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Young Utah dancers get star treatment in annual showcase

Published April 29, 2014 2:03 pm

Bonnie Story • With "Expansion," top choreographer gives up-and-comers a helping hand.
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With an established, highly successful commercial dance career, Emmy Award-winning choreographer Bonnie Story still takes time to help young dancers discover the balance between artistry and commercial appeal.

Dancers striving for careers in the entertainment industry train hard in everything from classical ballet to hip-hop, but can get shortchanged on exploring the artistic side. That's why Story gives her pre-professional company and a few other like-minded commercial choreographers a chance to flex their artistic muscle in the annual "Expansion" showcase at the Jeanné Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City.

"As exciting as it is to be on a film set and being crazy-busy in New York and L.A.," Story said, "I'll be wiping away tears on Monday watching those kids pour their hearts out on the Jeanné Wagner stage."

This year, Story and Treehouse Dance co-director Noah Lillie are joined by local celebrity teacher/choreographers Rick Robinson and his Vibe Tribe, and Urban Dance Organization's Marc Alexander (aka Big Choc).

"The Vibe Tribe is a group of young professional dancers getting started in their careers," Robinson said. "We travel the world, have been on television and won awards, but I love participating in this show because I feel the greatest work I can do is in my community."

Like Robinson, Story takes her pre-professional dancers to learn the tricks of the trade in New York and L.A. But it is Story's early classical training at Juilliard and the School of American Ballet that forms the basis of her teaching philosophy.

"Dancers need a strong basis in classical technique and they also need to know who they are as artists so their performance is honest and not applied to the surface," Story said. "In addition to dance skills, I teach the process of being a professional — the etiquette of being on a film set or appropriate behavior when auditioning for a professional dance company."

Responding to the demand for a dance competition team (characteristic of many commercial studios), Treehouse will begin holding auditions next month for a team headed by Courtney Harrison, who has a well-established studio in Layton, Jazz Dancer Studio.

"Courtney's approach to a competition team fits with my philosophy of age-appropriate costumes and movement, so it seemed like a natural fit," Story said.

Harrison adds that she and Story agree that it is important to "build a dancer through technique and not just a performer who knows one routine." —


Emmy Award-winning choreographer Bonnie Story takes time to help young dancers discover the balance between artistry and commercial appeal with her annual "Expansion" performance.

When • Monday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.

Where • Jeanné Wagner Theatre in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $20; available at http://www.arttix.org or call 801-355-ARTS

More • Auditions for the new Treehouse competition team are May 31. Auditions for Jazz Dancers Studio team in Layton are July 21-22. For more information: 801-201-1374 or http://jdsutah.com/ mail@jdsutah.com. To find Urban Dance Organization classes, see https://www.facebook.com/utahudo.