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Author: David G. Pace

David Pace is the Director of Development at Repertory Dance Theatre. He is the author of the debut novel "Dream House on Golan Drive" (Signature Books), an essayist and literary editor of 15 Bytes Magazine.
America’s National Dance

America’s National Dance

Many countries have a national dance. The Polish have the polka, the Catalans have the Sardana, the Greeks have the Kalamatianos dance. Jordan and much of the Arab world refer to their ritual line dance as the dabke, while the Chinese are perhaps best known for the dragon and lion dances which stem from the Han Dynasty.

But what is the national dance of America, and what makes it distinctly American?

There is a “new world” dance and that dance was created by indigenous peoples of America. Today Native American tribes throughout the country continue to preserve their cuisine, their stories, their language, and their dances. There is a continuous cultural thread that extends back hundreds of years, and that thread is dance, inextricably connected to and animated by the land, or Mother Earth.

Here in the arid Southwest, Native American lands and their life-giving waters have recently captured the imaginations and the hopes of many of us with the recent proclamation by President Barack Obama last year of the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. A new book Edge of Morning (Torrey House Press, 2017) is both the back story of this remarkable region of 1.3 million square miles as well as a meditation on why Bears Ears should be preserved in perpetuity.

In one word, the reason why is this: the land is sacred.

Jacqueline Keeler (Dine/Dakota), Editor of “Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears”

Edited by Jacqueline Keeler (Dine/Dakota), Edge of Morning is subtitled “Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears,” and the collection is a hearty mix of essay, interview and poetry by representatives from various tribes–from Hopi to Dine (Navajo) and from Ute to Muscogee.

Despite the complexity of the swarming issues around public land policies and broken Indian treaties, there is a single, shining thesis in Edge of Morning: that America’s indigenous populations inhabit a spiritual culture rooted in land and that, in the face of relentless encroachments, tribes are prepared to enact what’s called their “bio-cultural sovereignty” as nations within the United States. Bears Ears is emblematic of that ongoing enactment. And it is the personal narratives in this book, often teased out through an interview by Keeler, that gives these stories emotional heft.

Edge of Morning is a resource to Repertory Dance Theatre and guest choreographer Zvi Gotheiner who will be arriving in Utah with his ZviDance Company May 7, 2017 to seek inspiration for a new commission in celebration of Bears Ears: Sacred Lands/Sacred Waters. It’s a celebration of an unprecedented coming-together of five tribes to advocate for a land that is held to be sacred by Native Americans. The designation was no small task, as tribes have not always seen eye-to-eye on how best to preserve their lands or their culture. But the Inter-tribal coalition did coalesce around a monument that today stands as a testament to the healing of divisions.

Jonah Yellowman (Dine), spiritual advisor to Utah Dine Bikeyah

Some of the individuals whose voices are heard in Edge of Morning will be participating in the RDT / ZviDance project through a partnership with Utah Dine Bikeyah (UDB) which has been a major player in this remarkable proclamation by the president late last year. One of these presenters is Jonah Yellowman (Dine), a spiritual advisor to UDB who is interviewed by the book’s editor in the Edge of Morning’s opening chapter. Yellowman introduces the book’s recurring theme: there is little if any distinction made by Native peoples between the breath they draw and the rocks and plants and animals, the sky, the soil and the mountains with which they interact. Everything is interrelated, and everything has a spirit to it.

Ritual movement, or dance, whether it’s social or ceremonial, is arguably the nexus for the spiritual and cultural connections Native Americans have to each other and to Mother Earth, and Edge of Morning makes the indelible point that this public land is sacred to all of us. What could be more inclusive, literally, than a Native American circle dance? What could be more powerful than a communal ritual of movement? And, finally, what could be more healing?

This is the final Native objective, it would seem, of preserving Bears Ears and other territories sacred to tribes: the land will heal us if we honor and protect it. On May 11th, as part of its week-long excursion through the Bears Ears National Monument to prepare for developing a new concert dance, RDT and New York City’s ZviDance will be the special guests of representatives from the five-tribe coalition that for the past ten years has advocated for the monument.

