It isn't often that North County dance buffs have concert dance delivered to their own backyards. But this weekend, with four performances scheduled, the beat is definitely on in this end of town.
Three's Company is scheduled for a one-night stand at the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Center on Sunday, and Palomar College's annual spring concert will be offered at 7:30 p.m. today and Sunday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Palomar College Theatre.
Palomar designed its spring concert to display "the variety, versatility and virtuosity of Palomar's dance faculty and students." But this year's program will feature performances and choreographic contributions by alumni as well, and a major new ensemble piece provided by a longtime friend of the Palomar dance program, Tom Hansen.
Hansen, a noted Las Vegas and television dance designer whose biggest claim to fame was an eight-year stint on the "Red Skelton Show" with his Tom Hansen Dancers, explained why he keeps coming back to Palomar to create works for fledgling dancers.
"Well, I live in Fallbrook," Hansen said from his home. "But basically, what I enjoy about working with the students is that here I can just do what I want to do. It gives me a chance to do all the things I couldn't do on television. I can experiment, and I don't have to deal with limitations of time, or with any particular theme or style."
Hansen's piece, "Tools of the Trade," uses the whole bag of choreographic tricks he honed in the commercial arena, "from jazz, modern dance, tap, to what I call theater dance. But I don't get into the artsy stuff."
This large-scale work attempts to demystify the dance world Hansen knows so well by giving audiences a glimpse of the dancers' backstage activities--"things dancers get involved with, basics, like the type of dancing, and how choreographers use props, the ballet barre. But it's not a confessional like 'Chorus Line.' There's enough of that."
Faculty member Jackie Weiss, a recent transplant from Portland, Ore., will participate in this year's concert as both choreographer and dancer.
"I'm doing a jazz/modern suite," she said. "It's a story ballet with a cast of 17, based on the music of Duke Ellington, Mark Murphy and Manhattan Transfer."
Weiss' work is titled "Fly-by-Night-Guy" (from the lyrics of Ellington's "Moon Maiden"). Like many of the works on this weekend's program, "Fly-by-Night-Guy" will feature costumes created by the students.
Weiss, who already received an award from the Oregon Arts Commission to produce a modern ballet, is working overtime to perfect this piece because she hopes that "Fly-By-Night-Guy" will have a life after Palomar.
Weiss said she plans to let Ballet Oregon use the choreography if funding comes through.
Since the eclectic work is already earmarked for a professional troupe, Weiss was careful to keep the choreography close to the professional level.
"We have quite a number of students who are aspiring to musical theater, kids with professional experience at Lawrence Welk Dinner Theater and with a lot of other dance companies," Weiss said. "So they can handle the dancing, and I like to try to stretch them as much as possible."
This weekend's program is composed of 14 pieces, spanning the spectrum of styles taught at Palomar College. They include "A Touch of Chopin," choreographed by Dorothie Bleth, director of the Palomar Dance Program, with live piano accompaniment by Peter Gach; two jazz works by Alicia Rincon of Jazz Unlimited, and several dances designed by the students.