One art form was reinterpreted through another Monday night as Repertory Dance Theater joined the Utah Symphony on the stage of Abravanel Hall for a collaborative concert aimed at an audience made up largely of families.
The eclectic program was unified by the theme of dance, including selections in which dancers moved to the accompaniment of the symphony, as well as works performed by the orchestra alone - but written for or about dance.The youthful audience seemed to be entranced during an evening that treated the eyes as well as the ears, and which reflected a growing trend toward symphonic concerts that are somewhat less formal. Both Bruce Hangen, the evening's conductor, and Linda C. Smith, artistic director of RDT, spoke to the audience at intervals throughout the evening, providing a guided tour through a colorful introduction to dance and music.
Though tightly squeezed toward the back of the stage to make room for the dancers, the Utah Symphony players delivered a varied menu of symphonic show stoppers with considerable panache. As one might guess, highly rhythmic selections filled with flash and color were the order of the day.
While the Russian Sailor's Dance, Ritual Fire Dance and Slavonic Dances were each delivered in suitably lively fashion, the audience also heard (and saw) some unexpected programming.
RDT's first offering was "Don't Look Back," choreographed to the outer movements of Bach's Double Concerto in D minor. It was intriguing to observe Bach's imitative musical motives as interpreted visually by the dancers. Monica Levy's choreography was as intricate and busy as Bach's polyphony and added a surprising touch of humor to his work.
One of the highlights of the evening was an unusual interpretation of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings: "The Athlete," as choreographed and danced by Michael J. Eger. The sinuous and evocative lines of Barber's music were translated by Eger into a celebration of grace, balance and symmetry. His dancing, synthesizing various sports with the rigors of classical dance, became a metaphor for the solitary strivings toward perfection necessary to the finest athletes - and musicians.
Excerpts from "Chairs," which RDT is performing at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, were performed to the accompaniment of the Abramyan String Quartet playing Beethoven and pianist Marjorie Janove's soulful rendition of a Rachmaninoff Prelude.
A very interesting orchestral interlude was a movement from contemporary American composer David Amram's American Suite. "Cajun" was a little bit Celtic, too - and plenty rhythmic, colorful, ac-cessible and enticing. The concert closer was another contemporary piece: the Estancia Ballet Suite by South American composer Alberto Ginastera. The choreography was structured from the existing repertory of the dance troupe and looked a bit thrown together at times, but that was part of the "improv" intentions, according to Linda Smith. The orchestral score is highly engaging and was a fine choice.
Kudos to RDT and the Utah Symphony for this highly enjoyable cooperative venture.