At the gathering there will be the sharing of stories, the sharing of traditional foods, and of course, dancing. The evening, titled “Healing through Motion” will celebrate not only the establishment of Bears Ears, but the co-management of the monument by the tribes and the promise of healing that the monument represents.

Four other public encounters with Native American presenters and scholars will occur beginning May 7th. At these free events, curated by RDT and UDB, the story is all the same: this is sacred land not only to Native tribes, but to all of us.

Contemporary movement language inspired by the Bears Ears will never be America’s national dance as is the Native American circle dance. But a book like Edge of Morning and a dance like Sacred Lands/Sacred Waters may be important ways of honoring and illuminating our collective spiritual lives, of starting a conversation with one another that may well prove to have national importance.

The Ghost Dance originated among the Paiute Indians in the Great Basin around 1870. However, the tide of the movement came in 1889 with a Paiute shaman Wovoka (Jack Wilson). Wovoka had a vision during a sun eclipse in 1889.

From the Proposal Overview (Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition):

The Bears Ears land is a unique cultural place where we visit and practice our traditional religions for the purpose of attaining or resuming health for ourselves, human communities, and our natural world as an interconnected and inextricable whole.

When we speak about health, we are not only talking about an individual, we are talking about one’s health in relation to others around us and that of the land. We are talking about healing.

Our relationship and visits to Bears Ears are essential for this process. Ruining the integrity of these lands forever compromises our ability to heal. The traditional knowledge related to Bears Ears is important and irreplaceable in itself. The continuity of indigenous traditional medicine is in peril, as long as land like the Bears Ears are not protected.

David Pace is RDT’s Development Director. You can subscribe to RDT’s blog EMBARK to learn more about this unfolding project. 

Utah Dine Bikeyah & RDT: The Ethic of a Sacred Land

Utah Dine Bikeyah & RDT: The Ethic of a Sacred Land

Repertory Dance Theatre is the only dance company to receive a grant from the (currently) embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and at the time (2011) the Company took some hard hits from Utah’s congressional delegation, two of whom argued that, especially during a recession, funding from the Federal Government to a modern dance company–even one as celebrated as the country’s premier repertory dance company–was an example of government waste.

Long before that tempest in a teapot, RDT had dedicated itself to its Sense of Place Initiative, commissioning works that embody, celebrate and examine our human connection to the land which we all rely on and the ethic to find sustainable means to protect it. Water and land are critical issues here in America’s Mountain and Southwest regions, sparking a resurgent “sagebrush rebellion” of late with locals and, especially, politicians angling to wrest control of public lands from the Feds.

As part of a years-long association with New York City-based Zvi Gotheiner, RDT is again commissioning a new work through an ambitious project that involves bringing Gotheiner and his company, ZviDance, to Utah to join RDT at the newly-proclaimed Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. The development of the project begins in May, and the premiere of the first of two works to emerge from the project will be in October 2017 in Salt Lake City.

But “Sacred Lands/Sacred Waters,” the working title of the project,  isn’t looking for a fight.  Instead, with its partner Utah Dine Bikeyah, the new work is designed to honor and celebrate the unprecedented convergence of five American Native tribes which for 10 years have been advocating for the preservation of their sacred lands from extraction (mining) companies, development and the arguably harmful effects of ranching. Most Utahns agree with the newly-announced protections through the Antiquities Act of 1906 of the 1.35 million acres, says author and photographer Stephen Trimble in the Los Angeles Times:

“The president acted on behalf of our children and grandchildren, on behalf of the last canyon treefrogs singing in Slickhorn Gulch along the San Juan River, on behalf of the Navajo medicine man gathering herbs on the forested mesas of the Bears Ears. His action will be a boon to Utah’s rural economy.”

Where does a modern dance company fit into all of this? What can dance bring to the conversation about public lands where indigenous populations have lived for centuries but also where white settlers in the 19th Century made their homes, where, today, recreationists and tourists thrill at the sights, the hikes and the climbs (while spending money), where environmentalists see the wilderness as a kind of ballast to our over-developed cities?

