego. Borrowing a page from Dante's Inferno, Cattaneo dances "Cocytus," a solo named for the ninth circle of Dante's hell. The music is by Angelo Badalamenti.
Cattaneo "came into Tucson visiting friends and looked me up at the studio wanting to connect with dancers here and look at possible performance venues," says Annie Bunker, artistic director of O-T-O.
Also on the program are pieces by well-known locals, including Bunker, a finalist for the Arizona Arts Award given by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; Charlotte Adams, dance professor at the University of Iowa and former co-artistic director of Tucson's old 10th Street Danceworks; Thom Lewis of FUNHOUSE movement theater; and Anton Smith of The Human Project. Two young O-T-O dancers, Nicole Sasala and Lindsay Spilker, also debut their choreography.
Bunker premieres a work in progress, "Orchid's Embrace," a Hawaii-inspired dance for four women on an aerial contraption that the choreographer calls a "combination of trapezes." The piece is part of her "Hawaiian Suite," to debut next season.
Lewis dances his "Lento" with frequent partner Julia Miller, to the music of Dvorák; the lovely duet debuted as part of his larger piece "Appearance and Apocrypha" in last month's FUNHOUSE concert. Adams reprises "Dissatisfaction," a lively group work to Chopin piano waltzes. The O-T-O dancers lunged, plunged and flung their way through the work in O-T-O's February concert at Stevie Eller. Smith's dance, says Bunker, "will be a surprise."
Sasala will premiere "Call It Grace," a quartet set to music by Sigur Ros, and "As Fiercely as Though They Never Came," a dreamy duet danced to Leo Kottke. Spilker debuts her trio "On the Quiet," and a duet, "Untitled."
The three graduating master dancers at the UA present works that range from a modern classic to brand-new cutting-edge jazz. Calling their concert Convergdance, the three sometimes dance themselves, and sometimes enlist their fellow students in the UA Dance Ensemble.
Elizabeth George dances "Recesses," a body-endangering solo by the late Bella Lewitzky, proponent of the LA modern-dance style. Set to a musical score for double flute, the piece ends with a slam of the spine against the floor.
Elen Marsh presents her own work, "Cornering," a jazzy dance that investigates the relationship between musical and dance improv. In her comic dance "Saturday Morning Cartoons," choreographer Hilary Peterson takes her inspiration from the old "Looney Tunes," bringing high-energy animated characters.
Speaking of converging, a whole cavalcade of local hip-hoppers, breakers, poppers and lockers will land on the stage of the Music Hall for a one-night-only concert Friday. The firecracking concert is a fundraiser for the Center for the Hispanic Performing Arts, and also benefits the performers.
Hosted by Allissa Blue, the DJ for the club DV8, the Spark the Floor Hip Hop Dance Explosion stars at least nine local dance groups, five high school troupes and three singing acts. The pros include The Human Project, Protégé, D'Vyne, J.A.M.Z., Hipnotique, Breakdown, Floor Rockers, Chispa, Contagious and Tobias: TCA.
Hip-hop high school reps hail from Marana, Palo Verde, Pueblo, Sahuaro and Sunnyside. Singer Olga Flores, a frequent performer at the Tucson International Mariachi Festival, sings with rap group Last 3 Standing. Elisa Gastellum also does a musical act.