ZUZI! is a non-profit arts organization founded in 1998 by Nanette Robinson and Nancy Mellan. This community-based dance organzation supported the idea that everyone can dance regardless of age or ability. To manifest this visionthree interrelated programs were developed: ZUZI! Dance, ZUZI School, and ZUZI! Theater.
In October 1999 ZUZI! moved into its current home at the Historic YWCA, renovating the theater and studios in the previously neglected space. Prior to the move, while housed in the Zenith Center, ZUZI! presented its first Winter Solstice Concert. The Annual Winter Solstice Performance has become a hallmark for ZUZI!, incorporating the talents of the adult company, youth company and the community at large.
ZUZI! held its first annual Skinner Releasing Intensive in 1999. “The Skinner Releasing Technique™ (SRT) lets us practice letting go: letting go of stress, letting go of unnecessary holding in our body, letting go of preconceptions about what is supposed to happen, letting go of fear of awkwardness, letting go of the belief that we don't have the right body for dancing.” Nanette Robinson remains one of the few certified trainers in the United States.
In 2000, ZUZI! initiated the first "No Frills Dance Happenin'." "No Frills" concerts are now held twice yearly coinciding with Halloween and Valentine’s Day. These events provide choreographers and other artists from Tucson and outside of Tucson (Liz Lerman, Andrew Harwood) with an informal, affordable venue to present and test works in progress. ZUZI! participated in Arizona Commission on the Arts Residency programs at Keen Elementary School and Rincon University High School. The Women's Initiative for Youth and Elders project was developed, bringing together young girls and women over 50 to create and perform dance pieces.
2001 saw the first Family and Friends Performance, providing an informal showcase for students at ZUZI! School and community classes. ZUZI! began its first annual High Flyin’ Summer Arts Camp providing youth with movement, art, aerial and drama classes. An immediate success, this camp has become a much anticipated annual offering from ZUZI!.
In 2002 ZUZI! participated in numerous outreach projects in the Tucson community. Included were: Tucson Unified School District Project OMA (Opening Minds thorough the Arts); Basis School "dance after school" program; performances at Sam Hughes Elementary and Mountain Valley High School; New Beginnings Shelter for Woman and Children workshop for minority children; Skinner Releasing Workshop at Desert Institute for the Healing Arts; Funday Friday Aerial Field Trips; Indian Oasis (Tohono O’Odam) matinee participation; and Pima Community College Dance Department modern dance and choreography classes and performances.
During 2003 and 2004, ZUZI! continued to offer classes, performances, Summer Camp and community outreach. In spring 2004, ZUZI! collaborated with the Women's Birth Center, co-sponsoring a Community dance into performance workshop on the theme of motherhood. 2004 also saw the establishment of ZUZI! “Many Limbs” Youth Aerial Company. This was a natural development as ZUZI! offered ongoing aerial classes and wanted to provide a mechanism to showcase the talents of the youth dedicated to aerial dance. ZUZI! is a prime venue in Tucson for Aerial Dance incorporating Skinner Releasing Technique to the art of aerial dance.
2005 was a period of transition in which the board of directors and staff took on the organizational challenges a growing arts organization must face. A membership campaign was established to provide an ongoing opportunity for the Tucson community to express its support for ZUZI!.
During 2006 and 2007, ZUZI! continued its established programming. Added to the programming was a series of matinees based on the Spring Show “ZUZI! Goes Seuss”. ZUZI! staff facilitated an extensive in-service for TUSD’S Fine Arts Summer Institute. ZUZI! developed a permanent daily residency with Paulo Freire Freedom School offering classes in aerial dance, hip hop, Afro-Modern Dance, Capoiera, choreography, yoga, musical theater and belly dance. ZUZI! began a permanent weekly residency with the teen program of Mirasol Eating Disorder Treatment Center. An adult residency was developed in 2008.
In 2008 ZUZI! celebrated its 10th anniversary with a Best of ZUZI! fundraiser. This one evening performance included a silent auction and post show meal. Members of the Dance Company participated in a week long residency in Yuma, Arizona providing presentations to 10 schools.
ZUZI! remains deeply committed to its original vision and with a dedicated board of directors, staff and volunteers continues to use dance as a means to create connection, meaning and renewal for children and adults of all backgrounds.