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Tucson Weekly . Volume 12, Number 10 . May 18 - May 24, 1995

B y  M a r g a r e t  R e g a n
IN THE BEGINNING, Annie Bunker had Uncle Ebenezer. This ancient great-uncle had known Mark Twain, owned the first motor-car in Connecticut and taught his tiny great-niece that stories were magic.

Then there was Mr. Flag. A neighbor with a barn full of horses, Mr. Flag let the young Bunker ride in exchange for mucking out. He used to tell the fledgling rider "to trust my instincts," Bunker remembers.

Next was Sister Camilla, Bunker's high-school Latin teacher, an elderly nun with a mystical bent who would offer up cryptic statements "about nurturing my individuality, about staying true and following my muse," Bunker says.

The spirits of these pivotal childhood figures, of Bunker's past and present and of later dance mentors, will all turn up in one metaphorical form or another this weekend in Bunker's Interiors. A one-woman, dance/performance piece just under an hour long, Interiors is a "self-portrait, a retrospective of my life," Bunker says.

But the wonderful characters who helped shape Bunker as an artist, from her days as a small girl in rural Connecticut, through her dance training at Colorado Women's College and on into her desert time as a professional dancer and choreographer, won't be literally re-created on stage at the Cabaret Theatre. The work is an impressionistic distillation of Bunker's life, presented in a multimedia collage of dance and poetry. Bunker's husband, Chuck Koesters, contributes visual effects and original music that he performs.

Bunker premiered Interiors in February, a year after Susan Claassen commissioned it for her Invisible Theatre's Going It Alone series. The reprise this Friday and Saturday night is part of a three-month Tucson Arts District Residency that Gecko Feats, a Bunker and Koesters performing duo, is now serving. The highly personal piece is out-of-the ordinary for Bunker, who is best known in Tucson as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director for O-T-O Dance, the popular modern dance troupe that this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

"This work is a milestone in my own history, an autobiography," says Bunker, perched this bright morning on a bench in the white O-T-O studio on North Stone Avenue. "Self-portraits are not something you usually do in music and dance. Invisible Theatre commissioned this work and gave me the opportunity to work with myself. It's interesting because I usually work with the company."

Bunker is a small, muscular figure, her toned dancer's body capped by a bluntcut head of dark hair. As she talks about the difficulties of creating a piece that would do justice to the many significant people, past and present, who have influenced her life, she's also dealing with a tiny significant person who's very much in the here and now. Koesters, on his way to a music performance at the Main Library that's part of the residency, has dropped off their three-year-old son. Wrenn scoots around the studio, alternately demanding his mother's attention and scurrying away to hide under props.

"Initially, the piece was housed around the significant people in my life," explains Bunker, placating Wrenn for the time being with an apple. "For eight months I wrote and recalled memories and people. I have a vivid memory: I can remember whole days and weeks when I was four or five."

But after eight months of writing, suddenly Bunker realized "the whole direction of the show had to be different. The whole bottom dropped out of it. "

She put away everything she had written and began again, working in the dark hours before dawn. "It became something coming out of dreamtime. The frills were gone. The excess was gone. It was stripped down...It started out as literal and became abstract."

The pieces that emerged were in the form of poems, poems that capture images of the natural world from her East Coast childhood and opposing images from her desert adulthood. If her young son anchors Bunker in the here and now, images of wood, water, bones and earth in the Interiors poems balance the work's abstractions. Bunker travels across time and place in the piece, delving into her personal and professional selves, in hopes of touching on universal experiences.

The dances in the work do explicitly acknowledge some of her dance mentors. Bunker performs "Widow's Walk," a solo composed for her years ago by the late Rodney Griffin, an inspirational teacher who "unlocked (something) for me as a dancer." Another piece is "Fabrications" by Becca Voigt, a close friend from college "who was the first dancer I ever felt simpatica with. We can improvise together and it looks like set choreography."

Interestingly, in an art form that prizes youth, Bunker feels stronger as a dancer as she grows older.

"It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I felt I could give solos emotional and physical substance. Before that, something was missing."

She ends her retrospective with a work honoring Robert Davidson, her most recent dance mentor, who has taken O-T-O into the air the last several years by teaching the members trapeze dancing. Robertson, who's approaching 50, gave a spectacular performance on the ropes at the O-T-O concert in March.

"He has shown me another aspect of longevity in dance," Bunker says. "The piece closes with me on a trapeze. It's significant of the direction where I'm headed now. "

In this last section, capping the story of her life thus far, Bunker's movements are "like flying," she says, "releasing into the wind, releasing into the future, with much joy and engagement of risk."


Interiors will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, at the Cabaret Theatre in the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Soctt Ave. Tickets are $5. For reservations or for more information call 744-2375. Other events in Gecko Feats' Arts District Residency include free workshops in movement, musical instruments and puppetry from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 3 and 17, at the Armory Park Senior Center, 220 S. Fifth Ave. At 7 p.m. July 1 Gecko Feats will lead a Community Summer Celebration in a parade through the Arts District beginning at Armory Park at 7 p.m. and concluding with a sunset performance in the park.

May 18 - May 24, 1995

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