SALT Contemporary Dance’s Fall Concert was a Mesmerizing ‘Return to the Stage’


Dancers Amy Gunter Lolofie and Fiona Katrine in rehearsal for SALT’s Fall Concert (Photo: Myles Woolstenhulme)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


SALT Contemporary Dance held their fall concert, “A Return to the Stage” at the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center Nov. 5 and 6 as a part of their 2021-22 season. Returning from shutdown and entering a new facility are only two ways that the company has turned over new leaves in their work, and this concert is another signifier of their beautiful presentations moving forward. 

“A Return to the Stage” features three separate choreographers and, as a repertory show for the company, the three movements are intentionally separated by a company bow and drop of the curtain. Artistic Director Joni McDonald explained that they should feel like “three different worlds.”

Bodies in Motion

The first section of the show, “If We Linger,” was designed by Salt Lake native Garrett Smith, and McDonald described to me the choreographer’s inspiration was growing up with a sibling with special needs. In performance, the dancers’ manipulation of their bodies in space and use of sound — slapping the floor, outbursts of laughter, claps over the music — are drawn from that experience, the piece being dedicated to Smith’s brother.

The second movement, “After Discussing,” is McDonald’s own choreography, which she devised around the dynamic quality of the company she’s worked with for so long. The performance incorporated a scrim upstage, lit with primary colors, and dancers dressed in suit jackets.

The final piece of this section was my favorite of the performance. In a wash of blue, the company entered one by one in solo, creating an architectural landscape for the others to navigate. McDonald’s choreography has a very human quality — there is a sense of fluidity and emotion that is arresting. Her difficult work appears effortless. 

The final section, “Long Story Short,” choreographed by Ihsan Rustem, is a partnering masterpiece, centered around the feeling of rebounding from a period of intense change. The company, clad in jewels tones, emerged from the shadows and found musicality in the rhythmic text over the music. Alternating and unconventional duos carry one another’s weight in lifts and turns that were mesmerizing, never losing contact. Rustem’s scooping maneuvers and sweeping gestures contribute once more to the sense of awe.

Back to Before

Again, the journey back to the stage has not been a simple one for SALT Dance. “We’ve attempted this specific show three times,” McDonald said. They’d been working the show before the pandemic shutdown, tried to stage it when restrictions first started being lifted, and finally put it on its feet in the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. “It’s really nice to see it in its full glory,” she said. “The time that they’ve had with these pieces, the growth that they’ve had is beautiful.”

And the time that these selections had to percolate showed in performance. The ebb and flow of the dancers, the technicality in the movement that seemed simultaneously precise and free made an evening at a SALT Dance show transfixing. 

While “A Return to the Stage” has closed, SALT Dance will premiere their next concert April 15-16. In the meantime, you can follow their work on their website.


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