CHOREOGRAPHER GUIDO TUVERI likes to use non-dancers in his works, believing that they "add a touch of reality...they open up to the audience much more quickly."
And he's not too keen on traditional concert halls, either. So for his dance-theatre concert this weekend, Fourth Wall, with Tucson's NEW ARTiculations dance troupe, he's using non-dancers and dancers, and putting them all in a house. A bed-and-breakfast, to be exact, downtown's Royal Elizabeth, a recently renovated 1878 mansion.
"A concert in a house has been a dream of mine for a long time," he says. "To try to have a performance in a place that would be real, with real lights, colors and smells that I miss in theatres. I hope this will create an affinity between performers and the audience."
Eliminating the "fourth wall," the traditional invisible division between dancers and viewers, Tuveri will distribute small groups of his performers into different rooms, each chamber dolled up in plush Victorian furniture. The audience, divided into groups of 10 and led around by guides, will move from room to room to see each group performing a different piece. The 10 dances last about six minutes each, and then it's off to the next room, or even the backyard. In their journeys, "the audience members end up being in the performance."
NEW ART is steadily building a résumé of modern dance performances in odd venues, clubs, schools and the like. Tuveri said he met up with two of the troupe's co-founders, Jennifer Pollock and Tammy Rosen, when they studied with him in New York City. A native of the tiny Italian village of Guspine in Sardinia, Tuveri danced with assorted troupes in Italy and Holland before moving to New York in 1991. He teaches, works as a freelance choreographer, has won several international choreography competitions and runs his own modern jazz troupe, Sanza Memo. A trio of his Sanza dancers will join up with NEW ART and the assorted regular Tucsonans for the bed and breakfast show, making for a cast 27 members strong.
"I've very excited," says Tuveri. "It's a big challenge to organize the tours. I'm curious to see how it will work."
FURNITURE PLAYS A starring role in a new Annie Bunker piece, too. Four antique chairs, stored in the Orts Theatre of Dance prop room for some years, come out of hiding for "Victorian Echoes."
Bunker's latest dance work was "inspired by memories and stories told to me by my parents about their early childhoods. My father was born in 1909 and mother in 1920; it was still kind of Victorian then." The Bunker offspring used to get a chance to see the remnants of that world themselves on visits to Grandmother in Montana. The whole family would drive up to the creek and the kids would jump right in, leaving decorum behind. Afterwards, they'd try to report their adventures to Grandmother in the car, and she would say disapprovingly, "I'm not listening. I don't want to hear it."
The 12-minute dance, premiering at this weekend's Orts Theatre of Dance Millennium Opener, features four female dancers in drapey gray dresses skittering among the four elaborate chairs. At a rehearsal last week, dancers Michelle Phillips, Nicole Buffan, Cora Kannel and Mimi Chen danced on, under and around those chairs, and sometimes waved them around in the air in an impressive show of strength. The ostracism of one sister is a subtext that points to another source for the dance: the relationships among the Bunker siblings.
"There's a great deal of personal, private history here," Bunker says. "There's a lot of love but this is a family with those small dysfunctions."
The dramatic turn-of-the-century music, by Puccini, Mascagni and Villa-Lobos, will be played live by the Heavy Metal Brass Quintet at the Saturday evening show; their recording will play at the Friday night and Sunday afternoon performances. A video of dancers and musicians, taped by Bunker's husband, Chuck Koesters, will serve as backdrop, alternating video movements with the dancers' live gestures.
"Chiaroscuro," new to Tucson, is a "classic of modern dance," Bunker says, to be danced by the whole company. Created by her mentor and collaborator, the late Rodney Griffin, it plays on Renaissance painters' use of light and shadow. Also on the program is "Bridging Worlds," a collaboration between Bunker and Tucson Capoeira master Dondi Marble. Brazilian slaves developed this martial art centuries ago, and last season Bunker and Marble meshed its percussive rhythms with an angular modern dance on trapeze. The reprise will feature live Capoeira musicians.
UA dance prof Melissa Lowe will join Bunker for their "Window in the Woods," which debuted at the university last winter. Inspired by the highlands of Scotland, the two-woman work is danced to Celtic music and another video backdrop by Koesters. The whole company performs Bunker's "Toilet Trees," a comical work about the bathroom inspired by the plumbing supply company whose office adjoins the Orts studios.
Charles Thompson and Matthew Henley excerpt one of the most sensuous passages from last fall's Rapture Rumi by Robert Davidson. Bunker's "Balanced Edge" shows off the company's latest acrobatics on the trapeze, wherein the Orts dancers literally become a living mobile.
NEW ARTiculations presents Fourth Wall at 8 p.m. Friday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, February 18 and 19, at the Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast, 204 S. Scott Ave., just north of the Temple of Music and Art. Tickets are $10 in advance. As seating is limited, reservations are recommended. For more information, call 319-0657.
Orts Theatre of Dance presents Millennium Opener at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 18 through 20, at the PCC Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Advance tickets are available for $8 at Bentley's, Antigone Books, Silverbell Trading, the PCC box office (206-6987) and Orts (624-3799 or firstname.lastname@example.org). They'll cost $10 at the door.