RDT is operating under a collective premise that most people, in the Southwest and beyond, agree with: our lands and our waters have a sacred character to them. They are our sustenance. They literally ground us in the world of which we are only a part, and they call to a deep and abiding place within us: the notion of “home.” Bears Ears and all of our protected lands and waters epitomize this impulse to protect and preserve.

Continues Trimble,

“For the first time in conservation history, the primary advocates for this new national monument were Native American tribes. In October 2015, the Navajo, Ute Mountain, Hopi, Zuni, and Ute nations presented the Obama administration with a proposal to preserve and co-manage public lands they consider sacred. The full membership of the National Congress of American Indians supported them. Remarkably, given the history of Indian people and the United States, the government listened.”

Two commissions choreographed by Gotheiner will emerge from “Sacred Lands/Sacred Waters.” One will be housed in the repertory of ZviDance in New York City, the other, close to the Bears Ears here at RDT in Salt Lake City. The project entails more, however, than just new choreography. Five public events, including 3 with Trimble, will be staged between May and October when RDT’s work premieres, 4 of those events in the state capital and one in Bluff, near the Monument.

It is the Bluff gathering on May 11, 2017  that will embody the spirit of the “Sacred Lands/Sacred Waters” project. Representatives from all five tribes who formed the coalition to propel Bears Ears to monument status will assemble with RDT and ZviDance. The public is invited and the event is free. Together they will share, through word, music and dance, why this land is sacred to Native Americans,  and, in an evening titled “Healing through Motion,” will celebrate the coming together of, at times, fractious tribes to achieve a common goal. It’s a convergence of nations that possibly marks the trail for the increasingly divided country of the United States to do the same.  It’s clear from the tribes that this land is sacred to more than those in the region. It is a gift to all of us–Americans as well as  visitors from abroad.

It is our sacred lands, and our sacred waters as well.

Jonah Yellowman, spiritual adviser to Utah Dine Bikeyah, and Navajo elder from Monument Valley, reacted generously to the designation of the new Bears Ears National Monument, and in the spirit of the occasion extends his thanks and prayers not only to Mother Earth but to all people for whom these lands and waters will be preserved.

In addition to attending the concert in Utah this October, which we hope will include traditional native dances on stage with RDT, you can donate to help make the project happen.

Celebrate and honor the Bears Ears National Monument and help heal divisions among all of us through dance.

 

David G. Pace is the Director of Development at Repertory Dance Theatre.

 

 

 

RDT Gift Guide for the Dancer (or dance lover) in your life

RDT Gift Guide for the Dancer (or dance lover) in your life

the ultimate

Dance Classes

Every dancer knows that the only way to get better is to take class! Even our professional dancers take class EVERY DAY to get better, hone their skills and progress.

But you don’t have to be a professional dancer to take class. At RDT’s Dance Center on Broadway, we offer classes for every skill level (even if you’ve never set foot in a dance studio before).

All classes are in the evenings and on weekends, so they fit into your schedule and there’s no long-term commitment! You can drop in to classes as you please.
And …  there’s everything from Modern to Hip Hop to the newly formed Bollywood class!
Check out the full schedule here.

A 10-Class punch-card is good for any class on the schedule and the best bang for your buck.

Purchase Now

 

If you’d like to purchase a gift card for your loved one in a denomination other than $100, contact us. 🙂

And … if you can’t decide, check out the OPEN HOUSE on January 7. You can dance all day for just $10! Learn more>>


Concert Dance Tickets

Not everyone wants to try dance — they’d rather just watch. And who’s to blame them? Beautiful bodies moving beautifully on stage is really a sight to behold.
Well … you’ve come to the right place. This is our specialty. 😉

RDT has a incredible shows coming up that you won’t want to miss.

