The power of myth

By By Cressa Perloff and By Cressa Perloff

By Cressa Perloff

Which is better, the stage or the screen?

University students of the ’60s and ’70s knew the answer to that question. Back in the day, most performing arts venues were on campuses. Salt Lake City’s own Repertory Dance Theatre was the first professional modern dance company in residence at a university in the United States, and it kept that relationship up for 26 years, performing only at Kingsbury Hall until the Capitol Theatre was renovated.

Now, however, artistic director Linda C. Smith said that “there’s been this distance about relating to live performance” and that Repertory Dance Theatre’s audiences no longer consist of considerable numbers of students. She challenges students to become “re-engaged in live performance” and come to RDT’s performance “Moving Heaven and Earth” this weekend.

“Moving Heaven and Earth” consists of pieces by Lucas Hoving, who is originally from the Netherlands; Bill Evans, who has former ties to RDT and who was a guest artist at the U’s modern dance department last spring; Molissa Fenley, whose piece was chosen through a national choreography competition; Stephen Koester, whose piece was also chosen through competition and who is a U modern dance faculty member and Natosha Washington, who graduated from the U modern dance department in 2004.

The evening’s theme, “Myths and Heroes,” draws inspiration from the idea that by “not creating contemporary myths that help us learn about the world?we’re in danger of losing our sense of community, our map,” Smith said.

In the words of Joseph Campbell, father of the Western study of mythology, “mythology was designed to help us to cope with the problematic human predicament. It helped people to find their place in the world and their true orientation.” In our own modern times, “dance invites us to explore the answers,” Smith said.

The pieces explore this theme in varied ways. Hoving’s piece uses Noh drama of Japan-which includes dance, drama, art and poetry-to tell the myth of Icarus, a story of leaving a community. In contrast, Koester’s piece, “Fever Sleep,” focuses on “the mind on the verge of dementia” and draws inspiration from Salvador Dal’s surrealist art. Native cultures from the Colorado Plateau area inspired the choreography for Fenley’s piece “Desert Sea.”

“When I think of a college student,” Smith said, “I think of someone open to adventure, new ideas, exploration, and that is what our company is offering.”

Courtesy Colin Kelly

Angela Banchero-Kelleher, Chien-Ying Wang and Chara Huckins perform “Desert Sea,” choreographed by Molissa Fenley.