SALT LAKE CITY — William “Bill” Evans believes the spirit of dance is not only about athletic display, but emotion and humanity as well.
“I believe that dance is primarily about the human spirit,” said Evans, a dancer and choreographer who was born and raised in Lehi.
And that human spirit will be on display as Evans returns to the Repertory Dance Theatre Nov. 16-18 for “Top Bill,” set to be a nostalgic performance drawing from nearly 50 years of Evans’ extensive repertoire.
Evans was a choreographer with RDT from 1967-74 and has since composed 18 separate works for the company and returned as a guest performer and teacher countless times.
“During those seven years that I was a full-time member, RDT was central in my life,” Evans said. “I gave it everything I had. I really deeply care about the company and I always have. It’s like coming home in a way.”
The last time Evans performed a full evening of his work for RDT was in 1987 when he performed live with a jazz band on stage at Kingsbury Hall.
Since then, Evans has performed at RDT alongside other choreographers and dancers numerous times — such as during the company’s 50th-anniversary concert in March 2016 — but not exclusively his work.
So when Linda Smith, the RDT’s executive and artistic director, invited him to return for a whole night dedicated exclusively to his choreography, Evans knew Smith had something special in mind.
“Not only did she ask me to do a whole evening of work,” Evans said, “but she knew what works she wanted.”
Smith said the company typically has rules preventing one artist or choreographer from dominating a show, to keep the performance varied, but because Evans exhibits so much diversity in his work, they chose to make an exception.
“A one-person show is still broad for him because he has so much variety (in his work),” Smith said. “It has everything.”
Smith said those in attendance will experience a wide variety of Evans’ dance literature — exactly what one should expect from a repertory production.
“He’s done it all,” Smith said. “And he’s still doing it. He’s inspired thousands and thousands of people, so we’re thrilled to present an evening of his work.”
The program includes two of Evans’ earliest choreographed works, including “For Betty,” a 1970 routine Evans prepared for a former chair of the Modern Dance Department at the University of Utah, and “Tin-tal,” a 1971 piece featuring meditative movements backdropped by Indian drum music.
“Those are probably the two oldest works that I still perform,” Evans said. “Those are seminal works for me as a choreographer. They’re works that help me define my personal style.”
One of the works Smith wanted Evans to prepare was “Suite Benny,” a tribute to the late jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman. But Evans said he had not even thought about the fast-paced, ballroom-style piece since 1989.
With songs like “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” Evans decided he would re-choreograph at least half of the arrangement and prepare it for a revival debut at “Top Bill.”
Among the remaining selections, “Alternating Current,” a duet, will make its RDT premiere; “Crippled Up Blues” will feature a collaboration with Emmy Award-winner Hal Cannon; and Evans will take to the stage to perform a tap solo in “Three Preludes.”
Evans said the whole experience returning to the company and rehearsing with RDT’s talented dancers has been “delightful” and “exciting.”
Smith said the concert would be “thoughtful, entertaining, poignant, artistic and entertaining,” stressing the point that she could rightly say “entertaining” many, many more times.
“It’s very fun to get in his world and explore his ideas,” she said.
If you go
What: Repertory Dance Theatre presents “Top Bill”
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South
When: Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 16-18, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $30 for general admission, $15 for seniors and students, price increases $5 day of show