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RDT CALLS ON DOZENS OF DANCERS FROM U., BYU TO SHOWCASE WORKS OF MODERN DANCE PIONEERS

SHARE RDT CALLS ON DOZENS OF DANCERS FROM U., BYU TO SHOWCASE WORKS OF MODERN DANCE PIONEERS

A double bill of historic dances, a cast of dozens and live performance of original musical scores, all surging with kinetic energy - this demands and deserves a live audience, said Linda C. Smith, artistic director of the Repertory Dance Theatre, which performs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theatre.

"With so much preparation, I wish we could run for a week," said Smith.On the agenda are "With My Red Fires," RDT's latest venture into the Doris Humphrey repertory, and "Song for Walt Whitman," by Helen Tamiris.

The Humphrey work dates to 1936, representative of the decade when modern dance giants such as Graham and Humphrey began to walk the land. Influenced by Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, Humphrey very soon exerted a seminal effect upon dance, creating a style and impression all her own.

Part of a three-fold work called "Trilogy," "With My Red Fires" involves 16 University of Utah guest dancers, as well as the company. "Humphrey was noted for her facility in working with large numbers on stage, and she was convinced that the energy of group movement was more important than solo movement," said Smith.

"Part of our original mission was keep classic works of modern dance alive. We must mount them so people can see and be inspired. The archive of pieces that we have must live in the dancers' bodies right now.

"The piece is delicious to learn, it communicates such structure, such sensibility and craft. I think it must be the same kind of order and power that musicians experience in performing Bach. People who see it comment on its freshness and inventiveness, they experience a shock of recognition, a visceral reaction," Smith continued.

"Humphrey's son, Charles Woodford, says that since the movement structures are so fresh, the old costumes should not be recreated. If Humphrey were alive, she would come up to date, and so should we."

Helen Tamiris first created a salute to Walt Whitman in 1936. From this grew her 1961 "Dance for Walt Whitman," for the U., which RDT is repeating on this program, with 15 guest dancers from BYU. "It's a meaty piece, tightly and very skillfully choreographed," said Smith.

Tamiris is perhaps most widely remembered as the choreographer of many successful Broadway shows - "Up in Central Park," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Fanny," and "Plain and Fancy," to name a few.

"She, along with Agnes DeMille and Hanya Holm, saw Broadway as a medium to advance the cause of dance, and they created some great choreographies," said Smith.

"But Tamiris also had a very serious side. She came from a ballet background to explore many facets of Americana. She introduced Negro spirituals at Salzburg Festival. She taught at her own school and elsewhere; she had her own modern dance company, where she explored the concept of a repertory company."

Smith is pleased that Gerhard Brunner, head of Vienna's Tanz Festival, will travel to Salt Lake City to see this program.

"When he invited us to perform at the Tanz Festival last year, he knew he loved Humphrey's work, but he was taken by surprise by the response of the Viennese public, which bought up all available tickets for our historic programs within 24 hours," said Smith.

She plans to re-perform this program at a later date. But that's not all that this prolific artistic director has on her mind.

"I want to do an all-Tamiris evening," she said. "And in 1995, the anniversary of her birth, I want to reconstruct another all-Humphrey program. I believe we already have the largest active repertory of her works of any company in the world."

RDT is suffering the pangs of displacement, having lost its barracks home at the University of Utah. Since summer it has camped temporarily in the Salt Palace, which is scheduled for demolition next June.

Despite this setback, Smith feels that now is a time of great opportunity. "We have the credentials and the reputation to become an institution of great import," she said. "Our history programs are very popular. Our `Separate Journeys' will be filmed by KUED, as a curriculum and cultural guide in the state. It's wonderful to be making such an impact."

Also percolating in her mind is a state centennial project. "In each of the next five years, I want to commission a choreography, with original musical score, using photographers, writers, painters and other artists as needed, which will deal with the Utah landscape. Then in 1996 we will put them all together," she explained.

"People should realize that we are a Utah company - unique, ambassadors for the state, and proud to be so; that we are tied to the state in visual and choreographic ways. We are the Utah Repertory Dance Theatre.

"We want the world to know of not just the Jazz, or the skiing, or speed racing, but of the great arts resources in this state - powerful, legitimate and important."