With its program "Discovery," the Repertory Dance Theatre opens its 1989-90 season at the Capitol Theater. Performances will be on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets from $10-$20 are available at the Theater box office, 535-7523.
"Discovery" is the first of three programs this year that "tell exactly what we are all about," said artistic director Linda C. Smith. "One of our charges is to discover new works, to support contemporary dance, and this program has everything - a `white ballet,' a dramatic piece, a romantic dance for women, an athletic piece for men, and a little dessert!"The "Discovery" program does indeed introduce a powerhouse of contemporary American choreographers, including some of the brightest names in the business.
"I have always known that I wanted a choreography from Peter Sparling, who danced a long time with Martha Graham's company, and now heads the dance department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor," said Smith.
(Sparling's other credits include dancing with Jose Limon Company and heading his own company, and guest teaching in prestigious companies and schools in London, Australia, Portugal, Taiwan and Tel Aviv. A Michigan native, he was a scholarship violin student at Interlochen as a youth. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and many awards in Michigan.)
"Sparling has given us `Rondo,' a high-spirited trio for RDT's men, which is witty, whimsical and physically challenging. It will introduce our wonderful roster of male dancers," Smith continued.
Anthony Roberts from Tennessee, a student in ballet at the University of Utah, is the only returning man this season; but Smith feels fortunate in the replacements she has been able to secure.
These include Jim Moreno, whom she first saw dancing in a tape of "Rondo," performed by a faculty company in residence at Michigan, headed by Sparling. "I loved the dancer and the dance," said Smith.
There's also David Marchant, from Joliet Ill., a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, and for 10 years a competitive swimmer; and Brent Schneider, who holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and an
MFA from the U. of U., both in modern dance.
All the women dancers - Angela Banchero, Melinda Evans, Michele Massoney, Tina Misaka and Kim Strunk - have returned for 1988-90. They will be featured in Mary Jane Eisenberg's "Avalon."
Monica Levy's is a name to reckon with on the current dance scene, whether in modern, ballet or video. She's given RDT
"Don't Look Back," "a capricious work using classical vocabulary and set to music of Bach."
Levy has been choreographing in New York since 1979. She graduated from SUNY Purchase and her work has been presented at Dance Theatre Workshop, St. Mark's, La MaMa and P.S. 122. She has had frequent grants from the NEA and other entities, and her work in film has been critically acclaimed. She is a favorite of Bruce Marks at the Boston Ballet, where she has created three pieces.
Beth Corning returns to Salt Lake City for her third dance with RDT, a premiere, "The Man Who Mistook His Life for a Hat," inspired by the paintings of Magritte. "He's the artist who paints the men in the bowler hats," said Corning. "They are surrealistic and eerie. I want people to feel not that they are looking at a picture, but as if they stepped into a painting - dreamlike, fragmented, dealing with the unexpected.
"The music is by my friend Meredith Monk, who let me have some of her pieces. Costumes are by Marina Harris, who has costumed most of the dances on this program."
Born in Washington, D.C., trained at Michigan and Ohio State Universities, taught by Murray Louis, Ernestine Stodelle, and Daniel Lewis, Corning has toured a solo repertory concert in the United State and Europe, and maintained her own successful company for six years in Stockholm, Sweden.
She's choreographed more than 30 works, often under international and national grants, taught in many universities and professional companies, and since returning from Sweden in 1986, has done commissions for such companies as the Lake Erie Ballet, Pennsylvania Dance Theater and Phoenix Dance Company.
Linda Smith will dance Mitchell Rose's solo, "Thirteen Beginnings," "a spoof of modern dance, with snippets in the styles of such choreographers as Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Alwin Nikolais and Jose Limon," said Smith. "I wanted to have a little fun this fall, and this fills the bill."
Rose, sometimes called the Woody Allen of modern dance, is remembered at RDT for his zany "Cocktails for Two," set to Spike Jones music. Rose performs widely in duo with his partner, Diane Epstein, and Smith disclosed that the two are scheduled to dance in the Marriott Center on Feb. 23 and 24.
