When many long-time locals think of a Salt Lake City dance company, Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) is the only dance company that comes to mind. Since 1966, the RDT has been cultivating an appreciation for modern dance in Salt Lake City. It first found its home at the University of Utah in an old barracks building. In fact, executive and artistic director Linda Smith recalls that the company was “Nestled between the inbred rodent colony and artificial organs laboratories.”
While the location was interesting, it was not ideal. In short, although the RDT had a fruitful working relationship with the University of Utah and the performance space at Kingsbury Hall, a dedicated rehearsal, office, and performance space was needed in order to help the company fulfill its vision of becoming, “more integrated into the life of the community.” Although the RDT met each season with success, it looked to a time when it could offer programs for children and seniors, develop a school, and offer lectures all the while maintaining its status as one of the most unique dance companies in the world, one which acts as both a living library of dance and offers an exceptional performance season. With their tremendous vision and drive, the RDT pushed for a performance space that would help them and other performing arts groups achieve their goals of providing Salt Lake City with a space where art could thrive. The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center is the realization of that vision.In 1997, the RDT was the first organization to move into the East Wing of the Rose, performing (among other dances) a tribute to Rose Wagner, the mother of the generous benefactors that helped make the space possible. Choreographed by Lynne Wymmer, the piece was titled “Essence of Rose” and was performed in the Leona Wagner Black Box theatre.
Since that event, the RDT has accomplished all of its goals, offering participatory performances for kids (check out their inexpensive monthly Ring Around the Rose program); touring regionally, nationally, and internationally; accomplishing education outreach through school programs, workshops, and lectures; teaching community dance classes for adults; and offering an exceptional season of new choreographed works and resurrecting old masterpieces. Smith explains the dual focus, “RDT nurtures the art of dance by stimulating new choreography while preserving and performing work representing the finest examples of our modern dance heritage.”In fact, the RDT serves as a “living museum,” acquiring classic works from the last hundred years of dance history from the likes of Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham and Michio Ito and performing these pieces for the Salt Lake community audience so as to foster an awareness, appreciation, and love for dance. There are very few companies in the nation and world with this approach, and Salt Lake is lucky enough to have it right down town.
To find out for yourself what the RDT is about, check out the Rose Exposed Variety Show on Friday, August 30th, where they will resurrect “For Betty,” a piece originally choreographed in 1970 by former RDT dancer/choreographer Bill Evans. Alternatively, you can take the stage yourself in a free adult dance class taught by RDT instructor Aaron Wood on Saturday, August 31st.