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Saturday, October 16 1999

Orts' powerful `Rapture Rumi' is just riveting in its strength

``Rapture Rumi,'' choreographed and directed by Robert Davidson and presented by O-T-O Dance, runs at 8 tonight and 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Pima Community College Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. 75 minutes. Tickets $10. 624-3799.

By Jennifer Lee Carrell
The Arizona Daily Star

With ``Rapture Rumi,'' O-T-O Dance spins and soars through an aerial work of art exploring the joy, physical power and occasional savagery of ecstatic love.

Loosely based on the life and poetry of the 13th-century Sufi mystic called Rumi, the full-length work scatters before the audience a series of short dances. Some tell a love story, while others explore images of circularity, spinning and even drunkenness.

Rumi had already gathered his own following of disciples when he met an older wandering holy man, Shams al-Din. The relationship that developed between them startled everyone in its consuming power. Eventually, Rumi's jealous followers apparently murdered Shams.

Rumi went on to write visionary poems, many of them musing on the conflict between Lover and Beloved. Translating these poems into movement, Davidson makes their ecstasies both literal and transcendent.

Charles Thompson danced Shams with riveting power. In a solo dance lighted in high contrast, Thompson's chest and arms displayed a strength caught between beauty and agony, like the startling paradox of a crucifix.

Matthew Henley danced a superbly impetuous and demanding Rumi, at first bewildered by his own sudden fascination with Shams.

Speaking from his home in Denver before the performance, Davidson said this work includes ``the most virtuosic, erotic duet I've ever made.'' Thompson and Henley perform it with stunning sensuality, exchanging places as predator and prey, shelterer and sheltered.

A chorus of six women dancers created a background that ranged from percussive to flowing, stamping their feet and darting serpentine arms.

Shams' death occurs onstage, but it seemed curiously flat. Henley and Thompson immediately returned the piece to the mystery and intensity they achieved earlier, however.

At its finest moments, ``Rapture Rumi'' itself becomes a means to rapturous experience.

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