Pulled to Pieces

NEW ART dancers take to the stage with a little help from some friends from Flagstaff

Leigh Ann Rangel's latest piece of choreography has the muscular title "Push and Pull."

"The dancers are literally pulled by the other dancers and then pushed by an imaginary force," she says of the work, which will debut this weekend in the NEW ART Works of Art concert. "It's the cliché of being pulled to pieces. It's the way I feel sometimes."

Rangel is only half kidding. For the last eight years, she's been co-artistic director of the modern troupe, whose full name is NEW ARTiculations Dance Theatre. For the last five years, she's had a full-time day job, as manager of the Center for the Arts at Pima Community College West. And for all of that time--and before--she's been choreographing and dancing herself.

"It's hard sometimes to have more than a full-time job and to also do the administrative work with NEW ART," she admits. "But the artistic work helps me in all other areas. It's my passion."

Last month, Rangel's schedule of nonstop pushing and pulling got some attention. She won the Individual/Emerging Artist Award in the annual Arizona Daily Star Tucson Pima Arts Council Awards competition, picking up a Tom Philabaum-designed glass plaque and a $500 cash prize.

"I feel really honored," she says. "The other nominees were really qualified and have done a lot. I don't do what I do to win an award, but I was excited."

Plus, she says, she's pleased that the prize brings attention to dance, an art form that struggles for attention, both from audiences and the local media, even from the paper whose name is on the prize.

"It's nice that it brings the company publicity," Rangel says. "Dance is the least represented of all the arts. Any time dance can get recognition, that's good."

Rosen's co-artistic director at NEW ART concurs.

"Any gain for Leigh Ann is a gain for the company," says Tammy Rosen. "We're grateful for her dedication to the art and for how she touches our lives, personally."

Rangel and Rosen, along with departed founding member Jennifer Pollock, started their company nearly a decade ago with multiple goals: They wanted to create new audiences for dance while staging serious work from multiple choreographers. Thus, in recent years, they commissioned hotshot East Coast choreographer Randy James to create a piece, and they staged their own kid-friendly modern-dance version of Hansel and Gretel.

This weekend's concert ("heavy on post-modern," according to Rosen) stays true to the mission, mixing fun pieces with lyrical and experimental dances.

The show premieres no fewer than six new dances choreographed by six different dancers, including new member Yvonne Montoya, whose "Estatus: Unsent" is set to Spanish and English texts. A seventh dance, "Breath" by Nate Dryden, adds two more sections to a dance he first staged a year ago. And the concert features guest dancers from Canyon Movement Company in Flagstaff, performing works never before seen in Tucson.

"We were the guest company two summers ago for their summer dance celebration," Rosen says, "so this is reciprocal."

Canyon Movement's Sarah Cook, a UA dance grad, and Carrie Drew, a student at Northern Arizona University, "dance in giant funnel tubes in a fun comical duet" called "Furbellowed Funnel," by the troupe's Gina Darlington, Rosen says. Cook also dances her own solo, "On Working Five Part-Time Jobs in Flagstaff."

Debuting a bilingual work during a period of a vitriolic national debate about immigration, Montoya collaborated with two non-dancers, Ximena Gomez Peralta and Frida Espinosa. A frequent dancer with FUNHOUSE, and now an adjunct faculty member in the UA's Mexican-American studies program, Montoya wanted to make a "bicultural" piece about a woman's "journey through a relationship," Rosen notes. Her partners created structured improv for Montoya, and then condensed her movements into her solo.

Dryden's expanded "Breath" is a "pretty punky" quartet, which he performs with Greg Colburn, Amanda Hamp and Katie Rutterer. Dancing to the music of TV on the Radio and EST, all four wear blue skirts. The three-part, 12-minute dance "has a hard edge," Rosen says.

A family ghost partly inspired Hamp's "Mrs. Milbrath." The name was given to a presumed ghost in the family house who would make the clock bong at odd moments, among other pranks. Drawing on that domestic setting, the work for six dancers "deals with women's prescribed roles," Rosen says. It also touches on the medical world, with the dancers wearing scrubs to evoke "starving dancers" who get paid to act as patients in medical training exercises. Dancers are Kimi Eisele, Amy Barr-Holm, Rutterer, Rosen, Sarah King and Kelly Shomper. The work is a bit of a NEW ART swan song for Hamp, who will leave shortly for a year's teaching position at Luther College.

Jamie Coracides, a newlywed dancer formerly known as Jamie Jennette, also stages a family drama, "Three Libras in One Family." Set to "mellow techno" music, Rosen says, the work deploys Thom Lewis of FUNHOUSE as the dad and Rangel and April Greengaard as two sisters doing the dance of family dynamics.

Another bride, Amy Barr-Holm, formerly known as Amy Barr, contributes "Biway," a set of two duets, danced first by Coracides and Laura Reichhardt in combat boots, and then by Hamp and Rutterer.

"There's beautiful partnering in both sections," Rosen says, "and they all come together briefly at the end."

Rutterer's own dance, "Allis Klar," is a quartet set to minimalist music, danced by Coracides, Hamp, Barr-Holm and Rutterer herself.

In Rangel's "Pulled," six dancers, Polly Deason, Renee Blakeley, Eisele, King, Montoya and Greengaard, enact the pushing and pulling that define an artist's life.

"I feel lucky I have this dance company under which to create and to work with other dancers," Rangel says. "Tucson is a supportive place. It's easy to live here and do your art. You may not have a lot of money, but it's easy to make it work."

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