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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.

bolero800x400
“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.

RDT goes Gaga … AGAIN (Part 1)

RDT goes Gaga … AGAIN (Part 1)

Theatre_2

By Linda C. Smith
Artistic | Executive Director

At the turn of the 20th century, many dancers worldwide were exploring ways to express the energy of a new era … one that was influenced by technology, the access to travel and the discovery of scientific principles that were to change our lives forever. Daring choreographers boldly rejected the status quo and were determined to create new movement languages.

That exploration continues through Gaga.

As a repertory company, Repertory Dance Theatre houses the work of over 150 different choreographers. Each requires a dancer to learn a different movement vocabulary. Today, RDT’s expanding lexicon now includes the Gaga movement language developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of the Batsheva Dance Company based in Tel Aviv.

Gaga is a new way of gaining knowledge and self-awareness through your body. Gaga provides a framework for discovering and strengthening your body and adding flexibility, stamina, and agility while lightening the senses and imagination. Gaga raises awareness of physical weaknesses, awakens numb areas, exposes physical fixations, and offers ways for their elimination. The work improves instinctive movement and connects conscious and unconscious movement, and it allows for an experience of freedom and pleasure in a simple way, in a pleasant space, in comfortable clothes, accompanied by music, each person with himself and others. We become more aware of our form. We connect to the sense of the endlessness of possibilities. We explore multi-dimensional movement; we enjoy the burning sensation in our muscles, we are ready to snap, we are aware of our explosive power and sometimes we use it. We change our movement habits by finding new ones. We go beyond our familiar limits. We can be calm and alert at once.” –Ohad Naharin

RDT has worked with Gaga in the past, so the language wasn’t new for us when, during the summer of 2016, we had the pleasure of working with dancer and choreographer Danielle Agami and her company Ate9. But as with writing, different authors use the same language very differently. Gaga is a tool Agami uses on a daily basis while choreographing her original repertory.

The experience for RDT dancers was again transforming.

Theatre_1Danielle Agami was born in Israel in 1984 and was a member of the Batsheva Dance Company from 2002-2010. She functioned as the company’s rehearsal director and is now one of only fifty Gaga teachers worldwide. In 2011, Agami relocated to New York City, then founded Ate9 Dance and chose Los Angeles as the company’s home.  Agami describes Gaga as a movement language rather than a technique. She says, “Gaga trains us to be fully effective and efficient in our body movements as we communicate.” The Gaga experience connects our senses to a world of endless possibilities.

Anyone can take a Gaga class. Experienced dancers might take a class alongside someone who has never danced before. However, there is a protocol in class and a list of requirements that one is expected to follow.

Instructions on taking a Gaga Class

You must be on time to the class. No entry for latecomers: Attending the first minutes of the class is very important so you will be able to produce more from the session and take care of your body.

Everyone work barefoot, without shoes. Participants wear comfortable clothes that allow freedom of movement.

Never stop. The class is one session, with no pauses or exercises. It is a continuity of instructions one on top of the other, never a cancellation of the previous one but added to it, layer upon layer. Therefore, it is important not to stop in the middle of the session. If you get tired or want to work at another pace, you can always lower the volume, work 30 or 20 perecent, float, or rest, but without losing sensations that have already been awakened.

Warm up. A Gaga class begins with a slow warm up to awaken the body. During class students explore ways of moving designed to heighten sensitivity and build strength and flexibility. Throughout the class, students are in constant motion, crawling on the floor, walking, falling, circling the wrist, head rolling, arching and kicking through space. Movement that begins subtly often explodes into actions that have every part of the body gyrating–raw and controlled all at once.

Listening to the body. It is important that you take the instructions gently into your body while being aware of the body’s sensations, abilities, and limitations. Do not seek excessive effort on your first time–seek the quality of the movement, the sensation to which you are aiming, but with less intensity in the work. Go to places where the pleasure in movement is awakened and not to places of pain. Maintain the connection to pleasure especially during effort (effort being different than pain). If you have any limitation, restrictions, or physical pain–permanent or temporary–talk to the teacher before the class starts, and be aware of these factors throughout the session.

Awareness. Be aware. Get inspired by the teacher and by other people in the room. Be mindful of people around you, the space that they need, and the interaction if any.

Silence: During the session do not speak unless instructed to use your voice or words. If you have any questions, you are welcome to bring them up at the end of the session.

Dancers with Repertory Dance Theatre have responded to the Gaga classes with enthusiasm. And Gaga has affected the way they rehearse and perform.

In our next post, you can read, firsthand, what RDT dancers have learned from their Gaga experience.

By The Snake_3

 

A Space Odyssey: part 3, Home Sweet Home

A Space Odyssey: part 3, Home Sweet Home

Rose Exposed Flight

This is the final post of our 3-part series “A Space Odyssey” celebrating the creation of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (you can read the previous post in the series here.)  Be sure to join us this Saturday, August 27th, for the Rose Exposed celebration of “Flight” – a night to benefit the Tracy Aviary.  Click HERE for more information.

