Started in 1996 by Stephen Brown, SB Dance became an organization where dance theatre could break the rules of traditional and modern dance theatre, where it could address controversial subjects, and turn the expected into the shocking. SB Dance was also one of the first arts organizations to move into the Rose Wagner Theatre. As Brown remembers, SB Dance produced the second performance ever held at the Rose in the Spring of 1998 in the black box theatre. Since that time, the company has experienced significant evolution. Brown insists,
Artistically, the company began as standard dance/theater and has blossomed into what I call a “dance circus,” a mix of movement, objects, and narrative theater. We now do more shows throughout the year and have a diverse menu of programming that includes classes, workshops, and events like Cultural Confidential and Sporty Yoga (at Rose Exposed on Saturday). More visible, still subversive.
The hard-core Salt Lake fans that support the “dance circus” of SB Dance provide support for Brown’s intentional unexpected, from “full-frontal [nudity], to a yoga musical to a Rock Opera Dance Musical.” Like his creative team, Brown recognizes that that the “SB Dance audience seeks adventure.” He adds, “ What’s the point of confirming what you already know?”
Many people are surprised that a performing arts organization like SB Dance even exists in Utah, but, really, it represents a part of Utah that’s not always represented, and that likely contributes to its success. Furthermore, SB Dance doesn’t try to hide its Utah roots. With tongue-in-cheek, Brown admits that, “SB Dance stinks of Utah.” He goes on to explain,
I’ m not trying to recreate NYC here. The work is down-to-earth and idiosyncratic, like Gilgal Garden and Alta Ski Resort. I consciously try to make SB Dance very approachable. That doesn’t mean mainstream. But you don’t need any special codes to understand SB Dance’s work. Just an open mind and inclination to think. This is true at performances and also in other programs, like Cultural Confidential or the Sugar Show.
The Cultural Confidential and the Sugar Show are programs that give back to the audience and arts community in Salt Lake. The Cultural Confidential is a “conversation series about arts and society.” SB Dance company hosts a question and answer panel several times throughout the year about topics such as “Why Arts Ed?” and “Creativity and Control in the Info Age.” There’s a five dollar charge to take part in the conversation, which usually ends at a local drinking spot. The Sugar Show is a showcase for emerging artists. Would-be participants fill out an application for a performance idea. If selected, they are assigned a mentor who assists them in realizing their vision. Every January, the artists showcase their work on one night, and the panel of judges and the audience discuss the works in a lively chat in the performers’ absence. The most “meritorious” group receives $1,000 and production assistance. These two events are just two of the ways that SB Dance reaches out to the community. They also offer for-credit teacher workshops on “Art-Learning” and dance and yoga workshops, all to fulfill SB Dance’s mission to build a community, “that is curious about new art and the process of art-making.”
If you’ve never had an opportunity to experience SB Dance first-hand, consider attending the Rose Exposed Variety Show on August 30th where they will be performing an excerpt from “Of Meat and Marrow,” one of SB dance’s most ambition undertakings, a Rock Opera Dance circus with “a 14-person cast, original music played live, [and] unique staging elements like a 15-foot moving sculpture.” If you miss it that night, an encore Halloween performance is scheduled. Or, if you’d rather see the physical side of SB Dance, consider taking part in their free Sporty Yoga workshop on Saturday, August 31st. It’s billed as a “turbo-charge take on the great American past-time,” so you should expect the unexpected.