Dance students will leap across continents at the University of Arizona School of Dance’s upcoming concert, “Dances Near & Far.”
Greece, China, Africa and Spain are among the influences reflected in the dances, as are some popular American dance forms.
We spoke with two choreographers about how they shaped their pieces.
Jory Hancock, “Danzon No. 2”
Hancock, the director of the UA dance program, has been working with six dancers to produce “Danzon No. 2,” a blend of Mexican composition, Argentinian tango, and ballet. It’s a combination of ballet and street tango, which is a subtle dance with contained movements.
“You have to find dancers that understand the subtleties of tango so it’s not always over the top, but who have good ballet techniques so they can handle some of the more technical steps,” he said.
Choreographing a dance always starts one of two ways, said Hancock: You start with the music or you start with an idea, and then find one to fit the other. For this performance, the inspiration came from the music: “Danzon No. 2,” by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, who was inspired by the architecture and environment of Cuba.
“I hope the audiences appreciate getting to see all these various dance forms on stage all in one evening because some of the dances are very rural, very earthy,” Hancock said. “They’re not meant so much to be show pieces, they’re more social in nature. That’s what folk dance typically is.”
Elizabeth George-Fesch, “Visions of Ukraine”
George-Fesch’s dance is inspired by the Ukrainian hopak, also known as the Cossack.
“I used elements of Ukrainian folk dance and fused it with a more balletic movement,” George-Fesch said about the piece, which is making its premiere. “Although it’s not a traditional Ukrainian folk dance, you’ll see glimpses of the customary folk dance movement and style in the choreography.”
“Visions of Ukraine” will feature eight couples, traditional motifs, music by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk and authentic costume pieces imported from Ukraine.
George-Fesch said this choreography challenged the dancers to perform ballet while exploring components of folk dance at the same time. Hopak focuses on movements and tricks that emphasize the athleticism of the men, so she had to find male dancers who had strong ballet and partnering techniques.
George-Fesch said this UA dance concert is a way to connect with Tucson’s dance community in a fresh way.
“I think this is a unique concert; we don’t necessarily do this every year,” she said. “A lot of different cultures and dances around the world will be represented. It will just be nice to touch base with the various dances in Tucson in a different way that we don’t always get to do.”