Linda Smith meets I.J. “Izzi” Wagner

IJ WagnerIn January 1994, RDT moved into the RESCO building at 138 West Broadway (300 S.). We put a portable dance floor in the middle of the large warehouse bay and rehearsed daily. The entrance to the building was glass. This allowed people on the street a view of our rehearsals. The transients would seek shelter or a place to drink in the entryway. We noticed that a certain gentleman kept coming into the building to watch a few minutes of rehearsal. One day, I approached him to investigate his motives and started a conversation. I asked him if he liked dance. He said that his wife used to be a dance in vaudeville. He added, “I was born here.” I answered that I was also a native of Utah.

“No” said the man. “I mean that I was born right here.”

“I am also from Salt Lake,” I said.

“Listen to me,” said the man. “I was born right here on this spot. My family home was on this site. My family business was right here, right where this building stands.”

“What is your name?” I asked. The man replied, “Izzi Wagner.”

I suggested the PAC take Mr. Wagner, the owner of the site, to lunch and they introduced him to the vision of the arts project.

To make a long story short, in September 1995, the old RESCO was demolished and construction began on a new building.

Home Sweet Home

In January 1997, RDT moved into its new home, phase one of The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. We held the first performance in the Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre, named after Izzi’s sister. RDT’s premier featured choreography honoring Rose Wagner, Issi’s mother. “Essence of Rose” was a tribute to the energy, generosity, and ingenuity of the Wagner family.

Rose Wagner Front_NIghtCooperation, perseverance and determination have given the community a vital center dedicated to the arts. I can say with certainty that RDT has celebrated 50 years (as of 2016) in this beautiful theater because of some incredible individuals who can never be thanked or recognized enough for what they did for RDT and the entire arts community. While I couldn’t begin to mention everyone associated with this project. I must recognize some of the champions who caught the vision and helped Repertory Dance Theatre realize its dream.

Thank You

Ivan Weber, RDT staff and Board of Trustees, Alice Steiner, Susan Boskoff, Performing Arts Coalition Directors and Board, Jim Bradley, Rich Romano, Brent Cameron, Salt Lake County Center for the Arts (which now manages the Center), Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, local arts groups who formed a coalition of advisors, Prescott Muir Architects, EMA Architects LLC, patrons, foundations and financial contributors, and of course …

… I.J. “Izzi” Wagner. We should all be very proud. Hooray!

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.

A Space Odyssey, part 2: Dreaming Big

A Space Odyssey, part 2: Dreaming Big

This is part two of our series “A Space Odyssey” celebrating the creation of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (you can read part one here).  Be sure to join us this Saturday, August 27th, for the Rose Exposed celebration of Flight – a night to benefit the Tracy Aviary.  Click HERE for more information.

Dreaming Big

lcsWhen I assumed the position of Artistic Director in 1983 and learned that our barracks building up at the University of Utah was slated for demolition, I realized that Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) was experiencing both a funding and a space deficit. Friends, board members and community leaders advised us to establish a greater presence downtown. The Restaurant Equipment Supply Building, which occupied the area where this theater now sits, was identified as a prime site. The next 17 years proved challenging in trying to secure that location.

The first step in the process of designing a new home for ourselves was to dream. What would the ideal space look like? What activities could we develop in a larger facility? RDT needed to grow. We wanted to increase the number of home season performances, develop a school, sponsor other performing groups, present lectures, demonstrations, activities for children and seniors, and become more integrated into the life of the community.

We envisioned large rehearsal studios, efficient office space, a black-box theater and a state-of-the-art, intimate theater, perfect for modern dance. While setting our own priorities, we realized that other arts groups were also in need of space. It became clear that our ambitious goals could only be realized by forming partnerships and coalitions.

Many options for the relocation of the Company were analyzed including the following:

  • seeking another space within the University or finding another institution to host us
  • purchasing or leasing and remodeling a space somewhere in the valley
  • moving to another city or state
  • obtaining donated space from private, city, country or state organizations
  • building a new facility either alone or in partnership with another group

RDT’s Space Patrol 1983- 1997

In 1983, RDT formed a Facilities Planning Committee (FPC) to help develop a new facility. My husband Ivan Weber volunteered to chair the committee. Ivan was determined to find RDT a permanent home and spent the next 10 years dedicating his time and expertise toward helping the Company and other community arts groups secure space. He surveyed and analyzed over 100 potential buildings and researched performing arts centers throughout the United States. He gave RDT tenacity.

When Alice Steiner accepted an invitation to direct RDT’s Facilities Planning Committee, the project took on an added dimension. She began to educate the community and developed the necessary steps for us to realize our goals. In 1989, Alice formed a nonprofit organization, the Performing Arts Coalition (PAC), dedicated to developing a performing arts center. She invited the community arts groups to organize and cooperate. Her commitment and professional experience were invaluable. (Editor’s note: It is that same PAC that is currently celebrating its 5th Rose Exposed event, an evening that celebrates the facility where six celebrated performing arts groups, including RDT, all live and thrive as well as the connections we have as arts groups vital to Salt Lake. Rose Expoased is also a unique day in which we create work and fund raise for other important community partners. This year the annual outing will benefit exclusively Tracy Aviary.)

