Repertory Dance Theatre brings unique aspect to Utah

Since 1966, Utah’s Repertory Dance Theatre has been on the leading edge of dance and is one of the few resources for dance-lovers in the state. RDT, which focuses on the creation and perpetuation of modern dance, is unique in its scope and repertoire. But more than anything, the talented and inspiring people in Utah help make RDT a powerhouse among the Utah arts community.

The impressive range of performances and classes offered by RDT require dancers to be constantly training and able to display a versatile and dynamic style, said Nick Cendese, a 10-year veteran of the dance company.

“RDT has a very clear mission. While most organizations may focus on one aspect, like contemporary, RDT also focuses on education and relating historical influences with today’s issues,” Cendese said. “Everything we do is based in the past, related to the present and geared toward furthering education and appreciation of dance.”

Cendese has been working with RDT since he was around 12 years old, and over the past six seasons, he’s had the opportunity to dance with his romantic partner of more than 10 years, Nathan Shaw. The pair often dance together in routines and RDT is extremely welcoming and affirming of the queer community, Shaw said.

“It adds an interesting dynamic, but it has strengthened our relationship as dancers and romantically,” Shaw said. “In a piece where we might have to connect, we already have that out there and making that connection apparent to the audience can be a very intimate look into our lives, but something a little unique.”

“I couldn’t be happier and I am so blessed to be able to come to work and be with my partner and experience everything together. He totally gets me and it is so wonderful to be able to talk with him about everything at work,” Cendese said. “I don’t think very many people have that opportunity.”

RDT was founded as a cooperation between the Salt Lake City community, the University of Utah and a major grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Since its inception, it has advanced the arts not just in metropolitan centers, but also brought dance to smaller communities and school-age children.

Along with performing at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, RDT has toured the world and are just as likely to be seen in the Kennedy Center as they are in a small theater in a rural town in Idaho.

The seven-member troupe train daily and RDT also offers a series of community classes available to all people, regardless of dance skill.

RDT offers a unique experience for Utahns, Aaron Wood, a dancer for RDT, said.

“We have over 300 dances to call upon,” Wood said. “From classical to contemporary, we cover it all.”

The dances are both educational and entertaining for audience members and while there are educational resources available through RDT, novices and dance experts alike can enjoy the experience, Wood said.

The two fall performances, Vanguard and Snapshots, will illustrate very different aspects of dance. The Vanguard performance, Oct. 6-8, will feature the works of Merce Cunningham and Yvonne Rainer and will showcase some of the most influential dance from the beginning of the modern dance movement, Wood said.

The approach to the Cunningham piece is very unique and the order of pieces will not be announced until the evening of the performance, and the dancers cannot listen to the music until the day of the performance, Shaw said.

“It’s really interesting because we’ll learn the dances beforehand, but we won’t know the musicality of the performance until the day of the performance,” Shaw said.

The November performance of Snapshots will feature family-friendly dances with an emphasis on green spaces in Utah’s communities.

“There’s something special and unique about RDT,” Cendese said. “And it’s not just for me and my boyfriend. It’s for everyone that wants to experience something different.”

“It’s important to find ways to allow yourself the opportunity to experience some good vibes,” Wood said. “When you go out to a dance show or a theater event it’s a chance to do something different. Support the art and experience joy. It’s easy to go to the movie theater for some escape, but try supporting a local arts organization and you won’t regret it.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to RDTUtah.org.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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