Former Repertory Dance Theatre artist and Utah native Bill Evans has been combining his various dance backgrounds into one distinct style. He has, successfully, already mixed it up with his tap and modern dance training. And he's finding ways to add ballet and classical dance from India into the mix.
"When I started mixing the tap and modern, I can say that I was wondering how they might co-exist," said Evans during a call from his home in New York. "I actually have been tap dancing longer than I have been dancing modern. And I left tap dancing to pursue modern dance in the '70s. But after I left RDT, I started tap dancing again. But I didn't like the fact that my upper body didn't move much. So I began to incorporate some of the modern movements to enhance what my feet and legs were doing.
"At the same time, I didn't know what the tap community would think, and I didn't know what the modern dance community would think, because the dance forms come from two completely different areas."
However, Evans didn't need to worry. Dianne Walker, known as "Lady Di" in the tap dance world, liked what Evans was doing.
"She said I was doing cutting-edge work," said Evans. "And it was exciting for her to see."
Evans will bring some of that "cutting-edge" dance back to Salt Lake City when he dances at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
He knew he wanted to mix things up a bit and perform classic tap works and some of his newer works.
"I'm reconnecting of historic tap dance and using modern technique," Evans said.
The historic classic works include "Doin' the New Low Down" by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1928); "Takin' a Chance on Love" by Charles "Honi" Coles and Cholly Atkins (1940); and "Laura" by James "Buster" Brown (1944).
The more recent works include "Tater Diggin"' by Eddie Brown (1991); and Evans' own "Blues for My Father" (1985), "Three Preludes (2007), "Los Ritmos Calientes" (1997) and "Yes, Indeed!" (1987).
In addition, Evans has invited guest Deborah Robertson to join him during a few numbers.
"I had known Debby when she was a dance student at the University of Utah," said Evans, who graduated from the U. with degrees in ballet, modern dance and English in the early 1970s. Neither knew the other danced tap.
"Well, a few years ago, I attended a tap festival in Southern California and ran into her," he said. "We've kept in touch, and I though it would be great to work together."
Evans, who is the full-time visiting professor and guest artist at the State University of New York at Brockport and was the artistic director for the Bill Evans Dance Company, was born in Lehi and grew up in Salt Lake City.
"My father worked at Kennecott and we lived in Magna at the time," he said. "But the air quality back in the 1940s and 1950s was so bad we moved to Salt Lake. It was then I saw my first dance movie.
"My aunt was tending my siblings and me and decided to take us to a movie. The movie was being shown in the Mormon church a few blocks from my house. I remember seeing it and somebody was tap dancing. I'm not sure who it was, but I think it was Fred Astaire. Anyway, the dancing made sense to me. And after that, I started making up tap dances."
For years, Evans begged his parents to let him take tap classes. When they did, he tried to learn everything he could. And that road lead him to where he is now."I have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of videotapes of my performances and choreography," he said. "I would like to go through them and donate them to dance libraries. The problem is I love dancing so much that I don't want to take time off to go through those videos. I really would like to dance until I can't anymore."
If you go . . .
What: Bill Evans, dance
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $15
Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787
E-mail: [email protected]