A Time to Dance

Looking for a prescription for election/coronavirus overload? (Who isn’t at this point, right?) Well, you can look no further than downtown Salt Lake City’s pillar dance companies—Ballet West, RDT and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company—for an expressive, athletic and joyful reprieve. Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, each are forging ahead with both live and virtual performances for the 2020-21 season with slates of creatively compelling works—just what our souls are craving right now.

Ballet West

Last week, Ballet West returned to the stage to open its 57th season in Utah with a fantastic, must-see triple-bill program featuring Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, one of the well-known choreographer’s most popular works. “Twyla’s work in Nine Sinatra Songs is elegant, funny and ultimately deeply moving. It is sure to send people home feeling good,” said Adam Sklute, Ballet West artistic director. World premieres make up the exciting balance of this show, including Cincinnati Resident Choreographer and graduate of The Ailey School Jennifer Archibald’s Tides, a mashup of classical ballet with elements of modern dance and hip-hop; and Ballet West Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s Faraway Close, a moving, introspective portrait of human interaction during these challenging times. “The whole program is a celebration of our humanity and a testament that the human spirit can transcend,” Sklute said. The live trio performances of Nine Sinatra Songs, Tides and Faraway Close continue at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City) through November 14.

The rest of the Ballet West’s season is an enticing and familiar lineup of works that rarely occupy a single season. The company’s bread-and-butter, The Nutcracker, returns to the Capitol Theatre December 4-26, 2020. (Single tickets should be going on sale sometime during the week of November 16, 2020.) Just in time for Valentine’s Day (and to gratefully greet a new year), the Ballet West company takes to the stage February 12-20, 2021 to perform Romeo & Juliet; a buoyant and boisterous double-bill performance of Bolero and The Dream is scheduled for April 9-17, 2021; dancers with Ballet West II and the Frederick Q. Lawson Ballet West Academy perform The Little Mermaid, April 23-24, 2021; and the season wraps up with the annual celebration of creative exploration, Choreographic Festival, May 6-8, which will for the first time feature a collaboration between Ballet West and the Sundance Institute. 

Due to the COVID-19-related temporary closure of the Capitol Theatre, Ballet West has canceled this year’s live performance of The Nutcracker. Instead, KSL-TV will air a recording of Ballet West’s 2019 production of its popular holiday show at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Please note: Great pains have been taken to ensure the safety of the artists, audience members and Capitol Theatre staff during this ongoing pandemic. As, such all tickets must be purchased in advance through balletwest.org or by calling 801.869.6900. All audience members are required to wear masks in the lobby and throughout the performance, and to promote physical distancing, the Capitol Theatre will only be at 20 percent capacity, leaving ample room between patrons. For more information about the extra safety precautions Ballet West is instituting, please read www.balletwest.org/covid

Even if you’re not quite comfortable with attending a live performance just yet, you can help Ballet West live on as the Intermountain West’s premiere ballet company by making a donation to its current Turn Out for Ballet West Challenge Match: each dollar donated to will be matched by a $250,000 challenge grant from the Emma Eccles Jones FoundationGeorge S. and Dolores Doré Eccles FoundationGarbett Family FoundationPeggy Bergmann and Beano Solomon. This challenge grant will help Ballet West navigate the challenges of reduced ticket revenue for the 2020-2021 season and help with its investment in new digital content—allowing audiences to access more Ballet West in the comfort and safety of home.

Repertory Dance Theatre

As the nation’s oldest and most successful repertory dance company, RDT is no stranger to adapting to challenging times. “We could technically hold performances with social distancing in place at our home venue, the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center,” said Stephanie H.P. Shozaki, RDT PR and marketing director. “But as a company we felt it was best for the safety of our dancers and audience members to present online-only performances.” As such, RDT’s 55th Emerald Season features a series of virtual performances that began in October. Here’s how they work: rather than having to tune in at a specific date and time to watch an RDT concert, audiences can purchase tickets to each within the “drop” window—usually a month—and then choose to settle in and watch whenever is convenient within a week of purchasing their ticket. Ticketholders will also have access to pre-show virtual receptions where they can chat with the choreographers and dancers. (And, now through December 30, 2020, tickets for all RDT’s Emerald Season performances are on sale for 50 percent off thanks to a Shop In Utah grant—just in time for holiday giving!) 

