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Smells like teen spirit

Jefferson Dancers offer their usual spunk and a new collaboration

The Jefferson Dancers' concerts are never cold. They're always soulful, swinging affairs.

This time, the JDs have teamed up with White Bird dance presenters for a concert Ñ not only a bold leap for the coltish company but a smart way to broaden the audience base for both groups.

Artistic Director Steve Gonzales, a Jeff alum himself, is known for his sensual choreography built on a foundation of modern technique. He presents the new 'Eye of Ra' and reprises the African dance piece 'Primitive,' which ended the dancers' spring concert.

The troupe comprises 23 teenagers, ages 14 to 18.

Working with dancers of this tender age requires patience and oceans of calm, Gonzales says. 'Teenage life is the hardest time,' he says. 'I tell them to keep that stuff Ñ and we all have it Ñ out of the rehearsal so that we can work professionally together.'

The majority of the dancers, in fact, are training for professional careers.

Micah Francesconi, 18, is a senior at Grant High School. She joined the Jefferson Dancers in her sophomore year after completing two years with the Oregon Ballet Theatre. Now she is deciding whether to enter a university dance program or to dive straight into a professional company.

One destination that she is considering is New York University's Tisch School of the Performing Arts, where other recent Jeff alums are enrolled. NYU is also where her mentor, Gonzales, studied.

She knows that a dancer's career is unstable, to say the least, but Francesconi describes herself as persistent and focused.

As a shorter dancer, Francesconi also has gained confidence in knowing that a dancer's strength doesn't come just from one's body type.

'Jefferson is my savior,' she says. 'There are so many different things you can do here, and different kinds of dance to study. With the arts, it's much different than everyday things: You get to step outside yourself.'

This weekend's concert gives the dancers another chance to prove how well schooled they are in a range of dance styles, Francesconi says: 'Everything is completely different. One is so pretty, and the next is hip-hop É totally different. Each dance wakes you up in a different way.'

Among the program highlights is 'What's That Sound,' a hip-hop tap piece choreographed by student Thomas J. Yale and set to the music of Missy Elliott, Mr. Cheeks, Angie Martinez and others.

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