Many dancers and choreographers are moving off the proscenium stage and into public spaces where the architecture of the building becomes central to the dance performance.
Initially, this site-specific choreography was a response to the cost and availability of theaters and rehearsal spaces, but now it has become more prevalent for the way it alters conventional thinking about dance.
Ashley Anderson, a young Salt Lake choreographer, has turned this hybrid of performance and architecture into her signature style.
Her arts organization loveDANCEmore will perform next week as part of an cultural series celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Ladies Literary Club Building.
The cultural series is sponsored by the Utah Heritage Foundation, which took over ownership of the building in February.
One of the first things the foundation hoped to do with the building at 850 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City was showcase its stage and 'theater' setting, said executive director Kirk Huffaker. The group invited six arts organizations to be part of the eclectic series that runs through Dec. 5. (See box for full schedule.)
Anderson kicks off the cultural shows with a restaging of "dead dog song," previously performed in several venues around the country and locally at the Rio Gallery. "I'm hoping this collaboration will generate interest outside the dedicated dance audience," Anderson said. "Others might be intrigued by the architectural, historical or visual arts aspects."
The Prairie-style building was designed and constructed in 1913 specifically for the Ladies Literary Club by Salt Lake City architects Walter E. Ware and Alberto O. Treganza. The club was founded in 1877 as a way for women to continue their education at a time when most women did not attend college. The members studied literature, the arts (including music), travel and even politics.
Anderson has worked with Salt Lake City art galleries and venues such as the Central Utah Gardens in Provo. She has found like-minded choreographers in Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University dance faculty members Kori Wakamatsu and Kate Monson, whose co-creations have drawn crowds in town and on campus.
"There are so many great, theatrical locations in and around Salt Lake City which are underutilized because of our incredible subsidized theaters," Anderson said. "I knew when I moved back here after college, I wanted to use the Masonic Temple Ballroom including the roundabout style of entering rather than the formal one. I look for sites that are interesting and available such as the Ladies' Lit Club."
The 35-minute free showing of "dead dog song" will run three times on Friday at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. in the small salon-style performance space that Anderson has coveted for the past four years.
The performance also will include two additional offerings: a new art installation by Salt Lake City artist Mary Boerens Sinner and live drawing performance by Mary Sauer, a figurative artist who works primarily in oil and currently teaches at the University of Utah.
Due to restrictions on buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, Sinner said installing the lights and mobiles she first envisioned for the performance is problematic and rehearsal time is very limited. Fortunately, or coincidentally, Sinner's wedding reception was held in the same hall two years ago so she has used her wedding photos as reference for measurements and details.
"I want to use lights to create shadows and silhouettes to exploit the space," she said. "There is a beautiful arched ceiling with simple Prairie-style cutouts in the plaster that I'd like to draw attention to, but we have to be very careful and cannot adhere anything to the walls or ceiling so it makes it tricky."
Also in keeping with the loveDANCEmore philosophy, the performers come from various dance backgrounds. Two Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company members, Tara McArthur and Alexandra Bradshaw, have worked with Anderson in the past and are excited to contribute to the growing community of dance.
"Ashley is a community warrior for dance," Bradshaw said.
McArthur agreed, adding that Anderson had "reached out to us, and we wanted to participate in an inclusive local scene which makes a richer dance environment for everyone."
Ladies Literary Club cultural series
The Utah Heritage Foundation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Ladies Literary Club Building with an eclectic mix of arts performances.
Where • All shows take place at the Ladies Literary Club Building, 850 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Cost • All shows are free.
Friday, Sept. 6 • 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Performance by loveDANCEmore in collaboration with visual artist Mary Boerens Sinner and figurative artist Mary Sauer.
Friday, Sept. 20 • 7:30 p.m. Performances from the Salty Cricket Composers Collective.
Saturday, Sept. 21- • 2 p.m. The King's English Bookshop presents local authors.
Tuesday, Oct. 1 • Salt Lake Acting Company performance.
Thursday, Oct. 17 • Utah Center for Architecture hosts the Utah Architects Database Launch Event.
Thursday, Dec. 5 • 7 p.m. The University of Utah Guest Writers' Series & Outreach Program celebrates poetry.