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University Dancers
The University Dancers will give their final performance of Bebe Miller's “Prey” before heading off to the Kennedy Center. Courtesy photo

Missoula loves to dance.

There are nearly a dozen dance studios in town, but rarely do they combine in such force as they will in Saturday's "Connections in Choreography."

The two-act evening of ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop and just about every other form of the art features the A-list of Missoula choreographers, in a dance benefit not just for the sake of artistic unity, but to help University of Montana dancers perform at the prestigious National American College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in New York later this month.

For Michael Murphy, producing director of the Garden City Ballet, the entire effort - getting local and national choreographers together from a variety of disciplines, to reach a broad audience - has been one leg-trotting experience.

"This is our first go at this type of thing," said Murphy, who is also a director and actor.

The evening features classical and modern works from a host of western Montana dance companies like OnCenter Performing Arts, the Garden City Ballet, Feat X Feet, the Missoula Youth Tap Ensemble, Surf's Up, and a huge variety of individual dancers performing solo works.

From an outsider's point of view, the Missoula dance community can appear isolated. Individual companies perform their own showcases and holiday programs. Even the Garden City Ballet has the reputation as being the company that puts on the holiday "Nutcracker" performance.

Look deeper, and you'll see that there is much crossover, especially choreographic crossover. And those are the ties that Murphy is attempting to exploit in Saturday's show.

"The ‘connections' metaphor was intentionally sought by me," said Murphy. "The common thread is that we're bringing more of these people together in one space than we ever have before."

Members of the UM School of Dance will perform Bebe Miller's "Prey," a modernist piece that they'll take to the Kennedy Center on May 29.

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