Salt Lake Municipal Ballet at Sugar Space

Below is Sarah Thompson’s take on the Municipal Ballet Co. at Sugar Space,originally published by 15 BYTES. We are excited to share her writing and also that more collaborations are on the horizon with 15 BYTES. While the details are still in flux, you can expect to see more dance writing on 15 BYTES and more contributing writers to the loveDANCEmore pool in the coming year.

Sunset District, by Salt Lake City’s newest dance group, Municipal Ballet Co., debuted at Sugar Space Thursday evening. Formed by Sugar Space artist-in- residence Sarah Longoria, a graduate student in ballet at the University of Utah, Municipal Ballet Co. hopes to provide an outlet for ballet artists to create and perform their own work for a more diverse audience.  The company also hopes to transcend the stereotype of ballet being old-fashioned, elitist and boring.

Sunset District accomplishes both goals beautifully, with ten live dances and two dance films, more than can be reviewed here. From the first piece, “Adrift,” which introduces all nine of the company’s members, it’s obvious that this is not traditional ballet. Dressed in modern dance attire and soft shoes, the dancers gently guide the audience into the performance with a strongly balletic opener by Longoria that still manages to signal that this is something new, and provides an opportunity to get a feel for each dancer. This segues seamlessly into Longoria’s sparkling duet, featuring dancers David Riskin and Stacie Riskin.

Kaya Wolsey’s “She was not alone,” which follows, ventures further into contemporary dance, with dancers clad in black shorts and socks, and features a much more contemporary movement vocabulary and more physical interaction among the dancers.

The remainder of the program flows gracefully through a wide variety of approaches to ballet, including solos, storytelling, intensely emotional work, and lighthearted, jazzy fun. Of particular note are “The Crowd,” choreographed by Sarah Judd and featuring Saena Fukui, Eve Allen’s “Psychotic Girl”, and Ellie Hanagarne’s heartbreaking and heartbreakingly beautiful “Inverted Out” featuring the remarkable Eri Nishihara, the only dancer to appear in toe shoes.

Interspersed with the live dances are two films by Ben Estabrook.  His “Rebirth” is a lovely minimalist short, choreographed by Holly Martin and featuring the impressive Jessica Liu, accompanied only by the sounds of her shoes scraping the floor and her own breathing.

Many of the dancers also serve as choreographers, and every dance succeeds in holding the audience’s attention and offering a new take on what ballet has to offer.  The dancers are technically accomplished and the music selection is diverse and as close to perfect as one could hope.

Municipal Ballet Co. fills a much-needed niche in the Salt Lake dance scene offering a high-quality, accessible complement to the more traditional Ballet West, as well as to the city’s thriving contemporary dance companies.

Municipal Ballet Co.’s Sunset District will be performed again Friday evening, April 12, at 7:30 pm at Sugar Space.

Sarah Thompson is a retired physician and psychiatrist, as well as a writer and a fan of the arts. Her writing has been published in a variety of magazines and textbooks and she is currently working on a short story and a novel.