A new contemporary dance company has emerged in Tulsa, and it's celebrating its debut with an earthy performance on the Arkansas River bank this weekend.
Founded by Arien Christopher and Nina Madsen, two trained modern dancers, Tulsa Modern Movement has been in the works since February of last year, its founders experimenting with choreography mostly in private.
The pair only recently decided to expand the company and put on a public performance, though they have participated in some smaller shows in the last year.
Christopher choreographed this weekend's dance, entitled Suchness. Her inspiration for the piece came during a walk along the Arkansas River at lunchtime on March 11, the day disaster struck Japan in the form of an earthquake and tsunami.
"It was the first time I slowed down long enough in the day to realize what it must be like to be in that place at that time," Christopher said. "Thinking about it, it was exciting and scary at the same time, and it all came to me in a flash: images I had seen, my own personal experiences, stories I had read, intellectual thoughts about how things are connected."
Christopher choked up reliving the emotion she experienced that day. She said she called Madsen immediately after her walk. The two had talked about unveiling their company publicly in some way, and Christopher wanted to use her experience that day as the basis of the new work.
"As the piece has shaped up, other themes have come out," Christopher said. "Time is one of them. I want to play with the idea of time, because these momentous events in our lives become proof that time exists. The world before 9/11 and the world after, for instance."
Christopher explained that, conceptually, the piece begins with formation of existence, intersecting with some sort of cataclysmic event that sends it in a new direction. The ending is not the end; rather it is the beginning of a new time, a new existence determined by the disaster.
The work also explores ideas about where people come from and where they're headed and how memory affects reality.
"The telling and retelling of family stories, and how these changing stories become the new reality, the new past," Christopher said. "Like a dream you remember so clearly when you wake up, but it changes as you try to retell it or make sense of it in wake time. The collective memory that life continues in spite of momentous, life-changing events."
The dance is 18 minutes long and will be performed on the sandy banks of the Arkansas River, outside of the Blue Rose Café, 1924 Riverside Dr., which is the place where the work was conceived.
Set to music -- evocative of Philip Glass, Christopher said -- composed by the choreographer's father, Michael Christopher, Suchness draws from techniques established by modern dance matron Martha Graham, as well as some newer modern choreography.
Company members dancing the work include Christopher and Madsen, Alicia Chesser, Mona Hatter, Jen Alden and Jessica Sims.
Christopher said she and Madsen hope to grow Tulsa Modern Movement into a professional modern dance company. Within a year, the pair hope to have the company incorporated in a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and establish a board of directors. In five years, they want to have a sustainable enterprise that pays dancers for their work.
This weekend's performances stage both Friday and Saturday, June 24-25, at 8 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. Visit tummdance.org for more information.
Hot in here
SummerStage is in full swing at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St.
LOOK Musical Theatre (formerly Light Opera Oklahoma) continues its summer festival with performances of Evita, Trouble in Tahiti and The Light in the Piazza.
Evita follows the life of Argentina's infamous Eva Peron, beginning in 1934 and following the young girl from her small hometown to Buenos Aires through her rise to success, first as a model, then as an actress, and finally as the wife of General Juan Peron.
Trouble in Tahiti is set in an affluent, nameless American suburb and follows a day in the life of Dinah, who is disenchanted with her husband, and Sam, who is more interested in his career and hobbies than in his family. The Light in the Piazza is set in Italy in the summer of 1953, where the well-heeled Margaret Johnson is settling into an Italian vacation with her charmingly naive daughter, Clara, who falls unexpectedly in love with a handsome Florentine.
Showtimes and dates vary this weekend for each LOOK performance, but a full calendar is available at tulsapac.com or looktheatre.org.
Trio Spititoso will be in the Tulsa PAC's Charles E. Norman Theatre Thursday, June 23, at 7:30pm performing chamber music for trios by Beethoven, Handel, Vivaldi and contemporary composer Tomas Svoboda. Its members play the flute, oboe and cello.
Tickets are $10.
The Actors Co. of Tulsa presents Revenge of the Space Pandas, a comedy for young people by David Mamet. In it, Binky Rudich's latest invention, the two-speed clock, sends him, his associate Vivian, and their sheep, Bob, hurdling into space, where they land on a planet ruled by animals deep within the Goolagong system. When the evil ruler, George Topax, tries to keep them captive to turn poor Bob into a sweater, they must battle the Space Panda army, hide from the citizens of Crestview, and be on the lookout for falling pumpkins! Making their way through a maze of interesting characters, these three friends try to find their way home.
Curtains go up in the Liddy Doegnes Theatre June 23-24 at 8pm and June 25 at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are $20.
On Friday, June 24, at 7:30pm, in the Charles E. Norman Theatre, Tulsa-based Vintage Wildflowers will play three-part harmonies with the Celtic harp, Irish flute and fiddle, with bits of mandolin, whistle, guitar, banjo and bodhran mixed in. Tickets are $10 or $12.
On Saturday, June 25, at 8pm in the Norman Theatre, Deborah Hunter will present her one-woman show Amazons, Gypsies and Wandering Minstrels, a spoken word piece in which she portrays six characters struggling to survive mental illness, homelessness, addiction and abuse. Hunter will be accompanied by percussionists Leslie Brown and Kristin Ruyle, dancer Yawnie Knox and vocalist Crystal Carter. Tickets are $15.
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