The sun was hot in my face as I walked down the hill to the amphitheater in Bountiful’s North Canyon Park to see Stay, produced by the Salt Lake Ballet Cooperative in collaboration with DEXO. Nested at the bottom of a hill within the scrub oak, the venue provided an informal atmosphere where dancers in warm-up clothes prepared themselves on a platform stage of rolled out marley. Musicians tuned instruments as the sun slowly went down over the trees, and the dancers returned in soft tan and pink costumes.
The show opened with soft waves of movement, forming an ensemble out of the dancers in twisting, floating shapes. This energy continued throughout the show with a mix of lyrical and instrumental music accompanying the arching and sweeping limbs of the performers. The pieces blended together smoothly as dancers transitioned on and off the open stage, framed by the backdrop of the sunset. “In Moments of Doubt,” choreographed by Sayoko Knode, highlighted the technical abilities of the dancers while offering unexpected transitions and risky partnering. “Chunk4Chunk,” choreographed by Ellie Hanagarne, reminded me how simplicity in group structures can create delightful shapes and forms. Throughout every piece the dancers moved with beautiful reaching extensions to create strong unison moments and solos.
Of particular interest to me was “Gratitude in Chaos,” choreographed by Caroline Sheridan. It began with a quick, sassy solo matching the daring energy of the flute and defined by the clear confidence of the performer. Sheridan was joined by another dancer and their relationship quickly took on the sense of a competition, moving very closely to each other but never looking each other in the eye while performing precise, striking jumps. A second duet emerged that twirled and wound through the space like strong winds through the canyons as the music shifted towards more positive and playful tones. The final cross-diagonal jumps and turns were grand and joyful in such contrast to the first solo that spoke of an evolution from small, precise, almost fearful actions to a big, open-hearted embrace of the space and each other.
The finale engaged the band members of Durian Durian in the movement with a stunning duet on the grass in front of the stage. Starting as a solo, a performer made tight gestures around her face and head, evoking images of wiping away tears, giving up, trying again, building tension and speed. This resolved as the second performer entered, inviting a soft rocking and holding between their two bodies that reminded me how community can help us through moments of exhaustion. The tangibility of the connection between the duet performers made it hard to look away from even as the ensemble dancers swirled through group forms on the stage behind them.
For me, this performance felt like dance for dance’s sake. Many of the pieces I would describe as pretty dancing to pretty music and most of the titles seemed to come from the lyrics of the music rather than any content in the dance. What was clear, however, was the celebration of the work of the dancers and the desire to bring their community together. For their first produced show, I felt the Salt Lake Ballet Cooperative did a great job of this. The informal setting allowed people to move around during the show and I saw many children up on the hill dancing in the grass trying to match the performers or the music. I think if you are inspiring children to dance, you must be doing something right.
Salt Lake Ballet Cooperative performed Stay at the North Canyon Park ampitheatre in Bountiful, June 15 & 16. They will perform Thursday, June 23 at the Alta Snowpine Lodge Lawn. Doors at 6:30, show at 7 PM.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Kara Komarnitsky grew up in Salt Lake City and recently graduated with a BFA in Dance from Ohio State University with minors in Environmental Science and Business. Her work approaches the complexity of human interconnection with the planet, pulling inspiration from the natural world and environmental research. While her primary medium is dance, Kara regularly uses projections, film, sound, and interactive technology to create immersive performance experiences.