Through an interwoven evening of dancing, movement and pure theatre, Salt Lake Acting Company waltzed through the world premiere of “Silent Dancer,” a new work by Kathleen Cahill. It is the story of 18-year-old Rosie Quinn, played by University of Utah Musical Theatre Program graduate Mikki Reeve. The play starts with Quinn living in New York City during the 1920s with one big dream: to dance. We go along with Quinn to meet her brother and dancing partner (William Richardson), F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Noah Kershisnik and Alice Ryan, respectively) and many others. Quinn faces struggle after struggle in her life while focusing on her dream, and as those in her life come and leave, Quinn ultimately questions where to go next.
SLAC is known for breathing life into new works, particularly ones that raise thought-provoking questions. “Silent Dancer” is a thoroughly collaborative work. It grew from the minds of Cahill and SLAC Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming. In the program, the two have a written conversation discussing their inspiration for the creation of this dance-play. Within the conversation, Cahill states, “What if dialogue was communicated through a heightened state of physical expression instead of words?” This team of artists took this idea and ran with it. The play used a sturdy foundation of acting and then added what could be described as physical theater. Christopher Ruud of Ballet West was brought in to choreograph. Actors were constantly using heightened levels of physical dance and expression to truly convey emotions. Not only did this concept help portray Quinn’s dream in a more accurate way, but it showed how necessary and how revealing it is to let movement take over in conjunction with or not in conjunction with words. In addition, the SLAC creative team worked closely with sound designer and composer Jennifer Jackson to ensure there was what Fleming called “the perfect mix” of music and silence for the movement taking place.
The set gave a clear vibe of a 1920s speakeasy upon entrance. While the set was detailed, it was still simple and spacious, creating the space required for dancing and movement. Projections were used to transform the space, add humor and create needed illusions for the story. To make the general atmosphere even more juicy and rich, sound was put through filters appropriate to the times, allowing the world to truly be unified in its music. Costumes were simple, yet classy and flattering — similar to the set. They didn’t distract or take away from the movement, clearly emphasizing what was most valued in this piece of theater.
Physical theater, or dance theater, can be looked at in so many different ways. With this brand new piece of work introduced to the world through SLAC, I must say bravo to the writing of this script and the concepts behind its creation. “Silent Dancer” gave the audience a beautiful and complex story, which became even more vulnerable through the movement. This script feels rare because we don’t see many plays with dancing and no singing. This production was unified by an admirable and abundant spirit of collaboration. All in all, this production was refreshing and beautiful.
Go see this new and different piece of art at Salt Lake Acting Company. “Silent Dancer” runs through May 12. Showtimes and ticket information can be found here.