U. festival brings dance to the people

Published June 5, 2013 3:24 pm

Preview • Four New York-based artists take part in SaltDanceFest.
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Sweat and ideas will be flying at the University of Utah's Marriott Center for Dance over the next two weeks as experienced dancers take daily classes as part of SaltDanceFest.

But the event is not just for advanced-level students. It also offers the public a chance to attend evening forums, panels and showings.

And as dance becomes a bigger part of our lives through television competition shows, music videos and live performances of all kinds, knowing more about it could help us put what we see into context.

Now in its third year, SaltDanceFest is the brainchild of U. modern-dance chairman Stephen Koester, who set out to grow a Utah festival similar to Jacob's Pillow in Beckett, Mass., and the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.

"We have invited artists with incredible reputations and a very current point of view," Koester said. "This a chance for dancers and the community to meet someone with national recognition and to be able to share in who they are and what they do."

Koester said he wanted to distinguish SaltDanceFest from other summer workshops by focusing on "ideas in dance rather than just performances for the public or technique and composition classes for dancers."

He decided the best way to help people become more comfortable with ideas in dance was to get them talking. To jump-start the conversation, he invited dance writer and scholar Maura Keefe to present evening lectures and teach daytime writing classes. Keefe admits that dance is a particularly tough subject for anyone to talk or write about.

"Dance is nonverbal, so how do you translate your response into language?" she asked. "And then once you start talking about it, how do you write about it?"

One misconception Keefe likes to dispel is the notion of "a right answer."

"It's really about articulating a response to some part of the dance," she explained. "So start by putting taste aside and simply asking, 'Who was dancing; what did it look like?' "

Interning for SaltDanceFest this year is modern-dance major Shelby Terrell. The senior said her post-graduation plans are a result of the connections she has made with professional choreographers over the past two years at the festival and the visiting artists during the academic year.

"Working with guest artists educates us for what we will be facing when we graduate, rather than training us for the way dance functioned technically and organizationally in the past," she said.

Koester said that dancers are entering a very different professional life now than when he began his company in the late 1980s. Creach/Koester Dance Company received five consecutive choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, a choreographic fellowship from the New York State Foundation for the Arts and the Bonnie Bird North American Choreographic Award, along with extensive additional choreographic/company support.

Networking has become especially important as arts funding declines, which might be one reason participation in the festival is up. In 2011, there were 20 participants; this year, there will be 50.

Terrell and Koester said they hope more community members will also take advantage of the free evening events.

"I'm expecting audiences to feel challenged by this work," Koester said. "But people who have an interest in dance and expanding their knowledge can learn from listening to mature artists talks about their own work."

The four New York-based artists and dance makers who will be in Utah are:

Kyle Abraham • Over the past few years, Abraham has received accolades and awards for his dancing and choreography and was recently announced as the prestigious New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist. His work is often described as a hybrid of hip-hop and classic modern techniques.

Miguel Gutierrez • A dance and music artist who was described by Eva Yaa Asantewaa of Dance Magazine as "one of our most provocative and necessary artistic voices." He makes solo and group pieces with a variety of artists under the moniker Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People.

Maura Keefe • Chairwoman of the department of dance at the College at Brockport (SUNY) where she teaches dance history and theory, and choreography. She is currently a dance panelist for the New York State Council of the Arts and is the scholar-in-residence at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Netta Yerushalmy • A choreographer who recently received prestigious fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation (Liguria, Italy, 2013), the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2012), the New York Foundation for the Arts (2010) and Six Points (2010-12). She has been an artist-in-residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center since 2010 and was a 2011 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space resident. —

SaltDanceFest 2013

This two-week dance festival features internationally renowned New York-based artists, dance makers and scholars. While there are many workshops for professionals, there also are several classes and lectures open to the public.

Where • All events are at the University of Utah Marriott Center for Dance, Top Floor, Studio 240.

June 3-7 and 10-14 • Two-hour technique class. Kyle Abraham teaches at 9:14 a.m.; Netta Yerushalmy teaches at 11:30 a.m. $20 per class at the door.

June 4 • Improvisation jam, 7 p.m., $10 at the door

June 5 • Artist talk with Miguel Gutierrez, 7 p.m., free

June 6 • Artist talk with Netta Yerushalmy, 7 p.m., free

June 7 • Artist talk with Kyle Abraham, 7 p.m., free

June 8 • Informal showing of works by SaltDanceFest participants and local artists. Co-curated with loveDANCEmore, 7 p.m., free

June 10-11 • Talking and writing about dance with Maura Keefe, scholar-in-residence at Jacob's Pillow, 7 p.m., free

June 12 • Artist panel discussion and Q & A session, 7 p.m., free

June 13 • Informal showing of works by guest artists with discussion, 7 p.m., free

June 14 • Showing of repertory and improvisational works created during SaltDanceFest 2013, 7 p.m., free

Details • 801-581-7327 or info@dance.utah.edu

Adult dance with an edge

Renowned choreographer Miguel Gutierrez is offering one night of DEEP Aerobics, an event that is billed as a communal/political/conceptual/imaginational workout experience. Come in a costume of your own devising. Adult themes and language.

When • Friday, June 7, at 9:30 p.m.

Where • Rose Wagner Black Box Theater, 138 W. 300 South Salt Lake City

Cost • $5; http://www.arttix.org