By Molly Powers, marketing and communications specialist, University of Utah College of Fine Arts
Over 75 University of Utah dance students are set to perform in the annual School of Dance Gala opening April 11, 2019. The gala is a chance for the entire school to come together on stage at the Marriott Center for Dance, and this year includes more guest artists than usual including a collaboration with SALT Contemporary Dance, a local professional dance company gaining recognition. Audiences will be able to see two distinct programs from April 11-20, 2019. The School of Dance program features choreographers Anouk Van Dijk, Penny Saunders, Stephen Koester, Rick McCullough and Christopher Alloways-Ramsey. A second program also features Van Dijk and Saunders, in addition to SALT Contemporary Dance resident artists. In this collaboration with SALT, students in the School of Dance have the unique opportunity to work alongside professionals in the field.
Headlining the concert, international choreographer Van Dijk works with a cast crossing over from both the modern and ballet programs. After years of working with renowned professional dance companies all over the globe, this is the first time Van Dijk is working with a university to create a new dance on a group of students. The School of Dance is pleased and honored to welcome Van Dijk as she works intensively with 24 students on a punchy new work.
Koester, a pillar of the modern dance department for 20 years, premieres his final dance piece as a professor at the University of Utah. His retirement marks a significant shift in the School of Dance and his newest work, “Mass and Celebration,” honors his time in dance and as a faculty member at the U. In addition to teaching improvisation, composition, technique and graduate seminars, Koester has choreographed extensively both nationally and internationally. “Mass and Celebration” will be performed by an intimate group of six students, and there are rumors that Koester himself will make a cameo appearance.
Guest artist Saunders brings in a fresh collaboration with SALT Contemporary Dance. “Forget Me Not” examines parenthood and time with ballet and modern dancers from the School of Dance and SALT company members performing together. For three of the gala performances, SALT presents additional resident company choreographers including Joni McDonald, Garrett Smith, Nick Palmquist, Christian Denis and Peter Chu.
Visiting professor McCullough brings classical ballet technique with a contemporary aesthetic. McCullough, whose career included dancing with Harkness Ballet and Netherlands Dance Theater, is an award-winning choreographer. His latest work, “Journey,” explores timeless issues of confrontation and support through a contemporary ballet lens.
Rounding out the concert with classical ballet, visiting assistant professor Alloways-Ramsey restages “Le Jardin Animé,” a section from Petipa’s full-length ballet “Le Corsaire.” This iconic piece highlights the beauty of dancing bodies set in a garden.
“The gala is richly varied this year and has a work for every audience member,” says concert director Christine McMillan. With new collaborations, international artists and state of the art theater facilities, the School of Dance promises to inspire questions and conversations. The gala only comes once a year, and audiences have two weekends to see two distinct programs. Catch the concerts April 11-20, 2019, at the Marriott Center for Dance. Ticketing information is available here and here.