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Some old works get new looks during FUNHOUSE's 'Dance in the Park' show

When Lee Anne Hartley and Thom Lewis parted ways as co-artistic directors of FUNHOUSE movement theater earlier this year, Hartley vowed to open up the company to multiple guest choreographers.

She's done exactly that. At this weekend's free Dance in the Park concert at Reid Park, no fewer than four guest choreographers will get their hour upon the stage.

"I'm loving the diversity of the work," Hartley says. "We have everything from funny to elegant to dramatic to colorful to edgy modern dance."

Three of the choreographers are well-known on the Tucson scene: Tammy Rosen, co-artistic director of NEW ARTiculations; Nanette Robinson, head of ZUZI!; and Lucia Zeffirelli, leader of Zeffirelli 8. The fourth is an out-of-towner, Victoria Hutchinson, chair of the dance program at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Each of the four guests offers up a single piece, while Hartley will present excerpts from three of her own works, and one full dance, "Hardscrabble," the Appalachian quartet she debuted last spring.

Apart from that long work, danced by Hartley, Andrea Murray, Amanda Morse and Sherry Mulholland (Leisel Womack makes a brief appearance as a miner), the concert will showcase "many short pieces," Hartley says.

"They work well in a park setting." With an audience ranging from grandparents on lawn chairs to toddlers playing on the grass, the choreographer has learned that "shorter is better."

Hutchinson is "an old-time friend," says Hartley, explaining the presence of the Maryland prof among the Old Pueblo-ites. The pair met around 1980, during their days at the UA, where Hartley was a dance teacher and Hutchinson a grad student. So when Hutchinson took a sabbatical semester in Tucson last spring, Hartley jumped at the chance to enlist her buddy to choreograph for the revamped FUNHOUSE. (Lewis has gone on to form his own company, Thom Lewis Dance, which will debut in January with a ballet concert, and in March with a modern-dance show.)

For the FUNHOUSE spring concert, Hutchinson staged her "Rhapsodic Dialogue" on teen dancers from Ballet Rincon. This time around, she's presenting the humorous "Flocking," by Peter Madden, on a group of mostly adults.

"Victoria was in his company and got rights to the piece," Hartley says. "She's reworked it. It's kind of both of theirs now."

The five dancers are dressed like World War I flying aces, with helmets and scarves--shades of Snoopy--and flit around to an electronic score.

"It's an oddball piece," Hartley says. "They flap their wings like birds, twittering their feet, darting their heads, careening."

Hutchinson borrowed two of the dancers, Veronica Lavery and Michelle Norush, from Zeffirelli 8. The others are Karyn Reim, a New Yorker new to Tucson, Annie Hazelman and high schooler Womack.

Rosen, of NEW ART, has also tweaked an older group piece, her "Valor Is Gone: The Melodrama." Three NEW ART dancers, April Greengaard, Heather Peress and Katie Rutterer, dance with three bar stools--"metaphoric husbands," Hartley says--to the strains of Vivaldi.

"It's funny at times, and exceptionally well danced," Hartley says.

ZUZI's Robinson also enlisted two of her own dancers, Scott Bird and Yumi Shirai. The pair reprise her "Where's My Boy?" a duet they premiered at this year's ZUZI spring show. An elegiac piece about love, war and loss, the dance is accompanied by John Bormanis playing his own compositions live on the guitar.

"Neptune's Dream," by Zeffirelli, is a carnivalesque vision of life under the sea, inspired by Fellini at his wackiest.

"Fish heads are part of the costume," Hartley reports. "It's very colorful."

The seven dancers, mostly from Zeffirelli's own troupe, are Sabina Burke, Ahniwake Dysinger, Iva Pavlakovic, mother and daughter Michelle and Jasmine Norush, Mulholland and Zeffirelli herself.

Hartley dresses as Charlie Chaplin for her solo turn in "Charlie," a fragment from the larger "Leaves," danced to "Maple Leaf Rag."

"I really get the cane," she jokes. "I was a championship twirler as a kid."

She also dances in "The Future of Time," the lyrical section of her large "Wild West of Physics," a humorous piece the troupe presented twice last year. Hartley is joined by Erika Colombi, a newcomer to town, Morse, Murray and Mulholland.

And Hartley takes a turn as a kid on a hobby horse in "Hi Ho Silverettes," a reminiscence of her childhood performed to a soundscape from the old Lone Ranger TV show. Murray plays another kid on a horse; Mulholland is the mom. Mulholland again portrays Hartley's mother in the solo "Missing You."

Both pieces are part of "As Time Goes By," an eight-part homage to the marriage of Hartley's parents, which ended abruptly with the death of her father, an Air Force pilot, in a plane crash. Hartley has presented "As Time Goes By," in whole or in part, several times over FUNHOUSE's half-dozen years. In fact, she notes, the entire concert this weekend is about giving choreographers a chance to retool earlier works. There isn't a single new piece on the program.

"So much choreography in modern dance is throwaway," she says. "But I find that things really start to click the third time around. All four of the guest choreographers have said how much fun it is."

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