For the wild spirit: EMERGEEMERGE_DATE

EMERGE is RDT’s dance choreography showcase, featuring 8 dances by the RDT dancers and Artistic Staff. Dances feature local artists as well as RDT dancers.
It’s the place to be to see the next generation of choreographers. BUY TICKETS HERE>>

For the party animal: REGALIA

REGALIA is not only a choreographic spectacle, but an awesome party! With a VIP ticket  you and your guest will enjoy a generous cocktail hour while you wander the studios of the Rose Wagner to watch dance being created before your very eyes.
Then you’ll devour a scrumptious meal catered by Utah Food Services in the Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre.
Then it’s time to watch the newly created REGALIA_datedances on stage by 4 competing choreographers who have been selected for the experience, artistry, and wit.
After which you get to vote for your favorite to win an RDT commission for next year!
Afterwards, join the whole cast and audience on stage to dance the night away with the Joe Muscolino Band.
A seriously awesome evening.

BUY TICKETS HERE>>

Not quite in your price range? Check out the Performance Ticket for just $50. You’ll see the full performance and get to dance on stage after the show!

 

15109588_10154192988690197_7574637109403919961_nFor the undecided: ArtTix Gift card

You can purchase ArtTix gift cards so they can choose the RDT show they want to see!

Click here to purchase


 RDT-79_dan_winterdanceWinter Workshop

For the semi-professional/pre-professional dancer in your life. Check out WINTERDANCE, for the dancer who is really serious.
Students will work with RDT dancers in technique, improv, composition, and … even learn a piece to perform at RDT’s concert EMERGE, January 6-7!

Learn more>>

 


 Kneeotech Yoga/Dance Pants

If you’ve ever taken a dance class, you’ve probably had some aches in your knees. Kneeotech by Evolution Activewear has the solution. Their stylish yoga pants have knee-pads built right in. So you can take yourself to the floor with ease and not worry about your knees turning as purple as RDT’s logo. 😉

RDT endorses Kneeotech and loves wearing these awesome pants in rehearsal. Check out the RDT dancers trying them out!

LEARN MORE & PURCHASE


Support Everyone’s Favorite Dance Company

While everyone loves getting “things” …  sometimes the gift that means the most is the gift of giving back.
If RDT means a lot to you (or someone you care about), consider making a donation to help us continue to create, preserve, perform, and perpetuate the art of modern dance.
You can earmark your gift for for a variety of programs, including RDT’s school outreach throughout Utah; a particular upcoming concert; RDT’s children’s series Ring Around the Rose; or a particular upcoming commission or reconstruction.

Donate Now

 

If you’d like to make a donation in someone’s name as a gift, including a membership in RDT’s new Sustainers Club (with cool perks!), just click “This is a tribute donation” when prompted. 

THANKYOU


 

MERCHANT_PARTNERS300X300And one final idea…

If the best idea for your loved one isn’t on this list … consider SHOPPING TO SUPPORT RDT.
You can use this link to shop at some of your favorite retailers (only some of which are shown here), and RDT will get a percentage back in return!
And all you have to do is shop!
Shop to Support


Or check out the RDT Gift Shop for some awesome T-shirts!

Shop Now

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

By Linda C. Smith

This weekend, RDT presents BRIO … an appropriate title for a concert filled with vigor, vivacity, gusto, verve, zest, enthusiasm, vitality, dynamism, animation, spirit and most of all energy.

BRIO will present five works created by two incomparable artists known as Shapiro & Smith. Danial Shapiro & Joanie Smith, logo_shapirosmithhusband and wife, started collaborating in 1985. Fascinated by the situations and passions which shape our behavior, they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation. Their work is balanced by a unique blend of biting sarcasm, breathtaking physicality and emotional depth. Shapiro & Smith Dance has a reputation for performing tales of beauty and wit that run the gamut from searingly provocative to absurdly hilarious.  They have earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment.

… they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation.

RDT became acquainted with the choreographic duo in the mid 1990’s. I was initially impressed with their remarkable method of collaboration and their inventive use of props. In 1996, RDT was able to acquire a short but unique dance featuring items from World War II army surplus.  The work highlights close coordination as dancers leap, catapult, catch and soar with the aid of two vintage blankets. I never tire of watching the daring RDT dancers execute tireless and unexpected movement on the edge of chaos.

