The scene this weekend has a laudably global glow: you can sample everything from Tohono O'odham poetry to Scottish music to Brazilian dance. Take a look below. (And check out our Spring Arts Preview next week to learn about even more multicultural art in town, including paintings by an Iranian-American, photography by Native Americans and mixed media art by Oaxacans.)
Ofelia Zepeda Poetry Reading at the Tucson Museum of Art, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6. Tucsonmuseumofart.org.
Tucson treasure Ofelia Zepeda is a certified MacArthur genius, a UA Regents Professor of Linguistics and the author of the first-ever grammar of the Tohono O'odham language. Born into an O'odham family in Stanfield, AZ, she has long championed the preservation of Indigenous languages, including co-founding the UA's revered American Indian Language Development Institute.
Zepeda is also a beloved poet whose works conjure up life in the desert home of the O'odham—the Desert People. Writing—and speaking—in both O'odham and in English, she imagines rain and clouds and dancers and songs. Her poem "How to End a Season" describes a ceremony. It reads in part:
The singer's soft voice carries songs across the desert floor. To the east a bright star takes a long, trailing fall. The glow is wide and slow. The people point. The gohimeli songs begin.
The free reading is part of TMA's no-fee First Thursday celebration at the museum, 140 N. Main Ave. The reading is a prelude to The Place Where Clouds Are Formed, an art exhibition opening at TMA Feb. 9.
That multimedia show, which honors the original homelands of the Tohono O'odham—now once again under fire from the U.S. government—will include Zepeda's poetry, photos by Gareth Smit and text by scholar Martín Zícari.
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas Scottish Music Concert, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway.
Californian Natalie Haas is a Juilliard-trained cellist and Scotsman Alasdair Fraser is a fiddler in the traditional vein. You might think the two would make for an odd pairing, but for the last 20 years they've been playing Scottish instrumental music together to riotous acclaim.
A critic at the Boston Globe wrote that their unusual sound is "as urbane as a Manhattan midnight, and as wild as a Clackmannan winter," Clackmannan being a historic Scottish town.
It turns out that back in the early days of Scottish music, the cello was seen as the obvious partner of the fiddle, especially for dance music. That trad partnership eventually died out, and the cello was mainly used for classical music and heard mostly in symphony halls.
Fraser, considered by many the finest fiddler in Scotland, knew that history had determined to reunite the two instruments. He ultimately found the perfect match in cellist Haas. The two share a passion for trad music. Haas is in demand by many Celtic bands, including Solas, Altan and Liz Carroll—and together they've helped revive the old tradition of the Scottish cello-fiddle combo.
Critics and audiences have embraced their dazzling sound and their first album, Fire & Grace, was named the Scots Trad Music Album of the Year. Since then, they have performed around the world and made four more records, all of them critically received. Hailed for their intense live performances, the pair will be playing in Tucson Friday night, in their first visit in five years.
Advance tickets are $24 general, $22 for seniors and TFTM members. Advance tickets for a fee at inconcerttucson.com, and for no fee at Antigone Books, 511 N. Fourth Ave.,792-3715; and The Folk Shop, 2525 N. Campbell Ave., 881-7147. Remaining tickets will be $27 and $25 at the door. Info at inconcerttucson.com.
Brazilian dance troupe Grupo Corpo performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at Centennial Hall.
In Brazilian Portuguese, Grupo Corpo means "body group," a name fitting for this popular dance company. The nimble bodies of the 21 young dancers fly through energetic movements that have been dubbed by critics as fizzy, high-voltage dance, spinning whiplash, propulsive and joyful.
The dancers will zoom into Tucson for one night only on Saturday, as part of a southwest tour making the rounds in the weeks before Mardi Gras. (It falls on Feb. 25 this year.)
The theatrical dance works are decidedly Brazilian. The contemporary choreography of this now 45-year-old troupe is indebted to ballet and modern dance, to be sure, but Brazilian street moves are part of the mix and so is Afro-Brazilian contemporary dance. And the dancers wear costumes that are neon bright in gold, blue and black.
The two dances on the program underscore this fertile brew.
"Gira," created by company photographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, is inspired by Afro-Brazilian religious rituals, according to press materials, and set to music by the Brazilian fusion group Méta Méta.
The second work, "Bach," does a 180-degree turn, harking back to the European world of the baroque. The piece honors composer Johann Sebastian Bach, though its score, by Marco Antônio Guimarães, is contemporary.
Tickets $24 to $60 plus fee online at UApresents.org—the UA website sends buyers to Ticketmaster. Also available at the Centennial Hall box office, 1020 E. University Blvd., 621-3341.