American artist Robert Henri once said, “Art appreciation, like love, cannot be done by proxy.” Leaders in the arts scene couldn’t agree more. One of the biggest challenges facing the Utah arts industry today is convincing people to get off their couches, open their wallets and pay money to attend live events.
Many arts companies in Utah are becoming more financially prudent by performing fewer shows, partnering with other groups and doing creative marketing so the quality of performances can stay at the high level arts patrons in Utah have come to expect.
Artistry and Athleticism
Even though companies are cutting back, some fantastic productions are being staged for the upcoming year. Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company’s Artistic Director, Charlotte Boye-Christensen, says a “can’t miss” of 2011 is Alwin Nikolais Centennial, being performed April 21-23. The production will include Salt Lake premieres of “Kaleidoscope” and “Temple.”
“We have a lot of his work in our repertoire,” says Boye-Christensen. “We’re celebrating his centennial by doing a show with his most well-known pieces.”
At the time “Kaleidoscope” debuted in 1956, it was considered to be “relatively radical” at the forefront of multimedia interaction, using inventive costuming, props, stage make-up and lighting. Nikolais even created his own music
for the production.
The choreographer has been labeled a “genius” and is considered the inspiration for troupes such as Cirque du Soleil
and the Blue Man Group.
“‘Kaleidoscope’ is still incredibly
fun today because he had such contemporary ideas and philosophies,” Boye-Christensen says. “That’s what made him groundbreaking as a choreographer.”
Boye-Christensen understands many people feel intimidated by the arts, whether it’s dance, theater, opera or symphony productions. She says people shouldn’t try to comprehend everything, just allow themselves to experience the music, movement and artistry. Because of the abstraction of dance as an art form, it’s open to endless interpretations.
She also believes that dance crosses cultural, social and economic lines, allowing people of any income or education level to enjoy the experience of theater production.
“[Dance] is one of the most democratic art forms there is,” Boye-Christensen says. “It’s allowing yourself to be in the moment. People sort of intellectually want to put it together, but there’s so much emotional information. Dance is so abstract that you have to come to it from an emotional place.
“If you can’t understand it, then get caught up in the athleticism going on right on the stage. And if you can’t do that, experience the theatricality of the performance.”
State of the Arts
No matter where you live, there are numerous venues to see the arts in action. For people in the southern part of the state, Ivins (near St. George) is the location of the Tuacahn Amphitheatre, which stages superior performances of Broadway productions. In 2011, Tuacahn will present “The Little Mermaid” and “Grease” as well as concerts featuring The Letterman, REO Speedwagon, Air Supply, The Fab Four and Don McLean.
If you’re closer to Northern Utah, the Cache Valley Center for the Arts brings in top-notch entertainment on a regular basis. Big names like The 5 Browns, Martha Graham Dance Company, comedian Brian Regan and Repertory Dance Theater bring their productions to Logan at the historic Ellen Eccles Theatre.
Coming up on March 22 and 23, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Janis Ian will take the stage in Logan for her only Utah performance. Cache Valley Center for the Arts Program Director Amanda Castillo is excited to introduce a new generation to Ian’s individual sound and lyrics.
“She’s such a fantastic singer from the ‘60s because she’s got such a tremendous story,” Castillo says. “With all the ups and downs in her life, it will be an interesting evening.”
During the summer in Logan, the five-week Utah Festival Opera returns for the 2011 season with performances of “Don Giovanni”, “South Pacific”, “Oliver!” (starring Michael Ballam as Fagan) and “Boris Godunov”. According to Castillo, “Boris Godunov” isn’t performed often because of the huge ensemble and great effort it takes for each performance. However, the American Festival Chorus (led by former Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director Craig Jessop) will participate in the opera to ensure an epic experience.
“Craig Jessop was recently named the dean at the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State,” Castillo says. “He’s been able to unify the arts programs and create even more performance opportunities.”
Castillo says the “mental mindblock” people have about traveling through the canyon to get to Logan is no excuse once spring hits. She adds that the Cache Valley Center brings in a broad spectrum of interesting programs to reach arts aficionados at any level.
And while Boye-Christensen understands it’s much easier to stay at home in front of the television, she hopes Utah residents will get out and experience some of the magnificent offerings provided by theatrical groups across the state.
“Here in Utah, there is so much tremendous support for the arts,” she says. “But we’re losing so much funding for the arts as it is. People need to be pushed to be curious and [learn something new]. I think it’s very difficult to educate curiosity.”