Step Class

Born in East Africa during World War II to German missionary parents, Manfred Fischbeck became something of a missionary himself -- a dance missionary. For 30 years, the dancer, choreographer and musician has headed Group Motion Dance Company in Philadelphia. He's brought the good word about his dance style and its evolution in the U.S. to outposts as far and wide as Berlin, Paris and Buenos Aires.

His partner, Brigitta Herrmann, joins him from her fellowship at Colorado's Naropa Institute to bring their dance to Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri's desert Shangri-la -- an hour's ride north of Phoenix. They've been running workshops in August there for more than 10 years.

This year's workshop begins Sunday, August 22, and continues through Tuesday, August 31, with a public performance on Saturday, August 28. The workshops take place each morning and evening, and are not limited to dancers. "Anyone who has always wanted to express himself better through movement is welcome," says Fischbeck. "Our workshops are taken by professional dancers and ordinary people."

The evening sessions at the amphitheater involve dance games like "crystallization" -- people imitating how crystals form. It's science. One person becomes the center of the group and everyone else connects to the central figure, who gives an impulse that spreads to the group. The group expands spatially to the furthest limits and then goes back to the basic spatial movement from which the next crystal will form. Other games include active/passive, triangles and traveling landscapes, with exercises in contact dance, breath sound and flow.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, August 28, The Carpetbag Brigade, a Prescott-based physical theater group, performs Tragedy Magnate Ha-Ha. Group Motion's workshop/performance follows at 8 p.m., and Flam-Chen, a Tucson-based performance group specializing in "Pyrotechnic Theater and Trapeze Art," performs The Heavenly Court of Celestial Ling-Ling.

Participants for the morning workshop must register for a minimum of four days. Evening workshops are open to the public. Call 1-520-632-7135 for fees and times. Arcosanti is located off I17 at Cordes Junction, about 70 miles north of Phoenix.