This month, several of Utah's dance companies teamed with beer companies, professional soccer clubs and haunted houses in an effort to broaden audience bases. Meanwhile across town, at the monthly Mudson showcase, a pair of dancer artists introduced their experimental work while sucking on frozen pops. Then they invited the audience to leave with a casually delivered warning: "If adult content bothers you, you might want to go now."
What exactly is this new trend? If you think the purpose of professional dance is to entertain, provoke or even embarrass audiences, then perhaps these boundary-crossing efforts are a strategic effort to challenge new audiences into theaters and concerts halls.
Ballet & Beer • The Sept. 20-21 event sponsored by Ballet West and Epic Brewing didn't include lifts or turns, but it did sell out.
Epic served four locally brewed beers, while Ballet West offered a 50-minute, informal studio showing of choreography by six company members and the opportunity to meet dancers, choreographers and artistic staff.
Attendee Marcie Collett called herself a strong supporter of Utah's visual and theater arts community, but said she hadn't tapped into dance. Now, after the Beer & Ballet event, she's a Ballet West season subscriber. "It was a rare opportunity to see new work in an intimate setting and afterwards have a one-on-one conversation with the dancers and choreographers especially over a great-tasting beer!"
Repertory Dance Theater and Real Salt Lake • In 1965, when modern-dance icon Merce Cunningham choreographed "How to Pass, Kick, Fall & Run," he probably didn't envision it as a way to expose Major League Soccer fans to dance.
But Cunningham's groundbreaking use of chance in dancemaking offers some comparisons to creating opportunity in sport. RDT teamed up with Real Salt Lake to sell a bloc of 40 tickets at Rio Tinto stadium, successfully crossing fan bases for both organizations. RSL won the game and donated $5 of each $20 ticket to the dance company. As RSL's new team anthem (written by local musician Branden Steineckert) commands, "If you believe, then just stand up on your feet we're here for RSL." And, apparently, for RDT.
"Another thriller, thriller night" • Odyssey Dance Theatre is noted for the popularity of its annual Halloween show, "Thriller," but this year the company is busting out of local theaters and into a Draper haunted house.
ODT acknowledges the company's commercial roots, yet in concert performances it aims to blend accessibility and artistry, according to the philosophy of artistic director Derryl Yeager.
But the performances at Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus make no bones about the effort to take drama of all kinds to the masses. One patron, speaking from the otherworld of the Internet, posted this comment: "I've been to haunted attractions all over the country. NOTHING comes even close to this crazy circus."
Odyssey's youth cast will be performing "Thriller" numbers on Fridays and Saturdays through Halloween, with additional Thursday performances starting in mid-October. The performances will be every 30 minutes, starting at 7:45 p.m.
Mudson • At the Mudson works-in-progress showcase on Sept. 17, Samuel Hanson and Kitty Sailer presented their dance "Laugh Afterwards," described in the program as "a new kind of collaboration they are testing out."
In the first few minutes of the piece, Sailer made sensuous use of the melting pop while Hanson humorously described their collaborative process. The piece became more than its opening, showing dance as a fluid concept that crosses disciplines and where context is everything. It offered an example of the way small works thrive in small spaces.
Dance this way
Ballet West • Information about upcoming Beer & Ballet events will be posted at www.balletwest.org.
Repertory Dance Theater • For more information about RDT's upcoming concert, "Emerge," see our preview story, or visit rdtutah.org.
Odyssey Dance Theatre • See our dance listings in this issue for times and locations of this year's Utah tour of "Thriller," or visit www.odysseydance.com.
Mudson • The free series spotlighting Salt Lake City's emerging and experienced choreographers is modeled after Movement Research at the Judson Church in New York City. The past three seasons have taken place in the Masonic Temple Ballroom, 650 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City. For information, visit http://lovedancemore.org/mudson.