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A love of creative dance is generational among the women of Faith Ivory's family. Faith, a sophomore at Salt Lake City's Olympus High, has performed with Children's Dance Theatre since she was in second grade. Auditioning for the company was an easy choice, as she needed only to follow in the footsteps of her older sisters and her mother, Christine Ivory, who grew up studying with company founder Virginia Tanner and the group's current director, Mary Ann Lee.
Christine Ivory said her own dance opportunities grew from seeds planted decades ago by her grandmother, a Hyrum resident who read about the unusual dance program Tanner was beginning in the 1940s. Her grandmother dreamed, in vain, of enrolling her daughters, appreciating how Tanner's movement program centered on artistic process instead of entertainment product.
One of those daughters Christine's mother brought the dream to life a generation later by enrolling her in the Tanner Dance program. And then when Christine Ivory had her own daughters, she enrolled the next generation.
Faith Ivory attends CDT dance classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. She credits her years in the program with sparking an interest in creative writing and journalism, as well as teaching her to use her imagination and giving her self-confidence and a sense of belonging.
In this year's annual concert, "The Apple-Pip Princess," Faith will be seen in the "Parched Earth" dance, which she and the other members of the company's high-school-age class helped to create.
The story, by children's author Jane Ray, tells of a kingdom that becomes a parched desert full of sadness after its queen dies. When the king challenges his three daughters to create something that will show him who should rule the land, two of the daughters build imposing towers, conscripting labor and materials from already destitute citizens.
The youngest, Serenity, finds humble treasures in a box left behind by her mother: a scattering of raindrops, a spider's dewy web and a tiny apple pip. She starts a garden and soon is joined by families who bring help, encouragement and more precious seeds. A revitalized community is born, and the land is saved.
Lee said the story's rich imagery translates easily into movement, while its message has intrinsic value.
"This theme is honoring the legacy of the mother and turning that into invention and, more importantly, into community."
The book's message is a metaphor for what has happened in the Tanner Dance program during its 75 years of existence, as Tanner's artistic DNA has been passed along to new leaders.
And its image of a seed bearing fruit mirrors what happens in the lives of children who learn to express themselves through an art form which brings us back to the legacy shared by Christine and Faith Ivory. Mother and daughter believe their participation has developed abilities useful beyond the boundaries of a dance floor.
"It's played out in every day of [my daughters'] lives," Christine Ivory said. "They know how to make something from nothing. How to begin a process, make observations, give it thought and inspiration, start to organize and create something."
Faith Ivory said one of her favorite things about her time with CDT is exposure to the books that inspire the company's annual show, which combine dance, music and visual elements to tell stories.
"It's just like the books are coming to life," she said. "That has contributed to me wanting to write. I used to write little stories in elementary school. Now, I want to be a journalist."
At CDT, teachers lay a foundation of technical skill while allowing students to use their own imaginations and creativity to create movement.
"We take the movement from the children," Lee said. "We don't lay it on top of them. It's like a poetry form. Within that framework, the kids make movement phrases that express the concept. As teachers, we guide the process."
For example, the solo phrase Faith invented to express the image of parched earth was incorporated into choreography for the dance audiences will see at the Capitol Theatre. "Everyone has their own little piece of the concert," she said, "Everyone's imprint is on the show."
For Lee, building the show around the story of "The Apple-Pip Princess" resonates with an important new phase in the history of Tanner Dance and CDT. Next month, ground will be broken for a new home within the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex on the University of Utah campus, and seeds will be planted that will allow existing programs to flourish and new ones to bloom and grow.
'The Apple-Pip Princess'
The University of Utah's Children's Dance Theatre will premiere "The Apple-Pip Princess," based on a children's book by Jane Ray.
When • Friday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 31, at 2 p.m.
Where • Capitol Theatre, 150 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $17-$26; half off for children under 12, at 801-355-ARTS or http://www.arttix.org.
More • For more information about Children's Dance Theatre, an auditioned company that's the performance arm of the U.'s Tanner Dance program, visit http://www.tannerdance.utah.edu. About Children's Dance Theatre
The company was established by Virginia Tanner in 1949 and has been under Mary Ann Lee's direction since 1979.
There are nearly 300 children in CDT, ages 8 to 18. Another 600 children are enrolled in Tanner Dance programs at satellite campuses. And the company connects with some 30,000 children each year through school visits and residencies.
"The Apple-Pip Princess" has professional support, with narration by acclaimed Utah actor Anne Cullimore Decker, an original score composed and performed by Tristan Moore, costumes by Wendy Turner and stage management by Chip Dance.