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Winter Showcase this weekend

Stewart Oksenhorn

Much of the music featured in this weekend’s Winter Showcase presented by the local dance group Aspen Dance Connection will be familiar.

Dances, all new, original works created by Colorado choreographers, have been set to pieces by Ravel, Loreena McKennit, Cher and Messiaen.

And to local music followers, one piece should stand out. Included on the program, which will be presented at the Wheeler Opera House tonight and Saturday, at 7 p.m. both nights, is choreographer Johnna Drummer’s “Blackberry Jamminn’.”

The dance, to be performed by seven teen-age, female dancers, is set to the instrumental fiddle tune “Blackberry Jam,” written by local musician Paul Kuhn. The song was a consistent highlight when Kuhn played it in the now-defunct band Treehouse, and now it finds new life as choreographed dance music.

“I guess she had seen the band on occasion or two, and really liked that tune,” said Kuhn of Drummer. “And she had visuals as she went along and heard the song. I didn’t have to beg.”

“Blackberry Jamminn,’ ” one of 14 pieces to be performed in the Winter Showcase, should go by like a flash. That is part of the appeal. The piece is the length of Kuhn’s original tune, three-and-a-half minutes, and features a few slower passages that erupt into lightning-fast portions. The dancers will be dressed as blackberries, and suspended like puppets from strings. Kuhn will play violin along with a tape of the song.

Drummer wants people to just see it and say, “What was that?” said Kuhn. “I have no dance lingo, no vocabulary. But there’s lots of aerial stuff, lots of leaps. It’s a big-air kind of dance.”

Though Kuhn has never had any of his music formally set to dance before, he has seen plenty of people improvise steps to go with “Blackberry Jam.”

“I think it’s crossed my mind, watching people try to dance to it at our shows,” said Kuhn. “And my conclusion is, you sort of have to know what you’re doing to dance to it.”

In addition to Drummer’s “Blackberry Jamminn,’ ” the Winter Showcase features works by local choreographers Alya Howe, Sarah Pletts and Karen Panasewicz Fabrocini, and Front Range choreographers David Capps, Tobi Johnson-Compton, Lisa Wood and Hannah Kahn. Styles range from ethnic forms, such as Hawaiian and Balinese dances, to belly dancing to Catherine Gauch’s aerial trapeze dance, “Mariposa.”


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