Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) had a wonderful weekend of performing April 6-8, 2017 RDT’s Season closer DABKE, one of the dancers’ favorite pieces to perform. We had three straight nights of standing ovations, heartfelt comments from audience members, and an amazing emotional connection to the work and to the audience.
RDT dancer Efren Corado Garcia epitomizes the gratitude and enthusiasm of all of the dancers when he reported,
“We are so lucky to be able to live in a community which supports the arts in such a heartfelt manner. The audience we had the last few nights was generous, gracious and kind. I’ll always remember your engagement with the work as we poured ourselves onto the stage. Thank you from all of us!”
We will be staging an encore performance of DABKE this weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, UT (April 14-15, 2017). Learn more>>
Enjoy these images from photographer Sharon Kain.
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.
“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.
Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 2
By Joanna L. Johnston, MBA, CPA RDT Board Treasurer and UACPA Non-Profit Committee Member
This article was originally published in The Journal Entry, a publication of the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants. Writes Joanna, “Since this article was published in 2014, I’ve learned so much more about Repertory Dance Theatre and the art form. Consequently, I’ve re-upped for another term as a trustee of RDT’s board. This extended stay at America’s premier repertory dance company has given me added insight into the way America’s arts organizations not only survive change but thrive because of it and how accounting professionals can be a critical part of that success.”
In part 1, Joanna, a professional CPA and Repertory Dance Theatre’s current Board Treasurer, talks about the history of modern dance, RDT, and what she feels our art from offers an audience. In this post she talks about the challenges and unique opportunities a dance company faces as it transitions staff members and strives to keep the Company and the art form moving forward.
Like most arts organizations … RDT must compete with other performing arts companies and entertainment outlets for audiences, sponsors and donors. Throughout the last decade of economic downturns, RDT has needed to look for new ways to recruit and retain valuable corporate and foundation sponsorships. In addition, RDT has had to evaluate its financial position and cut expenses without cutting quality. Several years ago the Company reached out to the accounting community through the UACPA [Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants] in an effort to recruit CPAs for its board of trustees. Three CPAs responded, and [as of 2014] two are still serving on the board in executive positions. Having CPAs on the board has proved to be an invaluable asset. Their awareness of current tax laws and GAAP standards have helped the organization obtain refundable small business health care credits, provide assistance with reporting issues, budget and plan for cash flow fluctuations, work with auditors throughout the audit process and act as liaisons with local and state agencies concerning public funding for the arts. The administrative staff for RDT is only five full time employees, and none are accounting professionals, so it is imperative to have CPAs on the board to advise and support the staff on financial and reporting matters.
Recently, RDT has had to confront an unanticipated succession issue. RDT’s bookkeeper for the last 13 years was diagnosed with a terminal illness in June 2013. Even though the position was only part-time, she was responsible for recording all the financial transactions including receivables, payables, payroll and tax payments. She performed reconciliations and prepared financial reports for the administrative staff and the board. She was the only member of the staff who knew how to use the accounting software, print checks and prepare the financial information and reports. When Linda Smith, RDT’s Executive Director, became aware of the bookkeeper’s illness, the Company was challenged and in need of current and accurate financial information for grant proposals and end-of-year reconciliation. There was a struggle to get the books caught up while attempting to advise other members of the staff and board treasurer how to use the software to record transactions, prepare reports and print checks.
RDT wanted to honor a dedicated employee’s years of service while recruiting a new bookkeeper. A smooth transition needed to be created to keep financial continuity in the interim. I was asked as the board treasurer to step in for a two-week period to get invoices recorded, payables paid and travel per diem checks printed for the dancers going out on tour, before another bookkeeper was hired and took over. … RDT’s new bookkeeper … [had] to adjust to new software and accounting methods that function differently. It … [took] some time before the financial process … [was] running smoothly again, but with the help of experienced CPAs on the Board, the succession [was completed.]
This situation has demonstrated to the staff and board the importance of cross-training and information- sharing in a small non-profit organization. Going forward, a plan … [was] created to ensure that more than one person knows how to perform basic financial functions within the Company, and that key personnel feel comfortable sharing those duties with other members of the staff. Currently the board and administrative members of the RDT staff are formulating a strategy that incorporates segregation of duties and contingency planning to ensure accurate financial reporting and financial stability. Meanwhile, the artistic staff continues focusing on the mission of the organization which is still, [now in its 51st year] … dedicated to the creation, preservation, performance and appreciation of modern dance.
Many people confuse the non-profit status of an organization with the organization’s goals to be profitable in order to achieve its mission. Incorporating skilled accounting professionals on the staff and on the board of a non-profit arts organization like Repertory Dance Theater help ensure financial continuity while enabling the artistic staff and performers to provide quality entertainment and educational opportunities to the community.
Joanna L. Johnston, CPA is a Tax Manager at BDO USA, LLP with a passion for non-profit arts organizations. She is the Treasurer for Repertory Dance Theater, Vice-President of Finance for the Utah Wind Symphony, as well as a member of the University of Utah Business Alumni Association Board. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Movement That Transcends its Meaning: New Work in RDT’s EMERGE
Imagine my joy when I get feedback on my piece saying, “Wow, you did a whole dance about the ‘forbidden’ gestures. That was gutsy.”
