The Coyote Stars

Native American tales provide the basis for a new, 30-minute NEW ARTiculations dance number

It was lucky for Tammy Rosen--and the rest of the NEW ART crew--that Rosen had her section of the new work "Trickster" choreographed well before April 3.

That's because Rosen's new baby daughter, Katherine Rose, chose to make her debut that day, two weeks ahead of schedule.

"Luckily, her piece was already done," Leigh Ann Rangel, Rosen's co-artistic director in NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre, said last week. "But Tammy started coming to rehearsals soon after giving birth, within two or three weeks. She'd bring the baby with her."

Rangel did the bulk of the choreography for "Trickster," which will make its own debut this weekend in "Trickster and Other Dances," the modern troupe's annual June concert. The show also includes a Charlotte Adams work, "Dichotomy," a reprise of Randy James' "With Waves at My Back" from the January show and dances by company members.

Based on Native American tales about trickster coyotes, "Trickster" is a big work for 10 dancers, divided into four main sections and an intro, lasting about 30 minutes total. It's set to a brand-new score composed by guest artist William Campbell, a former adjunct music professor at Pima Community College. Campbell is now on the full-time faculty at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers.

"We'd been wanting to work with Bill," Rangel said. "He did a Theatrical Mime Theater show last year. We took him out to lunch and traded ideas. Bill and I both were familiar with the coyote myths."

Once they settled on a compilation of Indian tales, Campbell composed primarily electronic music.

"The music is somewhat hybrid," Rangel said. "It's rhythmic. It could be either Native American or African-American-influenced. Sometimes there are drums and shaken instruments. For the Star section, it has a more New Age feel, a big flavor. It sounds like stars."

Dancer Katie Rutterer plays Coyote. The opening Star section is based on a creation story. Pima drama student Norman Graves plays the Creator, and neatly places stars in the sky in an orderly pattern. Coyote sneaks in after the Creator is done, "takes the stars and throws them into the constellations."

In the dance version, as Rutterer tosses stars from a bucket, nine dancers take over and "act as the stars and move into position. They fall into the Little Dipper, Orion's Belt, Pleaides and the Southern Cross. We tried to pick stories," Rangel added, "that had movement possibilities."

Rosen's section has Coyote competing with her animal friends to shoot arrows, hunt apples and the like. In another segment, Coyote loses her glasses (the original Indian tale had Coyote losing his eyeballs), and she mistakenly believes that a forest of trees is actually people dancing. (For the dance, of course, the trees really are dancers.)

"These are actual Indian stories from the oral tradition," Rangel said. "But they've been combined. They're not really Southwestern"--as the green-tree dance attests.

The dancers are dressed in glittery pastels for their turn as stars; in brown and green for the forest scene; and in animal costumes borrowed from Thom Lewis, who used them in his "Pound Puppies" piece for FUNHOUSE movement theater. Company dancers will take to the stage, along with some performers borrowed from other troupes, and youth company members. Among the NEW ARTers are Amy Barr, Jamie Jennette, Heather Haegar and April Greengaard; guests include Nathan Dryden, Bridget Gunning and Kimi Eisele.

The Adams octet, "Dichotomy," was performed in New York at the Joyce Soho in 2003, and at the American College Dance Festival in 2002. This is its first foray onto a Tucson stage. A dance professor at the University of Iowa, former Tucsonan Adams has been spending her sabbatical in Tucson, where she still owns a house and contributes works to the local scene. (O-T-O performed an Adams piece in the winter.)

This dance is "a meditation on the spiritual division that arises when we long for opposing desires, represented in movement by oppositional pulling, reaching and falling," Adams said in a written statement. The vocal music is Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere Mei, Deus." The lineup of NEW ART dancers is supplemented by Lena Lauer, borrowed from O-T-O, and former O-T-Oer Amanda Hamp.

James' lively work, a hit in January, is set to Bach's Concerto in D minor for three pianos and string orchestra. The New York choreographer, who got critical praise for the work in the Big Apple, filled it with plenty of energetic lifts and falls. The seven dancers this time around include Rangel, Rutterer, Barr, Jennette, Dryden, Greengaard and wunderkind Max Foster.

Other pieces on the program include the duet "Allegretto" by Greengaard, a spoof on the rivalry between two ballerinas; Alison Whitcomb's solo "Gone," performed by Jennette; and Rutterer's duet "Quiz: Is He a Loser?" inspired by reality shows. Dryden presents his quartet "Breath," which he dances along with Rutterer, Hamp and Gregory Colburn.

Conspicuously absent will be NEW ART dancer Rosen, whose last public dance was in January, which she performed while balancing her great belly.

She's "doing great," Rangel said. "She's been coming to rehearsals with Katie Rose, taking breaks for nursing. Everybody loves Katie. But Tammy is anxious to get back."