I am an absolute Luddite when it comes to dance. I'm not talking about the kind of dancing you do at a bar. I'm referring to modern dance, with which I have a love/hate relationship. Karma has it that most of my close friends here in the city are modern dancers, dance instructors or retired ballet divas.
One time, on my KRCL show Women: The Second Decade back in '96, the staff booked me an interview with dance expert Linda C. Smith, the demigod of Repertory Dance Theatre. When she got behind the mic, I simply asked, "So what is this modern dance stuff? It seems like a private joke, and I'm not getting it!" Trust me, there was an audible gasp from listeners who were fans of this art form, but Linda jumped right in to educate me. "You get up in the morning, and go fetch the newspaper. While you stand on the front porch, you notice birds singing, the sun shining and that your toenail looks infected," she said. "That's modern dance—images, ideas, thoughts."
Being the Luddite I am, that didn't help me much. But, over the years, my friends have dragged me to more and more performances and attempted to explain why the gorgeous men and women on stage with immaculately tuned bodies would want to repeatedly make motions like they were about to throw up.
Now, ballet I can get behind. The shows incorporate beautiful music and even plots. We've got amazing talent here at Ballet West, thanks to feeder programs from schools like the University of Utah. The Utah Civic Ballet was the precursor to Ballet West and was created by Willam F. Christensen and Glenn Walker Wallace with a $175,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Our humble ballet beginnings in the last century have put Utah dancers on the map—not just locally but internationally. My wife just attended The Sleeping Beauty and came home wowed.
Many in the dance community were saddened last month to learn that Rowland Butler had passed away at age 77. He was a dancer who opened his own studio in Holladay when he was 19, and offered lessons for only 50 cents back in the day. He was also a founding dancer for Ballet West, and was well known for running dance supply stores way before the internet was around. Somebody had to get those stretchy clothes and painful shoes out to the locals, and Butler delivered them in his cute Jaguar when needed. In his later life, he taught at the U, Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts and City Academy, where he was loved by students and teachers alike.