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Best Local Dance Production (Since 7/97)

Orts Theatre of Dance

READERS' PICK: Our sleuthing readers gave no clue which of Orts' performances they favored most this year, but the Orts file is thick with unusual dances. The beloved local modern dance company opened its season with a full-length work based on the true story of a medieval German theologian condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church. Tricky material, to be sure, but Orts carried it off admirably. Airborne: Meister Eckhart, An Evening of Flying Dance Theatre had a cast of 40, including Orts dancers, Desert Voices singers, a real-life minister as narrator and a clutch of children and elderly people. Songs sung in Latin and English, spoken texts drawn from Eckhart's mystical writings and Orts' incomparable trapeze work all richly evoked the Middle Ages. Presiding over the whole was Robert Davidson, the Seattle dancer and choreographer who first introduced Orts to the trapeze. Davidson made a wonderful flying Eckhart, his spare, bare head and intelligent profile conveying a true man of God.

Urban Gaits was a second multi-media collaboration, an "audiovisual poem" about Tucson's downtown danced by the dancers of Orts, but created by a quintet of local artists who between them have worked downtown for 87 years. The piece recounted a day in the life of downtown, with dancers portraying by turns lawyers, lunch time workers, Club Congress dancers, homeless people, and the elderly. Nancy Solomon and Chuck Koesters of Orts shot the video images; poet Charles Alexander read his own works; Orts' Annie Bunker choreographed; and painter Cynthia Miller made simple sets and props. Koesters also composed music for songs made up of Alexander's texts. The piece was a wonderful mixing of media and a satisfying effort to make art out of contemporary life.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Tenth St. Danceworks' winter concert proved how ably the longtime modern dance company has soldiered on in Tucson while its founder and artistic director, Charlotte Adams, labors as a dance prof in Nebraska. Like all Tenth Street concerts, this one was deliciously various, in no small part because it showcased the strengthening choreographic skills of its dancers. Thom Lewis reprised his "Dreaming Under Fire," a haunting Vietnam War work set to chain-gang music; Chieko Imada debuted her "Faith and Sorrow," inspired by samurai warriors in her native Japan; and assistant artistic director Kevin Schroder presented his "This Is for You," set to sensuous jazz by Charlie Mingus.

CLUE IN: NEW ARTiculations is the new kid in town, a young modern dance troupe with genealogical links to both Orts and Tenth Street. Its trio of founders--Tammy Rosen, Jennifer Pollack and Leigh Ann Rangel--met at an Orts class, and some of the dancers have performed with Orts and with Tenth Street. But After the Babble, their official debut concert this summer, was fresh and original. Ranging from Rosen's "Confidence Storm," a swing piece for seven that evoked Prohibition days, to Pollack's emotional "Aside from That, Things Are Fine," to Rangel's "Big Mind Stream," a big work with an African beat, the concert introduced a welcome new chorus of dance voices to Tucson.

Case History

1997 Winner: Orts Theatre of Dance
1996 Winner: Stepping Out
1995 Winner: Orts in The Park

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