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Tucson, Arizona  Sunday, 29 October 2000

Orts' 'Balanced Edge' an astonishing milieu


The O-T-O Dance performed "Balanced Edge" last night and Friday evening at the Pima Community College Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre (2202 W. Anklam Road); the concert repeats at 2 p.m. today. Tickets are $10-$12 at the door.

By Jennifer Lee Carrell

Last night, "Balanced Edge," the new full-length work of aerial dance by the O-T-O Dance, proved to be cutting-edge, boundary-breaking and continually astonishing. Twined with videography, music, poetry and the hissing, cackling and caressing voice of Paul Fisher in the person of a kachina-like clown, the dance soared over the stage in what is certain to be one of the most thrilling multimedia performances by a Tucson arts troupe this year. 

Choreographed by artistic director Anne Bunker, the dance space transformed the dancers into slow, strange angels, birds of prey and spinning insects. 

The first half sped through scattered fragments of imagery, movement and sound that invited the audience to create its own narrative: from the sky-reaching filigree of bridges, to the filament of a spider, to an apocalypse of dust rising from earth-movers razing the desert, the images of Chuck Koesters' videography fell into "corridors of wanton correspondence" with the inventive new trapezes that gave the dancers wings.

Two slow-spiraling duets were gorgeously sensual: Bunker and Elizabeth Breck slid dangerously within a flexible fretwork trapeze that morphed from web to cathedral spire to ship's spar. Behind them, the image of a spider seemed to be speaking: "This is not a pretty piece of lace. . . . I made this silver veil to be an instrument of death."

Matthew Henley and Charles Thompson spun threateningly close to each other in opposite circles, Henley on the ground, and Thompson skating inches above him on a disclike trapeze.

The second half of the work condensed to a narrower focus on pure dance, haunted by the concrete words of poet Charles Alexander: "air," "dirt," "dust," "desert" "city" and "book." Lit in eery red, firelit night or darkened to silhouettes, the dancers moved from fetal curls to doom-ridden urgency that staggered and spun through explorations of imbalance. A sense of post-apocalyptic disturbance thrummed through much of this half of the concert.

Koesters' music underlined that urgency, combining the unearthly praise of medieval chant with dangerous percussive frenzy.

For this work, Bunker and Koesters have invented a number of new aerial apparatus, leaving the single-barred trapeze as far behind as the stone age. Spinning circles, padded double trapezes, flexible skeletal boxes and sandbags all teased the imagination.

The finale brought balance back to center stage in a spectacular Calder-like mobile that set the dancers free in every direction, but linked them inescapably to each other.

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