Last fall you saw "East Side," the first concert of the Repertory Dance Theatre's 1988-89 season. Now, five months later, RDT drops the other shoe, presenting "West Side" at the Capitol Theater on Friday and Saturday nights at 8.
"The idea is to give audiences the opportunity to compare East Coast and West Coast choreography," said artistic director Linda C. Smith.Accordingly, this program will feature works by three Bay Area choreographers, all of whom have Utah connections - as students, dancers, teachers and/or choreographers. On the docket are "Tongues" by Della Davidson, "City Songs" by Margaret Jenkins, and "Portrait" by Ellen Bromberg, plus "Still Life" by Utah's own Marina Harris.
That prominent choreographers should have special Utah relationships comes as no surprise to Smith. "(While) most of its population has little idea of its national reputation . . . Utah's prominence in the dance world has become increasingly obvious to those outside of the state," she said. "Do not underestimate dance or the network that it can create."
Davidson's "Tongues" is described as "a five-part portrait of romance language and couples from around the world."
"Forthright and intelligent, wry and erotic, yet unafraid to be sentimental," wrote Janice Ross in the Oakland Tribune.
Davidson now heads her own company, Della Davidson and the Moving Company, formerly the San Francisco Moving Company. She moved to the Bay Area after completing her M.A. at the University of Arizona in Tucson. While there she choreographed for Territory Dance Theater, the Arizona Theater Company and the Theater of the Performing Arts among others, and collaborated on several projects with Arizona dramatists and visual artists.
Before going to Tucson, Davidson spent six years in Salt Lake City. Here she earned a BSA at the University of Utah, then founded and directed Fairspace, a short-lived but memorable small dance and theater company. While she has danced a good deal, her emphasis is on choreography.
Davidson values her Utah tie, and the many Utah dancers who have found their way to the Bay. "You can always spot them in auditions, they are well-trained and have a beautiful quality," she said. "That's because of the many strong teachers and companies in Salt Lake City. The women who founded the San Francisco Moving Company, Rhonda Martyn and Emily Keeler, were Utah-trained, and so was Ellen Bromberg, from whom I took over."
- DAVIDSON'S COMPANY HAS CHANGED from a repertory company to one that does primarily her own choreographies. "We do function as a laboratory part of the time, bringing in guest artists to collaborate, to emphasize the creative process and give new ideas, but we don't necessarily hold their works in repertory," she said. "Mostly we perform my work."
For "Tongues" and another piece, "Angels of Clay," Davidson has been nominated for the Izzy (Isadora Duncan) award given by Dance Bay Area, a coalition organized to give service to the area's dance companies.
She analyzes her own style as "very dramatic and theatrical. I tend to explore the subtleties of human emotions, especially male-female relationships. The creative process interests me - a very spiritual process that intertwines with personal growth. Many of my dances have evolved from the interactive relationship that resulted when I gave the dancers problems to solve."
Ellen Bromberg's solo for Ford Evans, "Portrait," unites two distinguished former members of the Repertory Dance Theatre. The dance is described as dramatic, witty and poignant.
Bromberg began dancing in her native Tucson, when she was six years old. In 1974 she joined RDT, dancing during several busy touring years with the company. From 1983-86 she was artistic director of the San Francisco Moving Company, which has danced her choreographies frequently.
In 1987 she founded the Ellen Bromberg Ensemble, which has appeared in many prominent Bay Area venues for the arts - the Bay Area Dance Series, the Dance Brigade, Footwork Series, the Stern Grove Festival and Theater Artaud. Her company also danced at the fourth annual Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, at which Bromberg received the Izzy award for her choreography, "The Black Dress," seen on PBS television's "Alive from Off Center."
Bromberg has taught at numerous colleges and universities around the country and in Europe, and currently teaches at Mills College Oakland (where she works with former Utahns Kay Clark, Kathleen McClintock and Scott Marsh) and at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley. She marvels at the many times she has encountered Utah dancers and choreographers all over the country, but especially on the West Coast.
- FORD EVANS BEGAN DANCING at the University of Colorado in Denver, and continued at U.C. in Boulder, where he took a B.A. in dance. He joined RDT in 1978, where he was an exceptionally dependable dancer and did some choreography. In 1985 he joined the faculty of the modern dance department at the U. of U., where he was acting chairman in 1986-87. He recently acted as chairman of the dance department at Ohio University.
"City Songs," created for RDT in 1984 by Margaret Jenkins, is "an urban landscape that explores gestures and spatial planes in an active background where movement phrases are discovered, repeated and passed among the dancers," said Linda C. Smith.
Jenkins is considered by many to be San Francisco's outstanding modern dance maker. Founder and artistic director of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, she's a fifth-generation San Franciscan firmly routed in the Bay city, where she has won several awards. Her Utah connection is a summer she spent in Salt Lake City with her mother as a child, taking Virginia Tanner's creative dance classes - a time that she said firmed up her determination to pursue a life in dance.
She trained in New York with Jose Limon, Martha Graham and with Merce Cunningham, for whom she has taught and restaged his works on other companies. She danced in the companies of Viola Farber and Gus Solomons Jr., as well as Twyla Tharp's original company.
Her 50 works are in the repertories of her own company and many other national and Western troupes. Multi-media explorations are a favorite, and she's worked with such leading contemporary figures as Terry Allen, Paul Dresher, Yoko Ono and the Kronos Quartet.
- UTAH'S OWN MARINA HARRIS has created a new duet, "Still Life," for Melinda Evans and Kimberly Strunk. Characterized as a "tour de force" and set to music of Arvo Part, "it explores energy and shape and shows off the strength of each performer in unique ways."
Harris had an international upbringing, having begun in Guatamala, studied ballet in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and spent a year at the Royal Ballet School in London before attending the U. of U. for a BFA in ballet. She's been a part of RDT's family for 13 years, as a designer, choreographer and guest performer. Audiences may remember recent Harris-RDT works including "How We Die," "Green Jell-O," "Dog Tango," and "Petrouchka." Harris was a guest artist at the Sundance Institute's dance film/video laboratories in 1986 and 1988.
Following Saturday's concert, RDT will stage its third annual gala party, on stage, with desserts, champagne, and dancing to Joe Muscolino's Big Band.
Tickets for "West Side" range from $8-$20, with a $5 discount for students and senior citizens; high school age and under $3, or for the gala, $40. Buy them in advance at the Capitol Theater box office, noon to 6 p.m., 533-6494, or at the door.