REGALIA: Evolution of a Choreographer Competition

REGALIA: Evolution of a Choreographer Competition

Repertory Dance Theatre has always been a revolutionary dance company, ever since a group of Salt Lake City dancers beat out the big city stalwarts and were awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant to establish the first repertory dance company in the nation.

The same can be said of of its innovative approach to fundraising galas.

Thirteen years ago, RDT dancer and now Artistic Associate Nicholas Cendese came up with the idea of a choreographer competition in the spirit of TV’s The Iron Chef. The annual event was called Charette, an architectural term in which competing architects are given a short period of time to come up with the best project which they then place on a moving trolley called a charette. At RDT, the architects become choreographers. Assemble some cracker jack local dance-makers, give them one hour and several guest dancers, a “secret ingredient” and see what they can come up with for a live audience who then “votes” with their wallet for the “best” one. The prize? The illustrious title of THE IRON CHOREOGRAPHER.

Sister Dottie S. Dixon & dancers, Charette 2013

It was all designed to raise funds for RDT’s artistic programming and educational outreach, and it wasn’t uncommon for even one of the choreographers to write a check as a kind of “bribe” to win the competition, prance around on stage with the trophy in front of the interactive audience and celebrity “judges” who gave a running commentary all evening and provided special awards like “the funnest,” … or the “most” this or that.

Some of the more memorable emcee’s for RDT’s Charette were K-96’s Bill Allred , KUED’s Ken Verdoia and, during the final two years, Sister Dottie S. Dixon (aka actor Charles Lynn Frost) everyone’s favorite, loud-mouthed, gay-activist Mormon mom from Spanish Fork, Utah.

After 10 years of RDT guests moving from studio to studio at The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center to see the process of creating modern dance, the Company decided to change things up for its 50th anniversary season in 2016. Re-titled “Regalia,” the new gala fundraiser would put the whole evening on steroids, so to speak, upping the ante: the winner of the friendly competition would be awarded a commission the following year, and contestants would have four hours instead of one to kick out a new product ready to roll for an eager audience.

Last year’s winner, Nichele van Porflett, was not only awarded a new RDT commission that will have its world premiere during RDT’s spring show CURRENT, but she is being honored this week by having the Regalia signature cocktail (compliments of 5 Wives Vodka) christened “The Nichele.”

Now in its third incarnation, Regalia bows again this year on February 24, 2018 …. and the stakes are again high, but always with the purpose of celebrating America’s premier repertory dance company. Competition can be fierce to even get selected as one of the four choreographers. This year’s four includes a duo and hail mostly from Utah but also from New York City.

Les Roka from The Utah Review met with all four in advance of the event which has a two-tiered ticket option, including a VIP ticket for $75 that includes a reception catered by sponsor Utah Food Service before the performance. An auction, “opportunity drawing” and a chance to vote for your favorite new dance (with your wallet) are all part of the fun. After the performance, dessert is served and the Joe Muscolino Band cranks it up for live dancing on stage during which the winner of the competition is announced.

You can read The Utah Review article here. You can still purchase tickets here.

Not everyone can pull off a competition of this sort–one that is a process, a performance and a party. But Repertory Dance Theatre is doing it again with REGALIA, sponsored this year by Utah Food Services, Celtic Bank, Workers Compensation FundTrial-Tech and Parsons, Behle & Latimer, LLC.

Read the bios of the 4 competing choreographers below:

