Sweet Feet

Ballet Tucson entices an audience with ten pieces and lots of dessert.

Tucson's very own professional ballet troupe does more than a few leaps of its own this weekend, in the fourth annual Dance & Dessert concerts at the Pima Community College Center for the Arts.

Led by artistic director Mary Beth Cabana, Ballet Tucson draws on a pool of local professional dancers along with advanced students from Cabana's Ballet Arts studio. Cabana, a former principal dancer with Cleveland Ballet, said she continues to enjoy teaching kids, but she started up the professional troupe a few years back because she "wanted to work on a higher level."

The company's annual winter concert, capped off by a veritable banquet of sweet treats donated by local restaurants, has been popular enough that this year Cabana added a third performance. The concert shows off a variety of dance styles in 10 separate works.

"The route we've taken is to put classical dance in the program, plus eclectic things and modern dance," Cabana says.

The company's resident choreographer, Mark Schneider, for instance, has put together a new piece for 18 dancers, "Joplin," that offers up "Charleston-style balletic movement. It's set to three different ragtime pieces of Scott Joplin." But the women, dressed in leotards fancied up to look like flapper dresses, dance on pointe.

Cabana's own work tends toward the classic. Her "Meditation" is a pas de deux set to operatic music by Massenet; "Classical Symphony," a large piece last seen at January's UA Arts Odyssey concert, is a neoclassic ballet in black and white. Cabana has also reconstructed "L'Ennui," a historic solo once danced by the great Russian Anna Pavlova.

Chieko Imada, a 10th Street Danceworks member and Ballet Arts teacher, choreographed "Faith and Sorrow," a quartet set to music from her native Japan. Mia Hansen, formerly with Up with People, put together a "really exciting fusion of flamenco, jazz and Middle Eastern movement," Cabana says; the Hansen work is just one section of a three-part collaborative piece called "Ritmos de la Noche." UA prof Sam Watson contributed "Wired," which Cabana describes as a "really funny piece for two guys."

The concert finale reprises Schneider's "Firebird" from last year, a techno update on a Russian folktale ballet.

"It's futuristic, sort of a machines against the humans story," Cabana says. "It's very exciting."

Ballet Tucson presents Dance & Dessert IV at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 23 and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 24 at the Pima Community College Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. The $15 ticket price includes one gourmet dessert and beverage after the show. Tickets are available at the door. For more information call 903-1445 or 623-3373.