"Dance With Two Army Blankets"
“Dance With Two Army Blankets”
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“Turf” featuring dancer, Katherine Winder

When Utah was named as the site for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I began to commission works that celebrated the spirit of human excellence, human effort and human creativity. I invited Shapiro & Smith to choreograph a work that would make a statement about the spirit of friendly competition, ownership and territory. Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

We were heartbroken when Danny Shapiro died of complications from prostate cancer in 2006. Joanie kept Shapiro & Smith Dance going and began creating works on her own. RDT’s association with her continued. In 2013, we presented her Bolero on a concert honoring the strength and courage of men and women in the armed forces. Bolero is a thrill ride of a dance about the dynamic tensions that define the human experience. The dance explores the endless nature of physical struggle, from war to personal ordeal. It is a dance that demands much of those who perform it as it tests the limits of physicality. Bolero is explosive, with the dancers and momentum never letting up until after the final note.

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“Bolero” performed in 2013.

Joanie’s distinctive wit is highlighted in two new acquisitions that put a spin on classic children’s games and nursery rhythms. Jack and Pat-a-Cake remind us that dance cannot only document history, comment on social issues and inspire a dialogue … it can also make us smile. This is a wonderful way to start celebrating the holidays.

"Jack" performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass
“Jack” performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass

We hope you’ll join us for a weekend of joy.

Get tickets here>>

Linda C. Smith is the Executive/Artistic Director of RDT.  A founding member of the Company, she now divides her time between preparing budgets for grants and wrangling dancers in the studio.  She also likes to vacuum the RDT Offices.

Bringing RDT’s BRIO to the Classroom

Bringing RDT’s BRIO to the Classroom

Next week, RDT will perform two student matinees for close to 700 students. Before the students see BRIO, they will receive a study guide from our Education Director Lynne Larson to help them understand what they will see. Also, teachers are given lesson plans to help the students prepare for what they will see in the show. Here are some lesson plans you can try with your dance students. 


Lesson Plan—Small Area Choreography

Turf
Shapiro & Smith’s “Turf” performed by Katherine Winder and Ursula Perry.

In Turf and Jack, much of the choreography takes place in a small, defined space: In Jack, sitting or standing on a chair and in Turf, on small, large or rectangular rugs. To choreograph in small, defined spaces is a wonderful skill to develop and can lead to very innovative movement vocabulary.

  • Tape off a 2 X 4 area on the dance floor. Create as many as you can use for the number of students you have in your class. Students can work in pairs or alone.
  • Restrict the students’ movement creation to the space inside the tape.
    1. First Instruction: Create 8 gestures (a wave of the hand, a shrug of the shoulders, etc.) on various levels (high, medium and low) in the space.
    2. Second Instruction: Create 4 movements (a turn, a reach, a twist, etc.) facing different directions in the small space area.
    3. Third Instruction: Combine gestures and movements to create a phrase.
    4. Fourth Instruction: Show phrases to one another for feedback. Ask students watching what images came to mind while they were observing and also what type of sound might accompany the movement sequence.
    5. Students could then take some time to further develop their small space studies with the suggested imagery and music ideas. The same ideas could also be explored on a chair, in a big box, on a bench, etc.


Lesson Plan—Props and Dance

In the BRIO Concert, most of the dances use a prop. These props are quite ordinary and are objects found in your home and that you use every day:  blankets, chairs, and rugs. Using a prop in dance choreography can be challenging and unpredictable, but can also create wonderful movement vocabulary and images.

  • Ask the students to bring an object from home into class, something they use everyday. One of the wonderful things about props in creative dance is that we, as innovative, creative thinkers, can play and discover amazing new ways to use the prop other than the way it was intended.
    1. First Instruction: Talk with the students about the normal use of the prop and discourage them from “acting out” the normal uses of the object, but encourage them to think “outside the box” and create innovative and challenging ways to use the prop. Have them work on creating 4 unique ideas with their prop. If they would like to be in partners or groups to create, that is great. Allow each student time to create with their prop in the group, then switch to the next student to ensure all get creative work time. Once each student has 4 ideas with their prop, show to the class and give feedback.
    2. Second Instruction: Using the feedback with their 4 ideas, have students begin to develop movement phrases around their prop incorporating the innovations they already created and link them into a short movement/prop study.
      1. Ask them further questions, (for example, How is your prop introduced? What is its purpose? How does the movement relate to the prop?) to advance their studies even more.
Shapiro & Smith's "Dance With Two Army Blankets" featuring Nicholas Cendese, Joshua Larson, and Thayer Jonutz.
Shapiro & Smith’s “Dance With Two Army Blankets” featuring  Joshua Larson, Nicholas Cendese, and Thayer Jonutz.