LajaMartin. Laja Field. Martin Durov. Photo Credit: Lady Deryn Photography

LAJAMARTIN is a physical dance theater company founded by Laja Field and Martin Durov. Originally from Salt Lake City and Slovakia the two met dancing as full time members with Johannes Wieland at Staatstheater Kassel, Germany in 2013. They became founding members of VIM VIGOR dance company NYC in 2015 and are currently co-rehearsal directors and performers. Field and Durov created LAJAMARTIN in 2017, influenced by cultural past and present, LM rides into imagination where anything is possible. “From floor to air, a variety of physical motion crafts the vocabulary used to glide between the surreal and real”. Their first work “Tatry” premiered with DANCENOW at Joe’s Pub in NYC and later in “Circulate” at Newcastle College, England. As invited guests, LM created ”Lucy Part 1” for BRINE at the Leona Wagner Black Box in SLC, UT. While in Slovakia, LM created “Spolu v Čase” for the J.L Bellu Conservatory in Banska Bystrica. They have had the pleasure of teaching at Gibney Dance Center NYC, the University of Utah, BYU, Newcastle College & Dancecity, England, Johannes Wieland Staatstheater Kassel, Contemporary Prostor Pro Tanec, Prague and the private Conservatory in Liptovsky Hradok, Slovakia. LAJAMARTIN is delighted to be a part of this year’s Regalia with RDT. Watch a sample of LajaMartin’s work here.

Molly Heller

Molly Heller is a Salt Lake City dance artist and Assistant Professor within the School of Dance at the University of Utah. Her research investigates performance as a healing practice and the relationship between physical expression and emotion. Molly’s choreographic work has been presented in venues such as: Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (Berkeley, CA), Eccles Regent Street Blackbox Theater (SLC), Kingsbury Hall for TEDx SaltLakeCity, Gowanus Art + Production (NYC), Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church (NYC), Movement Research at the Judson Church (NYC), Green Space (NYC), DUMBO Dance Festival (Brooklyn, NY), The Mahaney Center for the Arts (Middlebury, VT), Balance Dance Company (Boise, ID), Boise State University, Westminster College (SLC), Sugar Space Studio for the Arts (SLC), and the Ladies’ Literary Club (SLC). Watch a sampling of Heller’s work here.


Bryn Cohn

Described as having “a brilliant mind…people want to see more” (The Dance Enthusiast), Bryn Cohn founded the nationally acclaimed New York – based contemporary dance company Bryn Cohn + Artists in 2011. BC + A has presented their work at Danspace Project in St. Marks Church, Bryant Park, Gibney Dance, 14th Street Y, New York Live Arts, Ailey Citigroup Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Judson Memorial Church, 92nd Street Y, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Martha Graham Theater and Abrons Arts Center among others.

​​The company was named Inception to Exhibition’s Fan Favorite in 2016 and won a fully produced evening. In addition to creating over fifteen works on ​BC + A​, including four full – length evenings, Cohn has been commissioned by Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Billy Bell’s Lunge Dance, The Big Muddy Dance Company, University at Buffalo, Grand Valley State University, California State University, Fullerton, Pushing Progress Contemporary Training Program, Stockton University, the fashion designer Betsey Johnson and for Youth America Grand Prix. As a sought after educator and lecturer, she received a full feature in Dance Teacher Magazine in 2016. Cohn has taught at Gibney Dance, ​California Institute of the Arts, Cornish College of the Arts, Rutgers University, ​Axis Connect, Temple University, ​Velocity Dance Center, ​Shenandoah University, Broadway Dance Center, Nazareth College, ​California State University, Los Angeles and 10 Hairy Legs. She was on permanent faculty at Peridance Capezio Center, Greenwich Ballet Academy and for the Pushing Progress Contemporary Training Program. Cohn graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts in dance. ​She is pursuing low residency Master of Fine Arts candidacy at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and is on part – time faculty at Loyola Marymount University. Watch a video of Cohn’s work here.

Mary Buhler. Photo Credit: Erica MacLean

Marty Buhler is a senior at the University of Utah in the School of Dance. He has had numerous choreographic experiences in the school as well as performing opportunities throughout the area. Buhler performed with Repertory Dance Theatre in 2016 in Jose Limon’s “Missa Brevis” as well as in RDT’s EMERGE concert in 2017. He has received multiple awards in dance filmmaking including the Perth Screendance Awards and the Utah Film Festival. His work was recently chosen to be showcased at the Northwest Region American College Dance Association Conference. You can watch some of his work here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *