I have seen the beautiful old church at 79 W. and 400 S. in Provo evolve over the years. It was once a private school that my siblings attended. It has also been a music school, reception center and is currently being remodeled into a residential complex. On November 12th, the church was opened for a dance concert, hopefully one of many site-specific dance concerts in the Provo area. The audience was welcomed into the historic building with hot chocolate, hand warmers and a basket of blankets, which I appreciated as the temperature both inside and out was in the 30s.
Despite the chilly evening, the concert warmed the soul and the old church was an exquisite location for a dance concert. As I sat huddled under a blanket next to my husband and hot chocolate in hand, I was greeted with a lovely stained glass window as a backdrop. We had the luxury of having each choreographer personally introduce their own piece, describing their inspiration and motivation.
Nathan Balser (BYU dance faculty) choreographed Meeting Space, danced by a quartet of men. He was inspired by the historic building where we sat and by the interactions that may have occurred in times past. The four men entered in silence and, in a pedestrian fashion, acknowledged each other. As the music began, the dancers rotated in a mesmerizing turning motif that weaved throughout the piece. The dance continued with strong, yet fluid movement choices. I wondered to myself, if these walls could talk, what would they say? What stories do they have to share?
Letters in the Sand, choreographed by Kori Wakamatsu (BYU dance faculty) reflected the emotions associated with adoption. It began with a duet that included weight bearing and mutual support. I was intrigued by how the dancers physically kept in contact and also by the connection they shared in moments when they were not. As I mother, I saw this as the connection you feel with your child, a powerful connection that is hard to describe. The piece me left with a feeling of appreciation for those who place their child for adoption.
Journey, choreographed by Doris Hudson de Trujillo (UVU Dance Faculty) featured seven UVU students and 3 dance faculty members and was recently performed at the Wave Rising Festival in New York City. I loved watching a mix of ages dancing together. This piece used 3 poles, about 10 feet in length, which the dancers held and manipulated throughout the piece. The poles held, supported, restrained, and contained the dancers. At times I saw a burden being carried, other times it was a means to connect with others. As a viewer, I was on a journey with them, I felt stuck, liberated, supported and freed as the dancers portrayed each idea through movement. The conclusion revealed a lovely sense of resolution.
Neils, by Ashley Anderson, was a brilliant collaboration of songs by Neil Diamond, Neil Young and Neil Sedaka. I was taken back to my childhood listening to those songs on the radio. The quartet’s choreography was delightfully simplistic and possessed an element of humor. I enjoyed the movement repetition and seeing the character of each dancer through improvised solos. It was the perfect contrast to watch fresh movement vocabulary that was distinct from the other concert pieces.
The final piece, Divinity, choreographed by Aaron Shaw and performed by Kate Monson was most appropriate for a church setting. It was based on Christian values and beliefs, with the notion that we try and fail and try again. The performance was a stunning emotional investment that left the audience with a sense of peace and hope.
Leaving with cold hands and nose, but a warm heart, the Provo Sites concert was a beautiful start to what I hope will be many intriguing site-specific concerts, blending stunning locations with incredible dance.
Karen Jensen is member of the BYU Contemporary Dance Faculty