Dance Round-Up

Brace Yourself For Three Big Productions This Weekend.

By Margaret Regan

THE BILL T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performance Saturday night is the highlight of a dance weekend that's all over the map.

Besides We Set Out Early...Visibility Was Poor, the dance/theatre piece by the internationally known Jones company, the roster includes Alice in Wonderland, a playful contemporary ballet by state troupers Ballet Arizona, and a cutting-edge choreographers' showcase by the home-town Zenith Dance Collective. It won't be easy to see all three shows, but dance lovers who steel themselves to go out three nights running can do it.

Review THERE'S ONLY ONE chance to catch We Set Out Early, at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at UA Centennial Hall. In this closing performance of the season's UApresents' Millennium Project, Tucsonans have the good fortune to see a Jones work that's practically brand new: It premiered just last October. Jones is one of the leading figures in modern dance, a choreographer laden with awards and beset with controversies: The child of black migrant workers from Georgia, he's also an HIV-positive gay man who lost his lover, Zane, to AIDS. Jones has combined dance with theatre to look at such un-dancelike issues as AIDS, mortality and racism.

The new piece is abstract, "cryptic," according to The New York Times, unlike such earlier Jones works as Still/Here, which achieved instant fame when New Yorker critic Arlene Croce refused to see it--or review it--on the grounds that its fatally ill performers were doing a form of victim art.

Running 70 minutes, We Set Out Early is a kind of millennial tour through the 20th century. It's divided into three sections, each set to the music of a composer belonging to a different period in the century--the late Igor Stravinksy and John Cage, and Peteris Vasks, a contemporary Latvian. Jones told a Washington Post critic that the title "reads like the first line of a short story or a novel, so the audience gets into that mode, but it's an abstract, nonlinear work." That critic, Sarah Kaufman, later wrote that the piece is "abstract, evanescent as a spider web, and yet shimmers with emotional and even spiritual import." Jones' dancers, she noted, "continue to rank among the finest anywhere...they all share a velvety propulsion, razor-sharp technique and a stage presence that's close to majesty."

Tickets for the concert are $25, with 15 percent discounts for faculty and staff, 50 percent discounts for children and students with ID. The tickets are available at Dillard's (1-800-638-4253) and the Centennial box office (621-3341). Jones will give a free lecture on Unlocking the Creative Process at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Centennial Hall. Before the concert, UA dance prof Jory Hancock will give a pre-performance discussion of Jones' work at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, April 18, in Room 101 of the Douglass Building, east of Centennial Hall.

BALLET ARIZONA REPRISES its full-scale Alice in Wonderland, which last played in Tucson three years ago, at a series of three shows at the PCC Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Fresh from a sold-out run in Phoenix, the wild production alternates between the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Brandenburg Concerti of Bach. Every Ballet Arizona dancer and apprentice, some 32 strong, joins forces to bring Lewis Carroll's surreal story to life. Bonnie Rich, who did a breathtaking dance of the dead in Ballet Arizona's Earth Dances concert a few weekends ago, does a 180-degree turn to become the feisty Alice. The White Rabbit is Judith Adee, the sinuous dancer who did the showstopping Arab dance in this year's Nutcracker. Michael Uthoff, company artistic director, choreographed the piece in 1991.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday, April 17, and at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18. Tickets are $15 to $34, with discounts available to students, children and seniors. They're available at the PCC box office (206-6988), Dillard's (1-800-638-4253) and Ballet Arizona (1-888-3Ballet).

A WIDE ASSORTMENT of independent choreographers will introduce their new works in A Spring Choreographers Showcase, presented by the Zenith Dance Collective, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 16 through 18. The shows are at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts, 408 S. Sixth Ave.

Zenith's annual concerts are always among the most on-the-edge dance events in town. This year familiar Zenith choreographers Eva Tessler, Nanette Marie and Jon McNamara will share the boards with some new names: Nate Dryden, a former Orts dancer skilled on the trapeze, Nancy Mellan, Elizabeth Breck and Jim Lobely, and so is the Sacred Ways Dance Company out of Philadelphia. Sacred Ways will perform "Full Woman," a religiously themed work.

Tickets are available at the door for $10. Seniors get in for $8, students with ID for $6. For more information, call 322-9021. TW

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