Completing the program is a world premiere for RDT women, "Avalon," by Los Angeles choreographer Mary Jane Eisenberg, with music by former Utahn Bruce Fowler. Eisenberg did the dance while she was teaching at RDT's summer dance workshop at Snowbird, and "I really enjoyed every rehearsal with these dancers, I had a wonderful time," she said in a telephone conversation.
Smith describes the work as "romantic" and "beautifully haunting," but Eisenberg sees it in a somewhat more aggressive stance.
Avalon was a mythic place - the island ruled by the enchantress Morgan le Fay, where King Arthur was taken for the healing of his wounds, after his final battle. According to medieval British historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was a sort of Celtic Elysium where the soil yielded harvests without sowing, and the inhabitants were noted for their longevity.
" `Avalon' is about women, their bonds and relationships to each other, that feels right for the time we are in now," said Eisenberg. "My Avalon is a kind of state of being that some women experience all the time, some once in awhile, some never - the unconquerable place inside, where a woman feels free and in control of her own destiny, with the opportunity to choose, to know what her life is about.
"There is a group dance, then a solo for each woman stressing her individuality, then back to the group. Though Bruce Fowler's sensitivities come from a modern jazz-rock background, I wanted to use lush, passionate music with a lots of strings, and the score is rich rather than romantic - orchestral-sounding, generous music."
After studying at Harkness House and the Martha Graham Studio, and dancing with Louis Falco, Jennifer Muller and Glen Tetley dance companies, Eisenberg went to Los Angeles where she has taught at CSU Long Beach since 1980. Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in 1988, and 1989, and grants from the California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles and Santa Monica Arts Commission to support choreographies that now number 40 to 50. "I also choreograph for the Long Beach Opera, and I've done three episodes of `Designing Women,' who sometimes have need for dance movement," she said.
Her company, which dances only her choreographies, just completed a weekend of performances in Los Angeles, and she's looking forward to doing a video project through a directing workshop for women, sponsored by the American Film Institute - in this case a dramatic film rather than dance, and again with music by Fowler. Eisenberg also recently received a Vesta award for 1989, given annually to 12 Los Angeles women who have contributed to the arts.
Utahns will find the fortunes of Bruce Fowler of interest. He's the son of Dr. William Fowler, formerly a professor of music at the University. He attended Skyline High and the U. of U., and is one of five brothers now working as instrumentalists and composers in southern California. The others are Walt, Steve, Tom and Ed. The five have made three albums as a band, with their own compositions, and now each is working toward a solo album.
Fowler, who used to play with Frank Zappa, now does such freelance stints as working on the music for "Back to the Future II," or intermittent touring with Oingo Boingo.
"I've worked with Mary Jane for a long time, we've done at least 20 pieces," said Fowler. "She's really versatile, likes everything from jazz to bee bop to rock, but this score is more classical. For `Avalon' she wanted a small orchestra, which would have cost a fortune. I worked on a friend's Synclavier (worth about $1 million), then added a few live instruments, to make it sound more real. These include my wife Suzette Moriarty playing French horn, I play trombone, and my brother Steve does the flute."
Linda Smith is riding high right now, very pleased with her company and its prospects. "We have never been better, our attitude is positive, and we've had some wonderful awards, including an advancement grant from the NEA, which gives us a boost in long-range planning," she said.
"Our dancers are outstanding, our management and board are strong. Our great touring lineup this year includes Chicago, and residencies in Stockton, Calif., Tennessee, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Maryland."
Later this year (March 8-10) the company will dance "Re-Discovery" in the Marriott Center for Dance, repeating some of their historic numbers. In April, they will be at the Capitol Theater with "Rejoice," which will include "Negro Spirituals" by Helen Tamiris, and works by local choreographers, supported by some of the good gospel musicians to be heard around town in multi-cultural churches.
Next year's 25th anniversary season will see a few dreams come true for Smith, who will have dances for her company by Merce Cunninham and Laura Dean.