Symphony and reality TV collide in 'Ballroom with a Twist'

By Heather Hayes

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26 2013 12:15 p.m. MST

"Ballroom with a Twist"

Scott Stander & Associates

A potpourri of reality stars will grace Abravanel Hall Feb. 1-2 at 8 p.m. as part of “Ballroom with a Twist,” where dancers, singers and the Utah Symphony join forces in an evening of Latin, waltz, hip hop, contemporary and, yes, even breakdance.

Conceived and choreographed by Emmy-nominated dancer Louis van Amstel and conducted by Jerry Steichen, the musical repertoire is as varied as the guest lineup.

The troupe includes former Utahns Chelsie Hightower, a dance pro with a regular gig on “Dancing With the Stars,” and Randi Lynn Strong, a finalist in season five of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Four other dancers with similar TV pedigrees will also be featured, as well as a three “American Idol” finalists.

“People will recognize a lot of faces if they’re fans of these shows, but whether they are or not doesn’t matter. It’s nonstop entertainment either way,” says Strong, who has toured with the show for more two years.

Although Strong now lives in Phoenix, she regularly visits her hometown of Orem, where her family still resides.

“They’ll all be there. Some of them haven’t seen me perform in ‘Ballroom with a Twist’ before, so I’m excited to have them see what I’ve been up to,” she laughs.

The 22-song musical lineup includes “The Look of Love,” “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Walking in Memphis” and “Quiéreme Mucho.” Many numbers include the vocal talents of American Idol finalists Gina Glocksen, David Hernandez and Von Smith.

“Probably my favorite number to perform in is a contemporary piece with Legacy and Jonathan where Gina is doing vocals,” says Strong of a contemporary pas-de-trois set to Sara Bareilles’ hit, “Gravity”.

Strong predicts that the country jive “Girls Gone Wild” will be a favorite with the Utah audience because it’s so much fun. “I’m telling you, there really is something for everyone,” she says.

“If you’re a fan of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ you’ll recognize some of the costumes from previous seasons."

Expect plenty of rhinestones, feathers, sparkles, fringe and ruffles. Be aware, though, that there will be a fair amount of exposed legs and bare midriffs from some of the "barely-there" costumes.

“Ballroom with a Twist” is part of Utah Symphony’s “Entertainment Series” — a pops diversion that often draws a larger, more diverse audience to see Utah’s premiere orchestra.

“This series introduces a wider audience to the symphony and helps those who may not be interested in classical music realize that we recruit some of the best musicians from all over the country,” said Hilarie Ashton, symphony public relations manager.

Whether it’s collaborating with Cirque de Soleil, a Michael Jackson tribute or folks from reality TV, the entertainment series provides an opportunity to enjoy contemporary music and entertainment within a unique orchestral milieu.

“People walk away from these shows abundantly entertained and with a greater appreciation for the energy and scale of this magnificent orchestra,” Ashton said.

Other guest artists include Dmitry Chaplin, Tristan MacManus from "Dancing With the Stars," and Legacy Perez and Jonathan Platero from “So You Think You Can Dance.”

If you go …

What: Utah Symphony’s “Ballroom With a Twist," Jerry Steichen conductor

When: Feb. 1-2, 8 p.m.

Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

How much/ticket info: Prices range from $29-$59 and are available for purchase through ArtTix or by calling 801-355-ARTS or at www.arttix.org. Visit http://utahsymphony.org/ for more info.

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