Visions Of Sugarplums

Tucson Troupes Are Dancing Up A Storm, With A Variety Of Classic Holiday Favorites And Colorful New Traditions.

By Margaret Regan

EVERY YEAR WE light a candle to the gods of dance so that The Nutcracker never loses its appeal to the masses," says Michael Uthoff of Ballet Arizona. "It supports dance in America."

The candles must be working, as the strange tale of the little girl and the broken nutcracker shows no signs of losing its luster. This year, as usual, dance companies around the country are filling their coffers with the fairy tale crowd-pleaser. In Tucson, there are several other dance choices this holiday season (listed at the end of this story), but The Nutcracker predominates. Tucson dance goers can sample three different productions.

Review Ballet Arizona is up first. The professional dance troupe moves this year to Centennial Hall, abandoning its usual venue at the TCC Music Hall in hopes of tapping into the UApresents dance audience. The Tucson Symphony Orchestra will be on hand to play the beloved Tchaikovsky score at the five Tucson performances this weekend. Last year, Ballet Arizona re-did its production, with fresh Uthoff choreography and all-new costumes and sets. The magical Christmas tree alone is made of 3,000 dyed ostrich feathers.

Yen-Li Chen-Zhang, back from maternity leave, alternates the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy with Paola Hartley and Gia Firicano. Judith Adee reprises her sinuous Arabian Coffee Dance. A pair of Phoenix kids play Clara and Fritz, but all the other children are Tucsonans.

Ballet Arizona, accompanied by the TSO, dances The Nutcracker at UA Centennial Hall at
7:30 p.m. Friday, December 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 5; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, December 6. Tickets are $40, $30 and $20 for adults; half-price for children 12 and under, and discounted a few dollars for seniors 65 and up. They're available through Dillard's (1-800-638-4253), Ballet Arizona (1-888-3BALLET), or the Centennial Hall box office (621-3341).

Tucson Regional Ballet, a top notch local troupe of teens and kids, performs its clever adaptation of the European story the following weekend. A Southwest Nutcracker, staged December 11 through 13 at the TCC Leo Rich Theatre, sets the tale in 1880s Tucson. Full of coyotes, cavalry and rattlesnakes, it transforms Drosselmeyer into a Zorro-like figure, and the Sugar Plum Fairy into one of the Prickly Pear genus. As usual, the company imports a couple of professionals to spice up the proceedings. This year Anne Derieux and Charles Newton, from Pacific Northwest Ballet, will dance the duet of the Prickly Pear Fairy and her caballero.

Tucson Regional Ballet presents A Southwest Nutcracker at TCC Leo Rich Theatre, 260 S. Church Ave., at 7 p.m. Friday, December 11;
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, December 12, and 2 p.m. Sunday, December 13. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for kids, students and seniors. They're available at the Dillard's and TCC box offices, or by calling 791-4266.

Ballets Arts Foundation closes The Nutcracker season with a classic rendition. Students from Ballet Arts Studios and adults take most of the roles. Graced by beautiful backdrops, snowy scenes and charming Victorian costumes, the Ballet Arts Foundation production shows off its students' rigorous training. The shows are at the PCC Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Tickets are $15. This one often sells out. For more information, call 623-3373.

In the non-Nutcracker category, the UA Dance Division presents ballet, jazz and modern dance in its annual winter concert. A classical ballet, "Paquita," staged by profs Melissa Lowe and Jory Hancock, and an excerpt of a modern piece, "Songs of Sanctuary," by prof Amy Ernst, will be performed at each of the four performances this weekend. The Thursday and Saturday evening shows also feature "Emergence" by John Wilson, a dance prof fluent in world choreography; and "Give It Way Now," a jazz piece by student Mandy Montenez. The Friday evening concert and Saturday matinee will also offer "The History of Jazz," by student Desiree Kuring, and "In Pace," a solo work by Solinea Orinski.

UA Dance: In the Season will be performed in the UA Gittings Dance Theatre, north of McKale Center. Curtain is 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 3 through 5. The matinee is at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 4. Tickets are $8 general, $6 for students and seniors, and are available at the door or in advance at the Fine Arts box office (621-1162).

A Time to Dance Studio, an up-and-coming dance school, strays from The Nutcracker but sticks with Tchaikovsky, offering a holiday performance of Swan Lake at its fifth-annual Christmas concert. Performed by adults and children from the school, this Swan Lake is choreographed by school director Dee Dee Doell. The performance also features a variety of "Christmas Dances," interpreted in ballet, jazz and modern dance.

Swan Lake and Christmas Dances begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. For more information call 327-5137. TW

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