Just Dance

While the UA basketball teams are unlikely to make the Final Four this year, the university is among the top four when it comes to another type of action—dance.

Four seems to be the theme for the UA dance show Premium Blend. For the opening of the show, Tucsonans have the rare chance to see a performance of George Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments."

Balanchine is to ballet what Michael Jordan is to basketball; he choreographed both The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

Hannah Rasker, a senior dance student at the UA, said that the UA is only the fourth university in the United States to receive the rights to perform this ballet.

"Any program that wishes to perform a piece choreographed by George Balanchine must apply to the Balanchine Trust," Rasker said.

"The Four Temperaments" is based on the medieval belief that people are made up four humors: melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic and choleric, which determine our personalities. These humors also have a corresponding element. Melancholic corresponds with earth (think of a person who is never satisfied); sanguinic with air (think of a happy-go-lucky person); phlegmatic with water (think of a person resistant to change); and choleric with fire (think of an intense or militant person). The choreography of "The Four Temperaments" is made up of four movements, which are named after each of the humors.

There are also—you guessed it—four UA dance professors premiering their works in this show.

Doug Nielsen came up with the idea for "The Parakeet Chronicles" from a 1950s record he found at a garage sale. The record was designed to teach your parakeet to talk.

"'The Parakeet Chronicles' could be described as a multimedia, nonlinear dance with live camera and prerecorded footage of a car ride through Tucson, including a car wash, along with close-ups of the dancers themselves," said Nielsen.

"My subliminal message is you can't learn by rote," he said. "I believe education needs to be experiential and applied before learning takes place."

Susan Quinn's "VOLT" is a high energy, hip-hop number. "Each section is a unit of electrical force, alternating the music that pushes dancers through a circuit of classical music, alternating with hip-hop, (and it all) equals power," she said.

Quinn wanted to honor the many dancers who died last year, including Patrick Swayze, Michael Jackson, George Zoritch and her friend Kirby Reed, who had a stroke at 52. "I wanted to show the audience that when one person enters a situation, it can all change, for the good or bad," she said.

Amy Ernst's "Hush" has a more serious tone. Ernst said she got the idea for the piece last July, when her mother-in-law passed away from cancer. "We, her family, were all with her through her last moments, and the images formed from those last few days were ones I knew I wanted to use in this new piece," she said.

She choreographed the piece as a way to honor both her mother-in-law and her own father, who also passed away from cancer.

"When I began work with the 24 dancers who perform this dance, their memories and feelings about loved ones they themselves had lost were used as part of the spoken and written remembrance," she said. "I actually composed questions for each of them to consider, and their answers are what you will experience in both spoken and handwritten form during the piece."

Ernst collaborated on this piece with Regina Gagliano, owner of Sonora Theatre Works. Gagliano helped Ernst cover the entire stage with fabric, up to the waist of the dancers. The dancers use the fabric as both a set piece and prop, dancing with and interacting with the fabric.

Jazz lovers will enjoy Michael Williams' "ITZaJAZZthing," which utilizes components that Williams "thought were iconic in terms of jazz dance: a hat, a glove, a cane, a chair. And I used these sort of 'old school' elements and attempted to give them a fresh approach and usage," he said.

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