Dropping November 21 at 7:30 p.m. is RDT’s Flying Solo, a series of unforgettable solos from RDT’s prestigious dance library including choreography by Ted Shawn, José Limón, Daniel Nagrin, Douglas Dunn, Molly Heller, Sharee Lane, Nicholas Cendese, Zvi Gotheiner and Remote, a premiere work by Choreographer Marina Harris.

In January, Emerge, a series of pieces created by RDT dancers and staff that express very personal viewpoints of each of the company’s artists, returns for its for consecutive season. Watch for this performance to drop on January 3, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. 

RDT’s annual choreographer competition and fundraiser, Regalia kicks off on February 22, 2021. This innovative, virtual event will take place over the course of the week during which audience members can bid on a silent auction, witness four choreographers create four new works and then select the artist who will receive an RDT choreographic commission—all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The event culminates with online party featuring some surprises and awards on February 27, 2021.

RDT wraps up its 2020-21 Emerald Season with Homage, a celebration of RDT’s commitment to performing classic American dance treasures by legendary choreographers Doris Humphrey, José Limón, Donald McKayle and Lar Lubovitch. Though Homage’s virtual drop in scheduled for April 17, 2021, the company is hoping this performance will mark RDT’s return to hosting live performances at the Rose. A virtual performance will also be available for this event with advance ticket purchasers having the choice of attending either the live or virtual version.

In addition to offering its home season virtually, RDT is also presenting its popular Ring Around the Rose series virtually as well. Each Ring Around the Rose performance and class is offered as either an on-demand format, similar to the home season, or as a live streaming event. These events remain free but tickets/advance reservations may be required for some performances/classes, so be sure to check the RDT website for the latest details. The Ring Around the Rose lineup for this season includes: Tanner Dance, November 14, 2020; South Valley Creative Dance, December 12, 2020; Flavakids Crew, January, 9, 2021; Tablado Flamenco, February 13, 2021; African Drums with WOFA, March 13, 2021; Samba Fogo, April 10, 2021; and Pygmalion Productions, May 8, 2021.

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company

For over 50 years, Ririe-Woodbury has pursued a mission to integrate contemporary dance into the everyday lives of people locally, regionally and nationally, and its 2020-21 season will faithfully maintain its commitment to that mission. The company returned to performing this fall by partnering with RDT for Double Take, which included a world premiere piece by Ririe-Woodbury’s six dancers and Artistic Director Daniel Charon, titled Autumn Sun.    

Ririe-Woodbury’s 2020-21 season continues in 2021 with a monthly series of virtual fundraisers centered around game nights and screenings, scheduled for January 14, February 18 and March 11. “So much of our funding comes from private donors and since we are not able to host our gala this year we came up with the monthly virtual fundraisers as a way to keep dance in the homes of our patrons,” said Ririe-Woodbury Marketing Director Tori Duhaime. 

The company’s winter show, Homerun, featuring the work of Choreographer and University of Utah Assistant Professor Molly Heller, will launch the week before Valentine’s Day, 2021. This concert will include pieces by Heller’s Heartland Collective, made up of five dancers and a composer who specialize in creating immersive dance experiences. Ririe-Woodbury’s six dancers will create and perform dances for this concert as well. “Homerun is all about embracing the vast talent we have right here in Salt Lake City,” Duhaime said. Homerun will be presented virtually, in a format similar to how RDT is presenting its season. Visit ririewoodbury.com to purchase tickets and more information. 

In April, the company is planning to present a spring show featuring the choreography of Charles O. Anderson—founder and director of his self-titled, Philadelphia-based contemporary dance theatre company—and a world premiere by Yin Yue (of the New York City-based YY Dance Company), the latter of which was previously scheduled to be performed by Ririe-Woodbury in spring 2020.

Concurrent with its performance efforts, Ririe-Woodbury is also forging ahead with educational outreach through virtual and socially distanced outdoor live performances that teachers can request through the company’s Blue Sky Theater.  

Though the pandemic and winter’s arrival can implore many of us to retreat, thankfully there is a place where we can be buoyed and gather hope for better days: performances by Salt Lake City’s talented artists who bravely continue to create and celebrate their art.  

Written by Melissa Fields