Feet Forward

From Broadway to Butoh, A Round-Up Of October Dance Performances.

HALFWAY THROUGH the Zenith Dance Collective choreographers' showcase last weekend at Pima College, the Proscenium Theatre went dark. Speakers onstage emitted no music, only grating rock-and-roll feedback. It was no technical glitch, however: these activities were the prelude to Jon McNamara's dramatic tumble out of the rafters.

McNamara gyrated Christ-like on ropes and pulleys near the ceiling for the duration of his piece, "Suspended Somewhere West of Eloy," that is, until a confrere pretended to set him afire with a blast of flame. McNamara is a dancer-choreographer whose penchant for noise, nudity and shock value defines Tucson's dance cutting edge, but the Zenith show, Inside Out, also featured works more readily described by such conventional dance adjectives as "supple" and "lyrical." Standouts were Nanette Robinson's "Duration," a long, sensuous work for seven dancers, and Eva Tessler's "Another Like Herself," a spoken-word dance piece that touched on mother-daughter relationships and death.

Tucson is already well into its crowded autumn dance season: the Zenith show followed 10th Street Danceworks' kickoff concert in Reid Park a week earlier and the UA dance department's annual jazz dance showcase. Cutbacks at financially troubled Ballet Arizona have diminished this year's concert calendar; the company has unfortunately canceled all Tucson appearances save December's Nutcracker. Still, there's much to anticipate, including return engagements by Liz Lerman, David Roussève and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The dance styles in October shows alone circle the globe. Here's a quick list:

Hiyomeki. The Japanese company Sankai Juku performs a new dance-theatre work in Butoh, the slow-moving performance style developed in Japan after World War II as a rejection of traditional dance. Six dancers in whiteface perform the piece on a stage dusted with sand. Sankai Juku performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 9, at Centennial Hall on the UA campus. Tickets range from $16 to $28, with discounts for kids, students and UA staff. Call 621-3341 for tickets and information.

Chicago. The big star of this Broadway musical -- about two female murderers who try to use the media to evade punishment for their crimes -- is the sexy dancing. Originally choreographed by jazz great Bob Fosse in 1975, Chicago's 1997 revival was streamlined by Ann Reinking, a dancer in the original production. Thirteen dancers comprise the ensemble, and the leads dance as well as act. Reinking's stripped-down '90s version operates under "a heavy Fosse influence, but also a ballet influence," says assistant choreographer Debra McWaters. "Her movement has more curves; it's not quite as angular as Fosse's. She keeps the quirkiness. It has a very sensuous feel and employs wit and a sense of humor." Chicago runs Tuesday through Sunday, October 12 through 17, at Centennial Hall. Tickets are $36 to $44; discounts for kids, students and UA staff do not apply to the evening weekend shows. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There are matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 621-3341 for details.

Rapture Rumi. Orts Theatre of Dance's season opener is an evening-long work choreographed by frequent Orts collaborator Robert Davidson. Danced on trapezes, Rapture Rumi divides the life of a 13th-century mystic Sufi poet into 11 interconnected scenes. The poet's own words combine with dance and original music; the production features costumes inspired by medieval Moslem garb. Rapture Rumi runs Friday through Sunday, October 15 through 17, at the PCC Proscenium Theatre. Tickets range from $8 to $10 in advance; they'll be an additional $2 the day of the show. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations and information, call Orts at 624-3799, or e-mail them at orts@orts.org.

Tap Dogs. With a little help from working-class choreographer Dein Perry, six guys from an Australian steel town reinvented tap dancing a couple of years ago, charging it with rock, theatre and construction-site sets. They created such a sensation that four Tap Dogs troupes now traverse the globe. Wearing jeans and work boots, the group dances for 90 minutes, accompanied by live musicians. Tap Dogs performs Friday and Saturday, October 22 and 23, at Centennial Hall. Tickets range from $26 to $38, with discounts for kids, students and UA staff. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Call 621-3341 for information.

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