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Dancers to take the stage in ‘Premium Blend’

Ed Flores
UA Dance Ensemble members Tyler Zydel, Thomas Archey and Keenan Schember in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Bolero.” “Bolero” is one of the pieces featured in “Premium Blend.”

The University of Arizona School of Dance will perform its annual fall presentation, “Premium Blend,” this Wednesday, Nov. 15, through Sunday, Nov. 19.

The performance will showcase various ballet and contemporary pieces at Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. 

Russell Ridgeway, a sophomore in the UA dance program, will perform in School of Dance visiting assistant professor Autumn Eckman’s piece titled “Eckman Seasons.”

Ridgeway has been rehearsing with Eckman and 11 other dancers since September for six hours per week in preparation for the performance.

“I am so excited to perform in [the show] because I think it will be a great opportunity to grow as an individual and as an artist,” Ridgeway said.

The School of Dance works with its ensemble of approximately 140 dancers and choreographers to create over 30 main stage concerts per year, according to the UA School of Dance website. Ridgeway said the dance shows are a “fun opportunity for people to see us dance who wouldn’t otherwise.”

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The program puts equal focus on three core dance styles: jazz, ballet and modern. However, “Premium Blend” focuses mainly on ballet and contemporary work.

According to Ridgeway, the show will consist of four pieces: “Tonadas,” “Bolero,” “Eckman Seasons” and “Meta4.” Two of these pieces, “Tonadas” and “Eckman Seasons,” were choreographed by UA faculty. 

“Tonadas” was created by husband-and-wife team Jory Hancock and Melissa Lowe. 

Hancock is the director of the School of Dance, and Lowe is a professor of dance and the director of Student Services and Advising. Their piece is a Pas De Deux, which is classically in the ballet style and performed by a male and female dancer.

“Eckman Seasons” consists of three parts: “Supermoon,” “Chicken Scratch” and a solo. Ridgeway is in the “Supermoon” section, which fellow “Supermoon” dancer and student Paulsen said represents spring and consists of six male-female couples. Paulsen said “Chicken Scratch” represents summer, and the solo, representing autumn, is performed by Eckman herself.

Paulsen, a junior in the dance program, said the “Supermoon” section is very personalized to what each dancer can do as each person has their own solo and duet.

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Originally an understudy, Paulsen was placed in the piece after another dancer got injured just three weeks ago. In order to prepare herself physically and mentally for the concert, she went to hot yoga to be in her best physical shape for the performance and reviewed the piece on her own so her body would know what to do on stage.

Eckman just joined the UA School of Dance faculty this year and will debut not only her work but her technique and performance skills at “Premium Blend.”

UA Dance Ensemble members DeQuan Lewis, Megan Garcia, Thomas Archey and Talia Hintermeister in Bella Lewitzky’s "Meta 4." "Meta 4" is one of the pieces featured in "Premium Blend."
UA Dance Ensemble members DeQuan Lewis, Megan Garcia, Thomas Archey and Talia Hintermeister in Bella Lewitzky’s “Meta 4.” “Meta 4” is one of the pieces featured in “Premium Blend.”

 According to the School of Dance website, Eckman trained at the Houston Ballet Academy and has professionally performed “the works of some of the world’s leading contemporary, classical, modern and jazz companies” with a variety of companies. She has experience directing and choreographing for Giordano Dance Chicago and has choreographed for many other companies and universities. 

Ridgeway said he likes that “[the performers] kind of have a voice as to what goes on stage because Autumn wants to see what looks good on the dancers and how they interpret her movement.” 

Paulsen said there are differences in this performance from others.

“It is different than most pieces we do at the U of A because Autumn doesn’t want us to be held in our posture but wants us to be free and expressive with our movement,” Paulsen said.

The other two pieces featured in the show, “Bolero” and “Meta4,” are repertoire, meaning they are classic and well-known pieces of work in the contemporary ballet category. “Bolero” was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, a Russian American choreographer and ballet dancer. Hancock and Lowe worked together to direct and set this piece on eight dancers. 

“Meta4” is a contemporary piece choreographed by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bella Lewitzky. UA professor of dance Amy Ernst directed the execution of this piece on two casts of four dancers. 

Tickets to “Premium Blend” are $15 for students and $35 for adults. There will be four evening shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and two matinees at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

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