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NOW-ID, the Salt Lake-based interdisciplinary arts company, is launching its fourth major project in as many years.
This week the company with an international reach brings opera, dance, written text, design and live music to the stage with "Exodus."
The company's artistic trademark is to use theatrical sensibility in site-specific environments to create awareness for social change. This year, artistic co-founders and directors Charlotte Boye-Christensen and Nathan Webster had trouble securing a transformative performance space, and after several moves, settled on a traditional theater at the University of Utah's Marriott Center for Dance.
Ironically, the theme of "Exodus" is immigration and the human need to move due to persecution, poverty, religious beliefs or opportunity.
"So our theme became a subtext for the work," Boye-Christensen said. "We moved from a distillery to a store front and one other place before deciding on the U., which is a beautiful theater."
In 2013, NOW-ID's first performance was "The Wedding," mirroring Boye-Christensen and Webster's actual marriage. With the current twist of fate, Webster joked that in the future, they'll be more cautious about titles, suggesting "big money, flowers and chocolate."
After the Salt Lake performance, "Exodus" will travel to Denmark, to be performed at the Copenhagen Opera Festival and the Funen Opera House in Odense. The Figura Ensemble of Copenhagen has an ongoing partnership with NOW-ID and will perform live each night. NOW-ID's Salt Lake City collaborators are familiar with Boye-Christensen's choreography as they include Ballet West dancers Katherine Lawrence and Adrian Fry and former-Ririe-Woodbury company dancer and current free-lance dancer Tara McArthur .
Swiss-born theater director Rolf Heim is in Salt Lake and has had two weeks to pull together the elements that have been worked on separately for the past year.
"It's a great opportunity as a director to work with dance, live music, opera singers and composers" Heim said. "It is unique to work abroad as a director. Normally you are dependent on your own culture, the language and beliefs very seldom do you get to work in a different culture."
Heim said the issue addressed in "Exodus" is "the archetype of human culture, and throughout history people have been trying to change or better their lives by leaving and coming to a new place."
Yet, he cautions, " 'Exodus' is not a university lecture about immigration, it's an artistic expression where we create pictures, moods and feelings so people are touched emotionally, not intellectually."
Webster and Boye-Christensen divided the hourlong performance into eight "stages of mind" to give it an arc but not a linear story. The 15 performers intertwine with the sections that begin and end with the "crisis" stage. In between, their artistic works cover a range of feelings that an immigrant may experience: longing, separation, borders, wave, arrival and acceptance.
Heim said he hopes "to tell the story so people aren't afraid and know that it is a familiar, human story."
It might sound complicated, but according to Webster, "it's really quite simple, we are going to dance, have opera sung to live music, with additional written text in several languages, on three separate stages on two different continents."
Leaving for a new place
The contemporary arts company NOW-ID performs "Exodus," which looks at immigration through opera, dance, poetry, design and live music.
When • Wednesday-Friday, July 27-29, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Marriott Center for Dance, University of Utah campus, 330 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $25-$35; closing night party and dinner with artists, $70; http://excepturi-35463.ticketbud.com/exodus
Artists of 'Exodus'
Choreographer • Charlotte Boye-Christensen
Director • Rolf Heim
Composer • Peter Bruun
Poetry • Ursula Andkjaer Olsen
Dance • Tara McArthur, Adrian Fry, Katherine Lawrence
Opera • Nana Bugge Rasmussen, Jakob Bloch
Music • Jesper Egelund, Anna Klett (clarinet) and Frans Hansen (percussion)
Set design • Nathan Webster, Gary Vlasic
Lighting • Cole Adams
Sound • Adam Day