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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.