In 1990, local arts organizations met to share ideas. This group included Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Ballet West, Children’s Dance Theatre, Zivio Ethnic Arts Ensemble, Utah Opera, Utah Symphony, Nova Chamber Music, The Salt Lake Festival of the Arts (now the Utah Arts Festival), and the Utah Media Center.

The Performing Arts Coalition engaged Theatre Projects Consultants, Inc. to survey arts groups, to analyze potential sites and to complete a feasibility study. Eventually the survey determined that

[t]here are a great number of performing companies in the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area, and at the same time, practically no suitable performance spaces that are regularly available to them. … [T]he presence of a new facility would make the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area equal to cities such as Portland, Nashville, Tampa, Tulsa, Denver and Charlotte in its physical provision of publicly-owned buildings for the performing arts. 

The supporting evidence was clear, and we all became more determined. When Alice Steiner accepted a position as Executive Director of Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, Susan Boskoff became Executive Director of the PAC.

On The Move

In May of 1992, RDT vacated its barracks building home which was then demolished to clear the way for a new research facility. Salt Lake County was anxious to ensure RDT, as a tenant group, adequate space and helped the company relocate temporarily to the Salt Palace. A year later, RDT was notified that the Salt Palace would be demolished and that we would find ourselves homeless again.

The search for a facility took a toll on RDT. During a two-year period, the Company moved its office space five times. RDT began to have financial problems as staff time was spent packing, moving, unpacking, searching and planning. Of necessity, RDT had two agendas: one that would solve its singular space problems, and one that would lead to establishing a center to be used by many other groups. RDT gave up a number of opportunities for developing its own space in favor of waiting and helping to create a larger facility that could be shared by the community.

The PAC analyzed many potential building sites including Block 49, 57, and the Brooks Arcade, but feasibility studies determined that the funding for these large projects could not be realized. The dream project began to look unachievable. RDT decided that the Restaurant Equipment Supply Building would be the best solution to its immediate space problems. We decided to try and raise the funds to lease and renovate the RESCO building for RDT use until the PAC could secure a larger facility. However, the appeal of the warehouse location on West Broadway became more and more seductive. Recognizing the potential, RDT and PAC jointly approached the Salt Lake County. Commissioner Jim Bradley saw the value of adding a complementary venue to the Salt Lake County Fine Arts facilities. He endorsed the purchase of RESCO. A public/private partnership was formed and RDA granted seed money for renovation. The PAC accepted the responsibility for raising funds for the project.

But we would find out soon, very soon, that the RESCO building was not only RDT’s temporary home, but someone else’s.  And that someone else was a game-changer.

Join on Thursday for the final part: Home Sweet Home!

An earlier version of this text was first published as 2001: A Space Odyssey for RDT’s 35th anniversary in April 2001.

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.

Rose Exposed Flight

A Space Odyssey, part 1: Beginnings

A Space Odyssey, part 1: Beginnings

Rose-Exposed_Logo

With the 5th annual Rose Exposed event next Saturday at The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, we thought it would be a great opportunity to explore how RDT’s home base came to be.  Over the next week, we’ll be posting the story as told by our very own Linda C. Smith, a founding member of RDT and the Company’s current Executive/Artistic Director.  Join us and find out, first hand, how this amazing center of art and community was born.

And … be sure to join us this Saturday, August 27th for the Rose Exposed celebration of “Flight” – a night to benefit the Tracy Aviary.  Click HERE for more information.

Beginnings

Virginia-TannerInspired by Virginia Tanner, director of the nationally recognized Children’s Dance Theatre, the Rockefeller Foundation granted the Salt Lake community funding to establish Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT), a professional modern dance repertory company. Central to RDT’s mission was a goal to nurture the art of dance by encouraging emerging choreographers, providing commissions to renowned artists and building a living library of dance in order to preserve the art form for future generations.

Creating America’s first successful modern dance repertory company was a task that could only be adequately described in a lengthy book, but suffice it to say that the journey was filled with plenty of wonderful memories and more hard work and sacrifice than anyone wants to recall.

Fifty years later and we look with pride at our accomplishments. As cultural ambassadors for the West, RDT has helped to establish Utah as an important center for dance in the country. Audiences at home, abroad and throughout the United States have been influenced by RDT’s outstanding dancers who have performed, taught, educated and inspired thousands of individuals who now have a greater knowledge and appreciation for the art of dance.

Founded in 1966 as Artists-in Residence at the University of Utah, RDT was first housed in a World War II barracks building near the university medical center. During those first twenty-six years, RDT enjoyed a unique relationship with the academic community. The university supported RDT by providing rehearsal, production and office space and a variety of in-kind services.

Kingsbury Hall was the site for our home season performances until 1978 when the newly renovated Capitol Theatre re-opened, offering local arts groups a downtown performance venue. It was soon realized, however, that this space could not accommodate all the needs of those groups which included Ballet West and Utah Opera. RDT decided to continue rehearsing at the university, but the writing was on the wall. Repertory Dance Theatre was going to need a new home.

Join us on Tuesday 8/23 for part 2: Dreaming Big

A version of this text was first published as 2001: A Space Odyssey for RDT’s 35th anniversary in April 2001.

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.