"Harps and Angels"
7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11
UA Steve Eller Dance Theatre
1713 E. University Blvd.
There are some things that little girls love: princesses, horses and ... harps?
Well, maybe little girls don't love the harps themselves, but they love what harps conjure: The melodies that come from harp strings seem to flit and fly high on magical wings.
"Maybe girls think of angels playing when they hear the sound," says Terrie Ashbaugh, executive artistic director of the Southern Arizona Women's Chorus.
Therein lies the inspiration behind "Harps and Angels," a collaboration between the UA's HarpFusion and the Women's Chorus. The "angels" are the 65-plus women who will sing in harmony with the 12 harps, in a performance incorporating Latin, jazz, classical and traditional holiday music.
HarpFusion has been recognized all over the world for their innovative style. This first-time partnership with a group of only female voices is something new for the group, which is used to collaborations with a mix of men and women.
The harp itself seems to lean in the direction of femininity, as 11 of the 12 members of the ensemble are women.
Fine-tuning the angelic voices to match the sound of the harp was tricky, but Ashbaugh says the real challenge was finding a stage large enough to hold nearly 80 bodies and a dozen harps.
The night will open up with composer Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" and wrap up with the "Halleluiah Chorus." Ashbaugh says that the audience can expect to hear pieces that one would not normally associate with the harp—like a rendition of "Jingle Bells."
She also says the concert is family-oriented, so feel free to bring the little girls (and boys) along for a heavenly encounter—one that's right up there with princesses.
Tickets are $15 general, and $10 for students. —E.N.
Third Annual Presidio Luminaria Festival
6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12
Presidio San Agustín del Tucson
133 W. Washington St.
We're all fairly familiar with luminarias: Lined up neatly outdoors, they're votive candles placed inside paper bags or lamp shades, often held down with sand or a rock. They make a fun art project or holiday tradition; they light up walkways, and they're a nice Southwestern staple.
Naturally, you can now buy them all ready to go at Target.
In other luminaria news: The Third Annual Presidio Luminaria Festival at Presidio San Agustín del Tucson will take place this Saturday. It's a fun way to look at lights without driving around in your car.
The downtown Parade of Lights happens first, with holiday floats and music traveling through downtown. This year, organizers of the Luminaria festival unofficially hooked up with the parade so that afterward, you can walk around the Presidio and warm up with complimentary hot cocoa and cookies as you enjoy the peaceful glow from luminarias.
"There will be tons of them," says Heather Coleman, who works with the Tucson Presidio Trust. "We put them everywhere you can see, even in hanging lanterns."
Volunteers will most likely be dressed in what Coleman calls "living-history" costumes. (That means people dressed in historical get-ups dating to traditional 18th-century clothing, the original era of the Presidio.)
"It's neat after the parade to get cocoa and learn about local history," says Coleman.
Standard colorful Christmas lights will also help brighten the area, so you can ooh and ahh some more. The luminarias won't include the usual votive candles; they'll be little electronic lights, says Coleman, so even if it gets kind of breezy, everything will stay beautifully lit!
The event is free. —A.P.
7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 20
Dunbar Cultural Center
325 W. Second St.
Kwanzaa is a holiday and a tradition that observes African and African-American culture. The holiday values what are called the seven principles—like unity and self-determination—and uses symbols to represent these Kwanzaa values.
To celebrate and help understand Kwanzaa, Barbea Williams is directing a show called "Kwanzaa Folktales." Williams, who teaches at the UA School of Dance, has been putting on various shows for the past 35 years. She'll also be in the performance this year.
"I'll be the jolly oral historian, the storyteller," says Williams.
The show combines professional and student performers from the Barbea Williams Performing Company. "Kwanzaa Folktales" uses what she calls "story dance" to help tell different vignettes.
"We include the audience with dialogue, singing, dancing and storytelling," says Williams. "We tell the story in a visual way; everything is important to Kwanzaa's symbolism."
Williams describes a particular story about a boy determined to help feed his family during a drought. She says the tale encompasses what it takes to be a family, how to live without violence, and courage. All things are related back to the roots of the holiday and tradition.
"The context of the stories shows the seven principles of Kwanzaa and why they're important," she says. "We can all relate."
There will be pre-show activities starting an hour before each show that include more Kwanzaa information and projects, face-painting and African games. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 at the door and $5 for groups of five or more. Call 628-7785 for tickets, information and reservations. —A.P.
Rhythm Industry Review
7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12
Rhythm Industry Performance Factory
1013 S. Tyndall Ave.
Consider what pyrotechnic theater, modern dance, pantomime, Brazilian and African beats and Japanese drumming all sound like—and look like.
It won't all be happening at once, but it's all happening on the same night, at the Rhythm Industry Performance Factory. The performers all call the Rhythm Industry home when they're practicing, and they describe this event as a recital of work in progress.
The Afro-Brazilian percussion and dance ensemble Batucaxé will be the featured performers; they'll be joined by Odaiko Sonora, Jodi Netzer, Movement Salon, Theatrical Mime Theatre and Saguaro Aikido, to name just a few entertainers.
"Most of us are practicing art forms off the beaten track that require a large space," says Karen Falkenstrom, co-director of the Japanese taiko-drumming group Odaiko Sonora, which owns the Rhythm Industry space.
"Some of us are a little hard to house," says Falkenstrom. "Some of the things we do are a little dangerous, but we're dedicated to keeping a place open for local artists to create and practice their work."
This review is a fundraiser and primer to get everyone ready for the Carnaval celebration to be held in February. The money raised will help ensure that the building can continue to stay open; Falkenstrom says it's a struggle for any small business nowadays, but with the help of these reviews, she remains optimistic.
"It'll be an informal setting; people can ask questions and meet the artists," says Falkenstrom about what to expect. "The first half will be the review, and the second half will be a dance party for everyone."
Cookies and juice will be provided. The suggested donation is $10. —A.P.