Utah Arts Festival: Celebrating art in all its forms, June 20-23

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 12:00 p.m. MDT

The Utah Arts Festival will be held starting Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23.

David Newkirk, Used with permission of the Utah Arts Festival

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Arts Festival returns to downtown Salt Lake City on June 20-23 to continue its tradition of celebrating art of all genres. The festival, in its 37th year, will showcase the latest and best in music, visual and performing arts, film, music and culinary arts, to name a few.

Drawing close to 80,000 visitors each June, it is the state’s largest outdoor festival that also celebrates multiple art disciplines. Artists hail from all over the U.S., with more than 155 visual artists and more than 100 performing arts groups set to participate.

With hundreds of activities and events to fill a visit to the Utah Arts Festival, here is a little taste of the variety one can expect.

To see San Francisco-based dance troupe BANDALOOP, don’t bother checking any stage. Instead, look to the glass wall of the library where you will find them performing vertically via climbing rope. Inspired by the crossover between rock climbing and dancing, founder and artistic director Amelia Rudolph created a style of dance that she describes as “movement, floating and freedom” and “flying coming to life.”

The troupe, which has done shows all over the world on buildings and even the occasional mountain, will be performing excerpts from its shows “Harboring” and “Boundless” twice each day. Rudolph said, in regard to the audience, “Lean forward and take it in actively. Look through your eyes and not through your cellphones,” she said. Although it appears dangerous, Rudolph said, “Don’t worry about us. We’re going to be OK. We have done this a few times.”

If you feel like keeping it at eye level, BBoy Federation — a nonprofit group committed to promoting and growing the street dance scene in Utah and helping local dancers develop their skills — will be holding daily workshops. With participants ranging from ages 7 to 34, these workshops are for anyone who wants to learn not only the art of b-boying, but also hip-hop and other urban street dance styles. Following the workshops will be competitions featuring some of the best b-boys in the area. BBoy Federation cofounder Joshua Perkins promises the workshops will be introductory. “We want people to come and participate and be involved,” Perkins said. “Everyone helping is interactive and chill and fun.”

Also being featured daily is a band of five brothers called African Showboyz. Originally from Binaba, a little village in northeast Ghana, the Sabbah brothers create a unique blend of African drums, tribal dance and song that is regularly performed back home for events of all types. Group member Napoleon Sabbah described one of the dances they will be performing as a warrior dance “that we used to treat our enemies, ways to scare them away.” But don’t let that hold you back. African Showboyz are a fun-loving group that performs with passion and heart. “We can’t wait to see everybody,” Sabbah said.

For some good roots rock, check out New Orleans’ The Iguanas. Band member Joe Cabral describes their music as “a Mexican wedding band meets New Orleans.” Formed in 1988, with the most recent member of the group joining in 1992, the Iguanas draw on R&B, funk, Latin, Caribbean and rock and roll garage band influences, with debuts in numerous television shows and films like "Phenomenon," "Varsity Blues" and "Fools Rush In." They recently released a new album, "Sin to Sin," and are excited to come to the festival. “We love our job, getting on stage, playing for people and seeing where the music will take us,” Cabral said. “We look forward to coming back to Salt Lake and seeing some old fans and making some new ones.”

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