The American Folk Ballet, now in its 26th year, will open its second gala summer festival in Cedar City on Aug. 11, with 14 concerts scheduled between then and Aug. 20.
Programs will be in the Centrum of Southern Utah State College, with evening performances Aug. 11-13 and 15-20 at 8 p.m., and matinees on Aug. 12, 15, 16, 18 and 19. Tickets are priced from $5.50 to $9, and may be reserved in advance by calling (801) 586-7872.With Burch Mann as artistic director and choreographer, the company of 30 will dance three separate full-concert programs from its uniquely American repertory, featuring the folk who colonized and pioneered this country.
"The trio of concerts deals with the myth and magic of America's Southern and Western folk history, and provides a showcase for the company's youthful, robust dancers," said Mann.
A special attraction this year will be actor Kevin Hagen, veteran of many movie, television and stage productions, who will narrate all 14 performances. Hagen starred as Doc Baker for nine years in television's "Little House on the Prairie."
The company will first dance its centerpiece choreography, "The Prairie Years," "set in the unfenced land whose freedom of time and space has vanished forever." Cowboys, Indians, a camp meeting and dances of Scottish and Irish immigrants all lead up to the conclusion, "Party at Grandpa Wharton's."
For an evening in "The Old South," the Folk Ballet recreates the Southern heritage in three dance suites: "Whippoorwill County," depicting the hill people at work, play and worship; "Summer Thunder," dealing with the culture of the wealthy plantation aristocracy and grand balls; and "Delta Country," New Orleans and its jazz.
The company's third program is "The Texas Breed," located in borderland country where Anglo-American, Spanish and Mexican mixed, and the longhorn and mustang roamed the land. A party at the Bremmerhassen ranch in Live Oak County, Texas, is a highlight. (Mann is especially qualified to cast Texas in dance, since it is her native state.)
"In the past we have dealt primarily with the pioneer and Western colonizer, but with these programs we have moved out to two new areas - the Southerner and the Texan - and explored them in depth," said Mann. "For example, I have gone back 100 years in researching our jazz segment."
At the invitation of SUSC President Gerald Sherratt, Burch Mann relocated the educational functions of her company to Cedar City in 1983, after many successful years in Southern California. Mann is now a distinguished artist in residence at Southern Utah State College, and members of her company and staff teach there.
American Folk Ballet has had an impressive record of touring throughout the country and abroad, with many foreign tours, and is at present working to arrange a Russian tour. The company maintains business management and booking headquarters in Los Angeles.
Utahns are familiar with AFB as the dancers in the pageant "Odyssey of the American West," at the Festival of the American West in Logan, where they just completed their 16th year.