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Best Leap Of Faith

Basically Balanchine, Earth Dances
Ballet Arizona

STAFF PICK: Ballet Arizona's Basically Balanchine concert last fall gave the Old Pueblo a short course in 20th-century ballet. The three historic Balanchine dances on the program, "Serenade," "Four Temperaments" and "Rubies," charted Mr. B's transition from the old-school Russian tradition to innovative American neo-classicism. Ballet Arizona sometimes plays it too safe in Tucson, relying overmuch on old-fashioned romantic ballets, and reserving its more interesting work for its home base in Phoenix. Balanchine was a bracing antidote to the 19th century, and its good reception among Tucson audiences is a sign that we're ready for more.

Earth Dances, a March concert, was another interesting combination of works, particularly "Land's Edge," a piece commissioned from Pilobolus. In this strange conjuring of the land of the departed, Ballet Arizona's Bonnie Rich danced the most persuasive dead woman we've ever seen on a stage. "Murmurs of the Stream," Michael Uthoff's homage to his native Chile, was a collection of 11 dances. Set to Andean folk tunes, it was rousing and subtly subversive. We hope to see more such performances--and enthusiastic audiences--this coming year.

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