Dance Update

It Looks Like An Action-Packed Year For Local Dance Fans.
By Margaret Regan 

SOME GOOD NEWS blew in over the local dance scene in the past week.

UApresents announced that some of the outstanding companies in modern dance--Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater and Pilobolus--will perform on the Centennial Hall stage during the crowded 1997-'98 season, Pilobolus on February 7, Pimsler on March 7 and Jones on April 18.

Keeping up the good work he began two seasons ago in revitalizing a moribund Centennial Hall program, Ken Foster is also bringing in controversial performance artist Tim Miller, who won the special derision of certain congressmen bent on dismantling the NEA, and a multimedia dance-opera "spectacle" by Phillip Glass and Susan Marshall.

And in one of the best ideas anybody's had in town in a long time, UApresents will be collaborating with other Arizona arts organizations, including the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix-based Ballet Arizona, groups Foster calls his "friendly competitors." Ballet Arizona, for the first time, will do a concert that's part of the UApresents season. Back on its feet financially after winning a couple of major grants, the state ballet company has co-commissioned a new piece with UApresents, "Día de los Muertos," to be choreographed by company artistic director Michael Uthoff, and staged November 14 and 15.

The brand-new, evening-length work, co-commissioned also by ASU and the Flinn Foundation, is a welcome addition to an expanded Ballet Arizona season that will go beyond the tired 19th-century workhorses that dominated this past year. Yes, there will be a Nutcracker, though it should be much improved by the return of the TSO to the pit. And it's a relief to learn that a trio of wholly 20th-century Balanchine works will open the company's season October 10 and 1l.

Continuing with the contemporary offerings, Earth Dances on March 27 and 28 features works by Uthoff and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women. Uthoff's surreal Alice in Wonderland is set for April 17 and 18. Traditionalists will no doubt applaud Houston Ballet's Swan Lake, a co-presentation by UApresents and Ballet Arizona at Centennial Hall May 7.

Finally, the UA Dance Division announced that its student dancers have been invited to perform at a prestigious international festival in Amsterdam this June. Local dance lovers can see some of the works at this weekend's faculty concert, a whole month before the Dutch set eyes on them. Celebrate Dance, set for this Friday and Saturday evenings at Centennial Hall, will feature three premieres that will be reprised in the Netherlands in abbreviated form at the International Theatreschool Festival.

Amy Ernst offers up "Bernstein's Reply," a modern dance piece for 20 performers honoring the late composer Leonard Bernstein. Michael Williams will debut "Pockets," a jazz work with a cast of 10. Susan Quinn, the program's artist in residence, mixes tango with jazz steps in her new "Sabor a Mi," set to new music by Dan Owen.

Dance division head Jory Hancock is understandably proud of what he sees as growing recognition of the UA program. Festival organizers first became aware of the UA dancers last summer, when they were performing at the Kennedy Center in a Jazz Dance World Congress.

"This year we're the only program from the U.S. that's been invited to perform (at Theatreschool)," Hancock said. The invitation puts the UA in some heady company, considering that previous American invitees were some of the top arts schools in the nation, such as Juilliard, Tisch (at New York University) and State University of New York at Purchase.

Hancock's dancers were also invited to two other festivals, in Germany and in Hong Kong, but the department can only afford to go to one. Amsterdam was chosen because its festival welcomes all three dance genres the UA teaches--modern, ballet and jazz. The department's ballet entry will be "Tonadas," a neoclassical piece by Hancock and Melissa Lowe.

Hancock's already paid out $17,000 for airfare for the 20 students and six faculty who'll head for Europe, and he's hoping to make at least some of the money back in ticket sales from this weekend's concert. Other works in Celebrate Dance will be "Creation," an elaborate, ethnically tinged dance by John Wilson, for 14 dancers and two musicians; a solo tribute by Ernst to Bella Lewitzky, who is closing down her noted company this year; and "Games," a ballet by Hancock and Lowe that's a tribute to UA sports.

Curtain goes up for the UA Dance Division's Faculty Concert, Celebrate Dance, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3, at Centennial Hall. Tickets, available at the box office, are $10 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. For more information call 621-3341. For information on Ballet Arizona call 1-888-3BALLET. For UApresents tickets, call 621-3341. TW

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