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Just like family: RDT, Utah Symphony teaming up for a moving experience

The audience at the Utah Symphony's upcoming family concert will find the evening to be a moving experience - in fact, movement will be a primary focus.

The musicians of the orchestra will be collaborating with the Repertory Dance Theatre to present "The Exciting World of Music and Dance" on Monday, Feb. 9, at Abravanel Hall.

RDT artists will perform several dances to the accompaniment of the Utah Symphony, and the thread of dance will be preserved in the symphony's other selections, according to acting assistant conductor Bruce Hangen, who will be at the podium.

Hangen explained that by limiting the size of the orchestra somewhat and "squeezing a bit," a space at the front of the stage has been opened up for the dancers. He indicated that he has done a number of concerts of this type in other areas, and is all for the concept of unique family concerts.

"To any degree that we can be somewhat adventuresome and more welcoming, and take a step off the traditional path, the better off we as arts organizations will be. Family concerts represent a slightly more casual approach to concertizing and the symphony experience, and this concert will be great for that. I like the collaboration with another arts discipline."

RDT's artistic director, Linda C. Smith, spoke recently of being "delighted with the opportunity to work in partnership with the symphony," and indicated that "increased collaboration between arts organizations is a good sign to the community of their health and amiable relationships."

Smith said that the dancers' portion of the program was selected on the basis of what would work within the physical challenges of the space, and what would be especially appropriate and appealing to families. "We are not re-choreographing; we are utilizing our repertory," she said.

Among the selections will be "Don't Look Back," choreographed by Monica Levy to Bach's Double Violin Concerto, with Ralph Matson and Leonard Braus taking the solo violin roles. Smith characterizes the movement for this piece as "very playful and exuberant. It makes a great `opener' in which we can introduce ourselves to the audience through movement."

Another dance piece, "The Athlete," is a solo work choreographed and danced by Michael J. Eger. Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings (well-known since its use in the soundtrack of the movie "Platoon") is used in an unusual way as Eger salutes the spirit of sports competition. Smith feels that "with the Olympics looming in Salt Lake's future, and going on in Nagano right now" the piece is especially timely.

The audience will also get a look at some excerpts from "Chairs" which is currently being performed in its entirety by the company at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts. Beethoven's String Quartet No. 9 in C major accompanies "Chairs." A collage of excerpts Smith calls "a structured improvisation" will also be performed - to music of South American composer Alberto Ginastera.

In keeping with the theme of dance, the orchestra will fill out the evening with Dvorak's Slavonic Dance Op. 46 No. 1, Ritual Fire Dance by De Falla, the Russian Sailor's Dance by Glliere and American Dance Suite by David Amram. The American Dance Suite holds fond memories for Bruce Hangen, who conducted its world premiere.

Hangen indicates that the orchestra-only pieces will be intersperced between the dance selections, and that there will be narrative connecting and explaining the works, making this an excellent opportunity for families to have a smooth introduction to two time-honored forms of artistic expression.