Oops … I totally did.
How did this happen? I didn’t mean to use gestures that I’ve seen a million times before–that have been done so often that they almost don’t mean a thing.
When I choreograph I usually try to keep one thing in mind DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
What does that mean exactly? That statement is a lot harder to fulfill than it might seem–it requires that you be fully aware of your habits, your usual choices, your movement style and movement vocabulary. It means you have to explore new musical choices, you have to break old habits, you have to push yourself to do something you find uncomfortable. It means you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to just do something different than what I’VE done before? Do I want to do something that NO ONE has ever seen before? Do I focus on a new movement vocabulary? A new process?”
In this day and age, that’s very hard to do–not all movements are created equal.
Contemporary dancers live in a time that is so saturated with movement that many movements or “moves” are already freighted with associations, ideas, images, or even time and place. They become a kind of short-hand that short-circuits the creative process. Hence, the forbidden moves …
death drop to one knee
tricks/leaps/turns that we can see coming because of a preparation, a set up, or a chasse that ALWAYS comes before the trick
moves that are made famous in a music video and are then copied by people in every walk of life: for example, The Whip, the Dab …
grabbing your head in both hands and moving it in a big circle
reaching out into space, grabbing nothing with a pained look on your face
a fan kick or side tilt with your who-who-dilly directed straight at the audience
any of these moves by the now in-famous Contemporary Eric …
In dance we use the term “movement vocabulary.” And as with spoken language, moves (like words) can come and go, becoming fashionable and then unfashionable. And they can also lose their meaning altogether, just as words and terminology do: Who knows what the word “synergy” means these days (especially when they appear in a business book), or “surreal.” Words actually do have a denotative meaning (you can look them up in a dictionary), but they’re used so commonly (“We need to have ‘closure’.”) that terminology can become bereft of meaning, even leading, in its extremes, to what’s been called “semantic satiation.”
The same is true of vocabulary in movement or dance. There are overused phrases or words that eventually when spoken or performed no longer carry meaning or importance which have been lost over time after they were used repeatedly without focus or intent. In dance, it’s not just mindless repetition that causes this; sometimes the language loses its power when it is tied to the lyrics of a pop song or even just the crescendo of the music. In fact, these moves can actually subtract meaning from your work by referencing something so common place, so well-known that they become virtually indecipherable.
So why on earth did I use several of them as a motifs for my duet Folie A Duex which debuts this weekend at RDT’s Emerge?
Good question. I don’t know–all I can tell you is, I wasn’t thinking about those moves as stock gestures.
It was about following an idea … a feeling–a state of being–a brief image that popped into my head, months ago, as I was thinking about this duet.
I don’t believe in questioning an idea. I simply work to fulfill that idea, and that idea comes with a movement vocabulary, a style, a series of qualities. I work to identify those qualities and create movement, partnering, and dance structures that fit that idea.
Yes … my original idea did include these moments of touching, of covering eyes, mouths, necks, check, hips, etc. But it was the quality of touch that was important. It was the way the dancer made contact with themselves or their partner that caught my attention … that’s what I was exploring. It didn’t seem to matter that I’d seen the gestures before. Obviously, that didn’t even cross my mind.
I guess that like a creative writer, I was exploring movement language in a new way. I was exploring the quality of the language, these moves in their purest form. They aren’t made in anger, in sadness. They aren’t moments designed to represent tenderness or compassion.
This is a challenge for both the dancers (Ursula & Dan) and myself. We’ve worked hard to coach one another in how we touch each other: the directness of the hand, the firmness of the touch, the way the hand doesn’t caress up the body to the place where it ends. All these gestures, when you look at them closely, have what seems to be inherent meaning. The most basic arrangement of the duet–a man and a woman–already says so much! Humans are meaning-making creatures and we subscribe meaning to almost everything we see, even when we don’t mean to or know we are doing it.
As choreographer, I want my dancers to be able to perform these gestures, which makes up the work’s “language,” without commenting on them. If I’ve done my job properly, you won’t see the touches as the main goal of the piece. These moves that have been executed a thousand times are a recurring motif that, hopefully, has been used to paint a picture of a feeling, of a moment between two people, a moment that is intangible and diffuse and ghost-like. A moment that lives openly and allows you, the viewer, to enter the conversation and to add your own meaning. In a sense my objective is to have the movement in “Folie A Duex” transcend the meaning of its vocabulary, something that a poet–whose tools are words drawn from the pool of vocabulary we all use–is always aspiring to.
Come see if I was able to do that this weekend at Emerge–my little duet based around forbidden movements.
RDT Gift Guide for the Dancer (or dance lover) in your life
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.
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: EMERGE
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 dances 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
And 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!
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
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.
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.
Second Instruction: Create 4 movements (a turn, a reach, a twist, etc.) facing different directions in the small space area.
Third Instruction: Combine gestures and movements to create a phrase.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more lesson plans and ideas about teaching in the classroom, check out the full BRIO study guide here>>