One of ballet giant George Balanchine's most difficult works, "Allegro Brillante," will be the centerpiece of this year's Premium Blend dance program presented by the University of Arizona School of Dance. Balanchine described it as containing "everything I know about the classical ballet in 13 minutes."
"It is a very seriously technical piece. There's nothing easy about it," says Melissa Lowe, UA dance professor and co-director of rehearsals.
" 'Allegro' means fast, and it is. Performing the piece is an athletic event, like running a small marathon.
"There are some beautiful, melodic segments, but it starts like being shot out of a cannon. And it ends the same way."
Lowe has had the dancers in rehearsal for "Allegro Brillante" since late August.
"It took two weeks just to learn all the steps," she continued. "The first time they went through it without stopping, people were flopping on the floor, joints and muscles were burning.
"There were tears, too, and some were wondering if they could ever do it at all," Lowe remembered.
Of course they could. The UA dance school has a solid reputation with the George Balanchine Trust, which must approve every public performance of every piece of Balanchine choreography. In 2006, UA's dancers first presented "Allegra Brillante." Several times the Trust has authorized the school's students to perform other Balanchine works, as well.
"For the students, to be approved to perform it is an impressive feat that sets a high standard of excellence," said Lowe. "During the rehearsals their dancing evolves immeasurably."
The accompanying music is Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.3, Op. 75.
Premium Blend's concert program includes four additional works by UA dance faculty, a blend of dance styles to showcase the school's other talents: "Arizona Highways," choreographed by Elizabeth George; Sam Watson's "Punctuations," and "Skrew Fiske," a trainlike stream of events as choreographed by Douglas Nielsen, who pulled his inspiration and the piece's name from boxcar graffiti.
A ballet excerpt from dance faculty member James Clouser's "The Mozart Charades" completes the program. This twinkling piece is titled "This Theme Has Six Notes."
IF YOU GO
• What: Premium Blend.
• Presented by: the University of Arizona School of Dance.
• When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 p.m. Sunday; Continuing at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday through Dec. 3; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 4.
• Where: Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1737 E. University Blvd.
• Tickets: $15-$29
• Reservations, information: 621-1162, www.cfa.dance.arizona/edu
Chuck Graham has written about Tucson arts for more than 36 years. Read more of his articles at "Let the Show Begin," www.tucsonstage.com