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Paul Kolnikandrew Eccles
Linda Celeste Sims, left, Alicia J. Graf and Glenn Allen Sims dance. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is visiting Utah this week.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater rehearsal director Ronni Favors has been a part of almost every level of the company. She was a member of the junior company Ailey II and later a member of the major company. She has been a ballet instructor and artistic director for AileyCamp and is the current rehearsal director for the company.

She was part of the company when it toured South Africa in 1998 and was with the company during the '80s when it toured Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Poland before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

And she also saw audiences wanting to see the joy of dance in the days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in the company's home city.

"It does seem like I've seen it all," said Favors during a phone interview from Seattle. "It's funny to think that I'm a part of this wonderful company that touched my life when I first saw a performance when I was 16 years old. I'm still the snotty little ballerina wannabe from Iowa, though."

It's been a few years since any of the Alvin Ailey-related dance companies have performed in Utah. Back in 2004, Ailey II performed at the Eccles Center in Park City. But the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre hasn't performed in the Beehive State since February 2002.

"It was the Winter Olympics," Favors said. "So, it's about time we got back to Utah."

This time around the company will bring Maurice Bejart's "Firebird," Twyla Tharp's "The Golden Section" and Ailey's trademark "Revelations" to the Kingsbury Hall stage.

"We've always been a repertory company," Favors said. "And we want to make sure that we perform these works to the best that we can. These works need to be preserved, and they need to be seen. So, there is a lot of pressure on us as a company to maintain the quality and pay respect to these pioneering choreographers. The program shows a good cross section of what the company is all about.

"I have always thought that the company is a repository for great dance works."

While great dance works are sometimes viewed by people not familiar with dance as being "hard to understand," Favors said the AAADT has always tried to make dance enjoyable for all.

"Alvin was always fond of saying, 'I believe dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people,"' Favors said. "That has always been our goal. Alvin never thought being accessible was pandering.

"I mean, he was originally from a little town in Texas. And what he wanted was for his family who hadn't seen much dance to be able to come to a show or attend a rehearsal and know what was going on.

"If that happened, it meant that more people will enjoy the dancing.

"Sure, Alvin wanted to address a variety of life and social issues in his works, but he also wanted people to see his works and see the company."

Favors remembers when she first danced the spiritually uplifting "Revelations."

"It was like a joyous exchange between the audience and the dancers," she said. "Every time I saw the work performed as an audience member, I felt that exchange. And when I was dancing it, it was the same. But there was something more for me. I would pause and see that I was dancing this wonderful work and I wanted to scream to everyone — 'Do you see this? I'm dancing in this! I'm in this!"'

Now, as a rehearsal director, she sits in the audience and watches the company during the tours and still feels that elation.

The emotion is a major part of an Ailey Theater performance, Favors said. "The passion of the dancers is contagious. It gives any piece we do a little more leverage. It rounds out the presentation."

Another aspect that is pleasing to the audience is the dancers' forms and movements.

"When you watch an Ailey performance, you can't help but notice the dancers' bodies," Favors said, with a laugh. "They are some well-toned bodies out there. But there's also the fact that these bodies aren't just pretty to look at. They move. They know how to move and the movement adds dimension to what they look like."

If you go ...

What: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Where: Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah

When: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $29.50-$45.50

Phone: 581-7100

Web: www.kingsburyhall.org


E-mail: [email protected]