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salt lake city through a dancers eyes

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
October 20, 2015

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tiana lovett - through a dancers eyes

My name is Tiana Lovett, and I'm from California. I’ve been in Salt Lake City for a year now, and I’ve discovered something: Salt Lake is brimming with art, culture and dance in a way unlike what I’ve experienced in any other city. I am a ballet dancer and have trained in the academies of both Houston Ballet, and Salt Lake’s own Ballet West. Knowing this, you must understand why I was excited to see so many dance companies in Utah. 

I have loved seeing shows from different companies and schools. Seeing as many as I have, I've noticed just how unique each company is. I’ve decided to highlight two companies: Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company

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Repertory Dance Theatre 

Repertory Dance Theatre is a classical modern dance company located at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. I had a wonderful time watching them perform. The first time I saw them, the bill was very diverse -- with a mixture of serious and humorous pieces that really pleased the audience. It seemed like everyone fell in love with the company whether they had an artistic background or not. 

The next time I watched their performance was at the Utah Arts Festival. This time the bill was targeted toward people with a greater understanding of art and contained fewer humorous pieces. The performance was amazing. It remained diverse in style and energy. They danced classics and explored new techniques. Overall, Repertory Dance Company is a diamond in the heart of Salt Lake, and I will definitely be getting season tickets. 

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Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company 

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is a contemporary dance company also located at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. I've seen the company perform only once, but I definitely plan to go again. The bill contained two works: one from a guest artist and the other from the company’s artistic director Daniel Charon. The first was very unique; I could not even grasp the meaning of it -- which I really appreciated. The second piece was beautiful to watch. The music vibrated, and the dancers performed with so much energy and life. 

I saw one of the Ririe-Woodbury dancers perform when Bradley Beaks put on his own show at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. I was incredibly impressed. His movement was so new and creative. Each piece flowed beautifully into the next, ending on an energetic work with dancers from The University of Utah, Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury and more. I will be sure to look out for Ririe-Woodbury and its dancers in the future; they are capable of fantastic things. 

After I compared the companies from the outside, I took a closer look into the everyday life of the dancers. I interviewed one dancer from each company and even sat in on one of Repertory Dance Theater’s rehearsals.

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Tyler Orcutt (Repertory Dance Theatre) 

How long have you been with Repertory Dance Theatre? 

Tyler: I have been dancing with Repertory Dance Theatre for three years now and just began my fourth season with them this summer. 

What do you do everyday at RDT?

Tyler: At RDT we work 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., Monday through Friday. A typical day begins with an hour and a half technique class. Until 1 P.M., we are either learning, rehearsing, or creating new dances. From 1 to 2 P.M., we have lunch, and then we rehearse more from 2 to 4 P.M. On a non-typical day, we will go out to elementary schools and high schools to perform for them and teach them movement-based classes as a part of our Arts in Education mission. 

What is your favorite aspect working for this company?

Tyler: My favorite part about working with Repertory Dance Theatre is being given the opportunity to work with so many different choreographers. Each choreographer comes with their own style of movement and teaching which allows us to grow in many different forms of dance. In a single performance, an audience member may get to witness four to five varieties of modern dance before the night ends. As a dancer, it’s very exciting to get to be a part of that experience with the audience. 

What choreography are you currently working on?

Tyler: We are currently working with Claire Porter, a comedic and text-based dance choreographer. She is creating a work on RDT that will premiere in our November performance. Our upcoming performance, “Ritual,” is October 1-3 at the Rose Wagner Theater. 

What is RDT's mission?

Tyler: Repertory Dance Theatre’s mission is the dedication to the creation, performance, perpetuation, and appreciation of modern dance. RDT is the oldest and most successful repertory dance company in the United States. We preserve America’s historical dance roots while also maintaining a progressive nature with the creation of new and contemporary works. We believe in art that is profound and thrilling and art that also challenges you. 

What is special about Repertory Dance Theatre that other companies might not have?

Tyler: There are so many special things I could say about RDT and my personal experience with the company. But if I could only pick one, I would say one of the most unique things about RDT is how we learn historical works. Whether we are learning a piece choreographed by José Limón, Michio Itō, or Merce Cunningham, we almost always work with and learn from someone who has worked directly with the choreographer themselves. We are also very blessed to get to learn so many of our historical works from our very own artistic director, Linda C. Smith, for this very reason. As a dancer, this helps me in ways I can’t measure because of how “close” the information is that is being passed down to us. This way of learning helps us maintain the integrity of any particular style so that when we do perform someone else’s work we honor it by doing our absolute best to perform it as close to the original as we possibly can.

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Yebel Gallegos (Ririe-Woodbury) 

How long have you been with RW?

Yebel: I am currently in my third season with Ririe-Woodbury 

What do you do everyday at RW?

Yebel: Our typical work day is eight hours. We start with a contemporary technique class from 9 to 10:30 A.M. We then take a short break and move on to rehearsals. This is when we are either preparing for an upcoming tour, or a local performance. We take an hour for lunch at 1 P.M. After lunch, we often begin, or continue to work on, a creative process for a new piece by the artistic director Daniel Charon. However, two or three times a year, when a commissioned choreographer is in town setting a new work on the company, we dedicate full days solely to that artist-in-residence. 

What is your favorite aspect working for this company?

Yebel: Ririe-Woodbury is really a gem among professional dance companies around the nation. It is one of the last few companies that continue to offer full-time contracts with health benefits to their dancers. RW also commissions at least two choreographers a year to set new work on the company. It is very exciting to be part of a company that maintains such a high level of professionalism and works with choreographers that are sought out for in places like Chicago, New York, and California. 

What choreography are you currently working on?

Yebel: We recently finished working with Adam Barruch. He was with us for two weeks setting a new piece titled Prima Materia, which will premiere this September as a part of our fall season performance. Now we will be putting together an evening of Nikoli works that will be performed for an eight-run season at the Joyce Theatre this coming February. 

What is RW's mission?

Yebel: Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is committed to furthering contemporary dance as an accessible and valued art form through performance and dance education that raise the standards, deepen the understanding and promote personal connections with dance. 

If you've worked with other companies, what is special about RW that you haven't experienced with another company?

Yebel: I worked with a professional dance company in Mexico for five years and it was a wonderful experience. Being in Ririe-Woodbury however, has expanded my knowledge and experience in dance education. Outreach, and taking dance to small communities, to places where children would not see live dance otherwise, has definitely made a mark on me. I realize now how important it is to continue dance education and share the same love that the company's founders shared with us dancers -- in getting dance out there and making it an accessible art form to everyone. 

Both companies put on beautiful performances that are inspiring and mesmerizing. If you'd like to see their upcoming shows, you can find further information below.

Repertory Dance Theatre: Ritual, October 1-3, 2015

Ririe-Woodbury: Fall season, September 17-19, 2015

-Tiana Lovett

Tiana Lovett has trained in the academies of Houston Ballet and Ballet West. She was fortunate to train under Claudio Munoz director of Houston Ballet 2, Jeff Rodgers former principal dancer with Ballet West, and more. Tiana is also a grand prize winner of the Spotlight Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the ballet category.