A a cornucopia of dance styles is on the menu at opposite ends of the AU campus next week.
Ballet Tucson brings a contemporary ballet interpretation to some of Leonard Bernstein’s most beloved arias. Two promising opera singers will join the dancers on Stevie Eller’s intimate stage to perform the songs live.
In cavernous Centennial Hall at the other end of campus, next Thursday, February 8, two dancing powers from the City of Brotherly Love (my hometown!), Will collaborate on Straight out of Philadelphia. The show mixes the hip-hop of Rennie Harris Puremovement with the contemporary African-American dance and ballet of PHILADENCO!
The Tucson Ballet’s dance music, “Homage to Leonard Bernstein,” takes place on the last weekend of the Tucson Desert Song Festival, which this year honors the famous 100-year-old composer and conductor (he is died in 1990). Bernstein has been performed – and discussed – all over town in recent weeks, in a concert extravaganza by several local bands, from the Tucson Symphony to True Concord to the Arizona Opera.
Bernstein wrote scores for the ballet, including “Fancy Free” and “Dybbuk,” choreographed by Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet, as well as the score of Robbins’ beloved dances in West Side Story. But Ballet Tucson is the only group at the festival to combine their music with dance.
“It’s great to be a part of her birthday celebration,” said Tucson Ballet Artistic Director Mary Beth Cabana. âAnd it’s really good for us to work with the Desert Song Festival. It pollinates our audience â- attracting music fans to see the dance.
In “Tribute to Leonard Bernstein”, the final piece of a three-dance concert titled “Bernstein and Ballet”, soprano Cadie Jordan and tenor David Margulis will sing excerpts from West Side Story, Mass and Piccola Serenata. Recorded excerpts from the music for Bernstein’s film On the Waterfront will also be incorporated into the play.
The singers, both members of the prestigious Ravinia Sterns Music Institute outside of Chicago, have performed in the United States and Europe; Tucsonans may remember Margulis’ starring turn as Tamino in the Arizona Opera The magic flute in 2015. The two will be accompanied on the piano by Michael Dauphinais, a UA music teacher who performs widely.
Viewers will not see a revival of the dance scenes in West Side Story. The Dance is a brand new work of contemporary ballet choreographed by Deputy Artistic Director Chieko Imada. It’s a big hunk, some 20 dancers, all dressed in stylish tights and tops – not the Jets jeans and the girls’ dresses from West Side Story.
The concert program includes a second dance with live music, this time courtesy of Mozart. Ballet master Daniel Precup has choreographed a new contemporary ballet to Mozart’s Divertimento in D. The Bel Canto quintet, led by violinist Rose Todaro, provides the music. Performed by the full company of 35 dancers, it is inspired by Precup’s little girl, Cabana said.
âShe is lively and curious, and the dance includes a wide variety of animals. It’s light and fun, âshe said.
The opening piece, Graduation ball, is a 1940 comic ballet classic, created by David Lichine of the Ballets Russes. To recorded music by Johann Strauss II, the act for 24 dancers takes place in a boarding school for girls. Cadets from a military school arrive for a school dance and, naturally, hilarity ensues.
Philadelphia has an African-American dance history dating back to at least the 19th century, when black dancers performed in vaudeville. By the turn of the 20th century, black tappers had made the city the epicenter of tap dancing, hosting wild competitions around street corners. Straight out of Philly brings us into the 21st century, with Puremovement hip-hop from contemporary street dance and PHILADENCO! perform ballet and modern dance with a black aesthetic.
Concert planners promise a scorching fusion of multiple dance styles on one stage.
The New York Times called Rennie Harris, founder of Puremovement, âthe giftâ and his dancers âphenomenalâ. Born in 1964, Harris grew up on the middle streets of North Philadelphia, one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. At the age of 12, he became enthralled with dancing. Originally performing in religious competitions, it evolved into âpopping teamsâ and hip-hop dance troupes.
Harris started Puremovement in 1992, broadening the definition of hip-hop, creating expansive and sometimes narrative dances: his âRome & Julesâ is a costumed hip-hop version of the classic ballet Romeo and Juliet. A London Times reviewer called him the âBasquiat of the American contemporary dance scene,â comparing him to the late and critically acclaimed painter whose works are drawn from street art.
Joan Myers Brown, founder of PHILADENCO !, grew up in southwest Philadelphia and, at the age of six, began studying dance in the only studio her parents could find that admitted black children. She learned ballet from a high school gym teacher. Eventually, she studied with renowned choreographers Antony Tudor and with Katherine Dunham in New York City, but the only dance work she found was in nightclubs.
In 1970, determined to give black dancers a chance to make a career in the best troupes, she created PHILADNCO (short for “Philadelphia Dance Company“). The troupe has flourished since, offering intensive training to young black dancers and performing works by black choreographers; their concerts take them from their original stage in Philadelphia to venues around the world.
A Philadelphia critic recently praised the company’s dancers for “flawless technique and insurmountable energy.” Dance Magazine said, âIf there’s fun to be had, PHILADENCO will have it.