Dance to the Music

Special-EFX-&-Desert-Dance-.jpgChieli Minucci and Special EFX reunite with Desert Dance Theatre for a night of �Sensory Memory�
Beverly J. Packard

Don�t look now, but while some of us attended the concerts of artists we love this past month (for me it was Matt Bianco Trio in Philadelphia), there was a rare performance going on in Scottsdale, Arizona. While we watched stages complete with artists and their instruments, the stage in Scottsdale added one more component: an entire dance theatre. The seeds of this performance were planted 19 years ago when Chieli Minucci and Special EFX traveled to Scottsdale to join the Desert Dancers in their first collaboration.

Founded in 1979, Desert Dance Theatre is a contemporary dance company offering a variety of quality programs to schools and communities. The company has performed throughout Arizona, Mexico, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico and New York. Programs reflect positive messages through music, dance and storytelling, and focus on a variety of significant themes such as cultural diversity, prominent people who have fought for freedom in America, and important issues in contemporary society.

DesertDawnLisaChow&Husband.jpgBefore the show, Lisa Chow, (pictured with husband and partner Step Raptis), Concept and Creative Art Director for the Desert Dance Theatre, remarked, �We are thrilled about this joint venture and reunion, bringing Chieli and Special EFX back over from New York. We plan to give our audience a whole new experience of contemporary jazz music and modern dance. This was such a hit 19 years ago, we just had to do it again.�

She states, �Desert Dance Theatre blends art, education and entertainment into exciting concert dance that appeals to audiences of all ages. The repertory ranges in mood from comical to dramatic, abstract to lyrical. The original choreography, by a variety of artists, combines elements of modern dance, ballet, jazz and mime. Most of the company's work is created collaboratively within the company or with artists of other disciplines (live vocal and/or instrumental music, video, theatre, visual arts).�

The performance, entitled �Sensory Memory,� was an exciting collaboration in which both groups performed selections from past and current repertory. It was a night when the audience could hear and see the lyrical, head bopping melodies and house inspired body shaking rhythms of Minucci and Special EFX, as interpreted by Chow and the Desert Dance Theatre dancers.

Chieli Minucci commented, �What a fantastic night we had collaborating with Lisa Chow's Desert Dance Theatre. Set in the beautiful Scottsdale Performing Arts Center theatre, near Phoenix, we performed on Friday, April 8th, on a gorgeous, moonlit night.�

DesertDanceTheatreStepRapti.jpgChieli and Special EFX, joined by percussionist Step Raptis, performed during the first half of the show. A brief intermission segued into the highlight of the show � their collaborative presentation, as Special EFX performed five selections set to new choreography executed by the Desert Dance Theatre. This exciting collaboration fused modern dance and contemporary jazz music into one creative, innovative, and spectacular performance.

The five selections included the following: two selections from Special EFX albums � Jazz Lambada (Just Like Magic, 1990) and George Can�t Dance (Catwalk, 1993); three selections from Chieli Minucci�s solo album releases -- Courageous Cats (Jewels, 1996), My Girl Sunday (Sweet On You, 2001) and Still Waiting (from his latest release, Got It Goin� On, 2005).

Chieli summed up a phenomenal night, �It was a great night. The music was beautifully choreographed. The dances were sensational, reflecting the choreographer�s vision combined with the intended meaning of each song -- from primitiveness, to feminine elegance, and urban slickness to total earthiness. This was a night we'll never forget."

For more information about the Desert Dance Theatre, visit

untitled.bmpFor more information about Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, visit

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits: Compliments of Chieli Minucci and the Desert Dance Theatre