the very BEaST


In anticipation of attending last night’s concert, I imagined the VERY BEaST of SB DANCE to be a unicorn—a mythical beast of which I had heard fantastic stories, but had yet to see with my own eyes.  Since moving to Salt Lake City in 2008, well-intending people have suggested on more than one occasion that I should check out SB Dance.  Three years later, here was my chance.

The VERY BEaST of SB DANCE is a sampling of the company’s greatest hits from 1997-2006, including one hit from each of the selected 10 years.  As excerpts of longer works, each piece offered a glimpse of what SB Dance must have been like in its glory days.  Through the use of his adept dancers, props, and lighting (kudos to Glen Linder), Stephen Brown creates an entire world in a matter of moments.  He is a choreographic master of images.

Like catching a glimpse of a unicorn through shadowy evening mist, I see Juan Adalpe’s shining face staring into a silver bucket that seems to glow from within.  I see Nathan Shaw and Jenny Larsen gliding across an eerie green stage via an industrial kitchen table on wheels.  I see Stevan Novakovich dressed in a long flowing blue skirt, tumbling in the wind of an upstage corridor of light.

Other moments were less like glimpsing a unicorn–Corinne Penka sporting a ball gag and Nathan Shaw baring all–but I presume Brown’s world must include some dark magic as well (perhaps this is the “adult themed content” I was warned of at the box office).  In fact the last three pieces centered on the theme of nudity, which I found to be a bit of an overkill.  However, Shaw’s full-frontal in the final piece of the evening, Waltz of the Dog-faced Boy, offered a cheeky discussion of the use of nudity onstage that reminded me of Dorothy and her gang venturing behind the curtain at the climax of the Wizard of Oz.

In the program notes, Brown writes, “SB Dance’s funding has drooped to a 10-year low.”  I wonder, which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Has the company not made any new work in the last five years because of low funding or is it the other way around?  Either way, my guess is that The VERY BEaST of SB DANCE is a call to galvanize SB Dance supporters for new work to come.  Overall the evening was a wonderful tease, like a series of decadent hor’dourves with no entrée to follow.  Now that I have seen the magic Brown can create in a moment, I am hungry to see how he sustains that over an hour.

Elizabeth Stich completed her MFA at the University of Utah