Bill Evans was always so damned cool. I mean the man could dance and he could party. I knew this a long, long time ago in college and I understand that he still is and still does at the age of 75.
In celebration of his birthday, Repertory Dance Theatre (now 50 years old itself) is presenting a full-evening, solo concert honoring its famed alumni. The Aug. 1 event will include tap works, modern-dance pieces, and video and slide presentations.
A native of Lehi, (James) William “Bill” Evans received his BA and MFA from the U; did a stint in the military and spent time in New York City with the Joffrey Ballet School in between earning degrees in Utah; danced with RDT from 1967 through 1974; then formed his own internationally known company. He has choreographed more than 200 works, 18 of them for RDT, and also has been a full-time professor and visiting teacher of dance at numerous institutions around the world.
In a Dance Magazine article in August 2011, he recalls seeing a Fred Astaire film at the Lehi LDS ward house at the age of 3 and, when his parents refused to buy him tap shoes, holding his brother’s marbles under his toes to make noise. Eventually he got those taps attached to his Sunday shoes, even got some lessons, and at age 8 or so he and his little sister began performing at church socials, weddings and on local TV, despite bullying from “redneck schoolmates.”
In a recent Dance readers’ poll, he was named one of the three favorite tap artists in the country, along with Savion Glover and Brenda Bufalino. And you’ve certainly heard of them, too. Evans is “known for his dynamic range, expressivity, musicality and his unique fusion of rhythm tap and modern dance,” according to an RDT press release.
In an e-mail, Evans describes his return to Utah and Salt Lake City (his home for 15 of his 75 years) and to RDT, his “artistic home” as a “delicious experience.” He says he has stayed connected to the dance company through all the years since, serving on its national advisory board and often returning to teach, restage or create choreography, and sometimes to perform.
“My heart is full as I collaborate with my cherished friend [RDT Executive/Artistic Director] Linda C. Smith and the beautiful RDT dancers (including Justin Bass, who was my student at SUNY Brockport), and with composer/musician Hal Cannon, with whom I collaborated in 1973 on my piece Hard Times — one of the most significant of the 275 works I have created as a professional choreographer,” he writes.
“This is where I fell in love with and learned to dance, and I am overjoyed to be part of this astonishing anniversary celebration! I could not have imagined when we were struggling to get started that Linda and I would be part of a 50th anniversary season,” Evans adds. “Profound gratitude!”
His book, Reminiscences of a Dancing Man: A Photographic Journey of a Life in Dance, was commissioned and published by the National Dance Association in 2006. These days Evans is at work on his autobiography.
RDT presents Bill Evans, Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, Tickets $20; seniors and students $10, 801-355-2787, www.arttix.org
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She was the 2018 recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award in the Literary Arts.