After getting involved with theater and dance productions in Los Angeles and New York, Derryl Yeager returned to Utah and noticed a cultural gap in the dance community.
"People really can enjoy dance without it being an acquired taste," Yeager told the Deseret News. "I wanted to start a company that would appeal to everyone."Yeager's creation, The Utah Contemporary Dance Theatre, will perform at Kingsbury Hall, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 14 and 15. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.
"I kind of think of the Kingsbury Hall performance as our coming-out party," said Yeager, who is a former principle dancer for Ballet West. "I'm confident people who see the performance will latch on to it and really enjoy it."
The company was formed in 1995 and combines jazz, ballet and theatrical dancing, much like Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance Company.
"There is a way to get dance out to people who wouldn't ordinarily go to dance performances," said Yeager. "But the company's repertoire is also enjoyable for those who know dance. The talent is here."
Talent is what caught Yeager's eye in the first place.
"There are so many talented dancers in Utah," Yeager praised. "And I wanted to utilize their wonderful talents."
Even while a principle for Ballet West in the mid- to late 1970s, Yeager dreamed of having his own company. And he talked a little with Willam F. Christensen, then artistic director of Ballet West, about taking over the company. When that didn't pan out, Yeager went down to Brigham Young University and headed the Y's Theatre Ballet company for two years.
"I was teaching at BYU and remembered a line from `A Chorus Line' when Cassie said, `I don't want to teach people what I could be doing myself.' I realized my performing career was not over and decided to perform again."
With that, Yeager auditioned for `A Chorus Line' in New York and returned and packed up his family. Two weeks later, the Yeagers moved to the Big Apple.
From there, the family headed off to Los Angeles where Yeager worked on "Dreamgirls" and "Cats" at the Shubert Theater.
"My time in L.A. (10 years), taught me a lot about film and television," Yeager said. He got involved with the John Travolta film "Staying Alive," the Tracy Ullman Show and videos for such music stars as Stevie Nicks and Julio Iglesias.
"That time was real cool, but the quality was going down in my network," Yeager said. "Age was a big thing, and most of my contacts were either passing away or retiring. So I had to make another choice."
That choice returned Yeager to Utah and got him involved in Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, the home of Utah Contemporary Dance Theatre.
"Utah needs this company," Yeager said. "In this day and age of the MTV mentality - by that I mean eclectic and fast-paced - varied programming is most satisfying. The attention span of the general public isn't what it used to be. They get bored if there isn't any enthusiasm. And this company is very enthusiastic."
The Kingsbury Hall performance will feature four works that range from pop music to Cotton Club swing.
"Visions of Love," a selection Yeager considers a signature piece for the company, is a jazz dance attack to six songs of pop queen Mariah Carey. "Windchimes," which was once performed by the Y.'s Theatre Ballet when Yeager was artistic director, is a more traditional ballet work with pointe and other classical techniques.
Modern movements will rear their heads in "Meanders," which will focus on shades and body designs, while "Club Caloway" will take viewers on a romp through Zoot Suit alley.
- TICKETS FOR THE UTAH CONTEMPORARY DANCE THEATRE'S PERFORMANCE AT KINGSBURY HALL range from $12-$18 and can be purchased at any Albertsons ArtTix outlets or the ArtTix outlet at the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, or by calling 355-ARTS (2787).