Regulars and Shorts, Shall We Dance

Shall We Dance? Vampires and More

By Amy Brunvand

Looking forward to the 2011-12 season of dance.

Now that we have passed the fall equinox, nights are getting longer and darker which means it is time once again to get excited about going out to the theater. Unless you are a zillionaire with a charitable foundation, buying season tickets is one of the best ways to keep local arts organizations healthy and happy. If you have not already ordered your season subscriptions, it is not too late.

My mom has the excellent habit of buying two tickets for her favorite companies so she can invite one of her many grandkids or grownup kids to come along. (Thank you, Mom). OK, I’ll confess that this approach has a few pitfalls. A few years ago I went unprepared to a Salt Lake Acting Company play that turned out to be about genocide in Rwanda. It still gives me nightmares. On the other hand, without the season tickets the topic might have scared me off, and I’m really glad I saw the show. Every company with a good artistic director has a mission to introduce you to fascinating and wonderful new things. You can trust them to keep things interesting.

Here are some of my picks for the upcoming dance season:

Ballet West is dancing Dracula (October 21-November 1, 2011). I can hardly think of a more perfect story for ballet: The dangerous and seductive vampire Count in a fluttering opera cape! The Transylvan­ian peasants dancing horas! The beautiful vampire brides draped in white shrouds, hungry for blood! To add to the aura of gothic romance, the ballet is set to music by Franz Liszt (think Hungarian Rhapsody). In conjunction with the Dracula ballet, the Salt Lake Film Society held a Dracula short film contest, and you can see the winners at Open Screen Night at Broadway Center Theatres on November 9.

In October you can also see Repertory Dance Theatre perform Merce Cunningham’s work, which is bound to be fun. “Modern dance had been notable for its earnestness; Mr. Cunningham’s work was often characterized by humor,” says Cunningham’s 2009 obituary in the New York Times, comparing his wit to the jokes in a Haydn symphony. The Merce Cunning­ham Dance Company plans to disband after their Legacy Tour (alas, it is not coming to Utah). After that, repertory companies like RDT will be the only place to see these historic influential works.

Speaking of legacies, Ririe-Wood­bury is thriving under artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christiansen. This season the company is presenting two programs of Alwin Nikolais’ multimedia stage magic: the family-friendly Kaleidoscope (February 3-4, 2012) and Iridescence (April 26-28, 2012). It’s hard to exaggerate how innovative these dances were and still are. You can see Nikolais’ influence written all over companies like Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, or Momix (all performing in Utah this season). Last year I went to see Momix at Kingsbury Hall, and after a piece that was pretty much lifted straight from vintage 1960s Nikolais, the person behind me enthused, “That’s, like, from the future!”

Boye-Christiansen is creating her own legacy, too. Prism (December 8-10, 2011) presents one new work and one old, created in collaboration with local author David Kranes and architect Nathan Webster.

The Utah Symphony teams up with the Children’s Dance Theatre to present Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals (March 10, 2012). As a kid, I absolutely loved this music. My favorite was the Fossils played on the xylophone. I think some of Alwin Nikolais’ spooky black-light skeletons would be just the thing to go with the music.

Amy Brunvand is a librarian at the University of Utah and a dance enthusiast.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.