Repertory Dance Theatre: Emerge
Utah's Repertory Dance Theatre is unique in the dance world for many reasons. One of the most important is the approach to dance as more than just a vessel to be filled with the energetic creations of seasoned choreographers. The performers are also expected to be teachers and choreographers in their own right.
Starting with the very first group of RDT dancers in 1966, this collective pushed each other to become better at their art by tackling it from all angles, as creator and dancer. It's the kind of experience that has led to tremendous careers later on down the road for many of RDT's alumni.
The current group of dancers has, for the most part, been working together for the past two or three seasons, solidifying relationships with each other that become more apparent every time they perform. They are ready to take it to the next level.
And so, with Emerge, these dancers are given the next challenge: to present themselves as emerging choreographers, putting all that they have learned, and all that they wish to express, out there for us to see in their own "words." Emerge showcases the work of seven company members—Justin Bass, Jaclyn Brown, Lauren Curley, Efren Corado Garcia, Dan Higgins, Tyler Orcutt and Ursula Perry—and the company's artistic director and former RDT dancer, Nicholas Cendese. (Katherine Pioli)
Repertory Dance Theater: Emerge @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Jan 6-7, 7:30 p.m., $15, students/seniors $12. artsaltlake.arttix.org
Pioneer Theatre Co.: Fences
It comes as a complete coincidence that Pioneer Theatre Co.'s production of August Wilson's Fences premieres just as Denzel Washington's film version hits theaters. But director Timothy Douglas isn't worrying about how that coincidence might affect audience response. He's focused on his own approach to it—which is probably easier to do when you have a 30-year history with the material. Douglas' experience with Fences goes back to the world premiere of the play, when he understudied the role of Gabriel at Yale Repertory Theatre in 1985.
Like so much of Wilson's writing, Fences endures beyond the specifics of the play's setting. Though the story takes place in the 1950s—following an ex-Negro League baseball player named Troy and his sometimes-volatile family relationships—Douglas believes that the play's exploration of race and the legacy of discrimination might be particularly resonant after a volatile presidential election year. "Given the current political climate, and awareness of people of color, it's very much in the American zeitgeist right now," Douglas says. "There are lines, circumstances within the play that unfortunately remain very relevant. There's nothing I can try to push into the play that's not already there."
For Douglas, whether audiences are more familiar with the material now thanks to the movie, the approach remains simple: Trust in Wilson's text. "I'm smart enough to step back, because the words themselves will ring like a bell," he says. "The cleaner and leaner I can be with it, it will have a greater impact." (Scott Renshaw)
Fences @ Pioneer Theatre Co., 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Jan. 6-21, $29-$44. pioneertheatre.org
Criminal Justice Reform with Van Jones
The number of problems with the criminal justice system is so high, it can be hard to know where to begin. The prison population of the United States is so large that it exceeds that of some countries; police disproportionately target and incarcerate people of color for minor crimes; prisons practically encourage recidivism. The list goes on and on.
None of these problems can be fixed in the two-hour runtime of this lecture, nor are they likely to change drastically given the incoming administration. But Parks City's Eccles Center for the Performing Arts offers a chance for people to come and learn about the problems facing America's penal system, and how to raise awareness and move forward.
Leading the night's discussion is Van Jones, CNN contributor, attorney and former White House adviser who rose to prominence during the most recent election cycle. Joining him is Mike Farrell, star of the television show M*A*S*H* and an advocate for ending the death penalty; and Kirk Bloodsworth, the first man released from death row based on DNA evidence not presented at trial. The conversation covers a broad array of issues within the justice system, but given Farrell and Bloodsworth's advocacy, the night focuses around the ways these failings are especially highlighted in America's use of capital punishment.
As one of the few lecture-based events in this season's performance lineup, the night is unique within the Eccles Center's current session. (Kylee Ehmann)
Criminal Justice Reform with Van Jones @ Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m., $29. ecclescenter.org
Park City Film Series: Cameraperson
Local multiplexes fill up at year-end with movies that are pushing for awards consideration. You might have to go just a bit farther—to Park City, perhaps—to catch up with 2016's best film on a theater screen.
The term "monumental" feels like it must be hyperbole, but there's really nothing else that captures what veteran documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has achieved with Cameraperson. It's an idea that sounds on the surface like a snooze: compiling snippets of footage from many of the documentary films she's shot over the course of 25 years, for high-profile documentary directors including Michael Moore and Kirby Dick, plus her own home movies. But what emerges in that footage is something that strips bare the idea of "objective" journalistic filmmaking to find the humanity in every work of artistic creation—the person behind the camera. And that person emerges here in ways both adorably small (a sneeze that shakes the camera, or a shadow on the sidewalk) to gasp-inducingly huge (watching without interfering as a Bosnian toddler tries to play with a hatchet lodged in a stump).
The on-camera subjects are often fascinating all on their own, whether they're survivors of genocide or Johnson's own mother struggling with dementia. It's the way these moments are put together, however—in one of the greatest works of film editing you'll ever find—that results in an emotional bombshell about art and the simple experience of caring about other people. (SR)
Park City Film Series: Cameraperson @ Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave., Park City, Jan. 6-7, 8 p.m.; Jan. 8, 6 p.m., free. parkcityfilmseries.com