 


 

Lesson Plan—Children’s Rhymes

In Jack and Pat-a-Cake, children’s nursery rhymes and games are used as the inspiration and accompaniment for both pieces. This is an interesting way to construct a piece using words, concepts and movements that are familiar to a large majority of our population. As in most universal experiences, rhymes and words such as the ones in Jack and Pat-a-Cake will mean different things to different people.

  • Ask the students to select a nursery rhyme that is special to them from their childhood. Have them do a little research to discover if there are variations to the rhyme, different wording, order, etc.
  • Using the text as a basis, have the students begin to develop movement motifs that represent the words of the rhyme. Once again, not “acting out” the rhyme, but taking the words and creating innovative movement from the meaning of the words.
  • Try either the mover reciting the rhyme as she/he is moving or another dancer reciting as the other moves. Show to the group.
Joanie Smith's "Jack" performed by Justin Bass and Tyler Orcutt.
Joanie Smith’s “Jack” performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass.

 

For more lesson plans and ideas about teaching in the classroom, check out the full BRIO study guide here>>

Performance Etiquette

Performance Etiquette

By RDT Board Member, Jaelynn Jenkins

Good manners are about more than following musty dictates from a Victorian-era matron, but rather a show of appreciation for the hard work and time that each artist has spent to create a piece for the audience’s enjoyment.

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As a lifelong theatergoer, I’ve attended everything from Broadway musicals in the Big Apple to cello recitals for my younger cousins in their parents’ living rooms. Nearly all of those performances have similar concert etiquette expectations, despite the varying types of artistic performances, and being a part of a Repertory Dance Theater audience is no different.

The following guidelines will help you and your fellow audience members enjoy each performance that much more:

Pre-Performance Preparation!

Although it goes without saying, proper grooming is a plus. Strong scents and odors are distracting to your fellow audience members as well as the performers. Tall hats and beehive hairstyles may be acceptable for back row Bettys, but avoid increasing the size of your head if you have any other seat in the house.

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Choose an outfit befitting the event. Far be it from me to dictate your personal style, but I think we can all agree that our concert attire should be something more than Saturday morning cleaning clothes or Sunday comfies. Remember, those performing for you have put many hours of training into this single performance, something like your Sunday best shows appreciation for the dancers’ efforts.

Buy your tickets ahead of time, come early, and leave your food outside of the theater. I’ll accept breath mints, but smacking gum (even if it is in time to the music) is unacceptable.

Contribute to the Ambiance

Refrain from talking during the performance, silence electronics, and hold applause until the end of each piece. A cacophony of sound from the audience can be distracting to the dancers and disrupt their concentration.

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Sounds aren’t the only distractions! Flash photography and audience members who resemble a jack-in-the-box are also disruptive. If you must leave during a performance, try to wait until the break between pieces. To reenter the audience, wait quietly at the back of the theater until a break presents an opportunity to return to your seat.

Come armed…

… with knowledge about the choreographer, music, and dancers! You can find this information here on the RDT Blog, EMBARK, or on the RDT website: rdtutah.org/season and in your performance program. Putting names to faces and recognizing the stylings of a favorite choreographer add to the excitement of a live performance!

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Finally, sit back and enjoy the show … and at the end? Applaud, cheer, and indulge in a good “bravo!”

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Jaelynn R. Jenkins is a current board member of Repertory Dance Theater’s Board of Trustees. She loves the arts and counts RDT among her favorite extra curricular activities. In her spare time, Jaelynn is an associate attorney at Fetzer Simonsen Booth Jenkins, practicing in the areas of estate planning, business law and nonprofits.