Ballerina nuns and a dancing chess piece

Variety of styles to be featured at Juneau Dance Unlimited performance

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2001

"The Sound of Music"


4-5:30 p.m. Saturday.


Juneau Dance Unlimited Studio at the Scottish Rite Temple.


$12 adults.

$10 children.

From "The Sound of Music" to the music of tap-dancing, Juneau Dance Unlimited presents a variety show of dance styles Saturday afternoon.

Ballet, tap, hip hop, modern and jazz dance will be featured in the first half of the performance, and a ballet choreographed to "The Sound of Music" will comprise the second half. Virtually all the work has been choreographed by Juneau dancers.

"We're doing a piece I choreographed to no music. We are the music," said Shari Kochman, who has taught adult tap-dance at JDU since 1989. "In tap that's become more and more the trend."

The dance, "IGoYouGoWeGo," evolved out of a call-and-response style of teaching Kochman uses, where dancers follow the teacher's moves.

"The idea is you never lose the rhythm. It teaches rhythm the same time you teach the step," Kochman said. "IGoYouGoWeGo" and two short traditional tap dances will open the performance.

Dancer Bob Fagen has choreographed a short dance and will also perform in another ensemble piece. Fagen is a writer, naturalist and an applied mathematician at the University of Alaska Southeast. He also loves dance.

"My piece is less than a minute long, called 'Chess Piece,' " he said. "It takes its name from a chess problem, a little endgame in chess where the two sides battle to a finish. It may turn out to be a solo where I play all the parts myself, or as a duet."

Fagen is also excited to be part of an ensemble work that includes eight dancers, choreographed by JDU executive director Christian Martinu.


"Christian has assembled the strongest group of skilled adult dancers I've seen in Juneau in ten years," Fagen said.

"There have been strong individuals in the past, but this is a dance group that can do ensemble pieces. I'm hoping this core group will stick around there. There's some real possibilities."

Martinu said he based the short new postmodern dance work on a piece by New York choreographer Alvin Ailey.

The second half of the program will include almost every dance student at JDU, from 6-year-old pre-ballet students to experienced adult dancers. Martinu and his wife, JDU artistic director Rio Mitani, created a ballet based on "The Sound of Music."

Martinu and Mitani grew up in Austria, where "The Sound of Music" is set, and said they had never heard of the film or the songs until they left Europe.

"I was in Brazil and someone asked me to sing this song ('Edelweiss') from 'Sound of Music,' that's how I first heard about it," he said. "I heard of 'Cats,' of Fred Astair - we know almost each American musical ever created, from 'Oklahoma' on, but 'The Sound of Music' is not popular in Austria."

The eight-part ballet will feature dancing nuns, a jazz- and tap-dance to "Lonely Goatherd," and a duet between Mitani and Martinu to "Edelweiss."

Martinu said that "Edelweiss" is a beautiful song, but contrary to popular belief, it is not a traditional Austrian song.

"Everybody believes these are Austrian folk tunes, but no one knows it (in Austria) because it's an American invention. It's the genius of the people who created this music, it's sounds so much like it would be a folk tune," he said.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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