Beth Braun's much-loved dance work "The Struggle" begins in silence.
Fourteen dancers are seated on chairs. Slowly, they begin to move, and start enacting their life struggles through movement, each performing a solo of his or her own.
"My idea is that we're all in these chairs, in our internal struggles," Braun says.
Part of Journey—a collaboration between Braun and her late husband, Arthur Miscione, a singer-songwriter—the three-part work is about human struggle and triumph. The dancers perform to three of Miscione's songs—"Shelter From the Storm," "Suicide Notes" and "The Struggle"—which were to be recorded on his third CD.
Despite its turbulent history, the work "ends on a hopeful note," Braun says. "Two people are embracing on a trapeze. And one dancer is carrying another."
"The Struggle," not seen on Tucson stages in some years, will be a highlight of this weekend's Concert for a Cause at ZUZI's Theater. With its themes of sorrow and redemption, the work is a good fit for the concert, a benefit for a woman getting treatment for childhood sexual abuse.
A production of the Esperanza Project, Concert for a Cause mixes hip-hop, modern and Latin-tinged contemporary. Dancers from four different troupes will perform works by five different choreographers.
"I think it's going to be a great concert, a diverse gathering of groups and choreography," says organizer Braun. "They all volunteered to be a part of this. They're doing it for the cause."
Troupes on the program are Movement Salon, the improv group composed mostly of NEW ARTiculations dancers; Safos Dance Theatre, the Hispanic troupe that debuted last spring; hip-hop company The Human Project; and ZUZI! Dance Company. Independent choreographer Tanya Fisher, a former dance-studio owner and dancer with O-T-O Dance, will present a work of her own, as will Braun, associate artistic director of ZUZI!, head of the dance program at Rincon/University High School and an independent choreographer.
Live music is also on the playbill. Pablo Peregrina, a singer-songwriter who frequently collaborates with ZUZI!, will debut some of his new tunes. He'll play as the audience assembles in the theater, and share the interludes between dances with JC Olson, a guitarist and singer. Saxophonist Hiram Perez will provide music at a post-concert reception.
Braun organized the Esperanza Project last year to help raise money for a woman with ties to the local dance community. The woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, is trying to pay for treatment she sought following sexual abuse she suffered as a girl. She had to be hospitalized, and the costs were "outrageous," Braun says, and were not covered by health insurance.
In the future, Braun hopes to make Esperanza a full-fledged nonprofit. She envisions a dance-based group that will "foster self-esteem and confidence in youth," warding off potential problems by involving the kids in "dance and creativity."
In the meantime, this weekend's concert, like the first Concert for a Cause last fall, will direct its proceeds solely toward the woman's bills. Braun also hopes it will raise awareness of what she says is the pervasiveness of childhood sexual abuse.
The dances on the program range from cutting-edge improv to social commentary. Movement Salon members work every week on movement and spoken-word pieces, but the performers never know in advance what will emerge.
For this concert, poet Lisa Bowden will provide the words, and Connor Gallaher the music. Greg Colburn, Kimi Eisele, Jennifer Hoefle and Katie Rutterer will improvise the dance.
Two companies are staging pieces about the tragedies playing out on the Arizona-Mexico border. Yvonne Montoya's new troupe Safos reprises a multimedia piece from its debut concert in May. "With Me Departing," choreographed by Renee Blakeley, is an excerpt from the longer "Their Souls Swallowed by the Sun," about the deaths of migrants on the sprawling Tohono O'odham Nation. Remote, waterless and almost treeless, that land claims many lives.
Mixelle Rascón made the video backdrop, and Montoya and Blakeley dance.
ZUZI!'s border work "Chapulin" is drawn from its spring concert, Crossing Boundaries.
"It's the duet that Nanette and I did," Braun says, referring to ZUZI! artistic director Nanette Robinson. Dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the two ZUZI-ites dance on a trapeze and on scaffolding representing the border wall.
"It's about volunteers who go out in the desert and search and find people who need help," Braun says.
Peregrina accompanies the dance with two songs; one is the title work, "Chapulin"; the second is "Where Do We Go From Here?"
"We worked with the idea of, where do they (migrants) go, even if they make it through the desert?" Braun says.
Anton Smith's The Human Project will contribute a hip-hop piece. Smith has pushed hip-hop in new directions, Braun notes, making "creative and unique hip-hop choreography." His company performs modern-influenced dance in high school showcases, at street events and at large indoor "vendettas." Among his dancers are two of her former high-school students at Rincon/University, Vy Darrell and Kieu Wilmer.
Tanya Fisher's "Beautiful" is a "spiritual, lyrical piece" danced by three teenagers, Braun says.
At the post-concert reception, besides the music by Perez, Braun promises plenty of food and drink. Exercise wear designed by Lisa Hilton Myers will be for sale, with all profits going to the concert beneficiary. Each piece of clothing, Braun says, is printed with a Marianne Williamson quote meant to inspire anyone going through a struggle.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate," it reads. "Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most."