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Wasatch Dance Collective
sews a coat of many colors with 'Raw Material'

By Karen Anne Webb

While RDT was exploring the past in the Jeanné Wagner Theatre, over in the Studio Theatre, Wasatch Dance Collective was showing us the shape of the future. I caught the final show of the run on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The production blended dance works with video, music, and dance theater. Most ambitious technically were the two ensemble works, “Battle Ritual” by Sophie Gorder and Valerie Walker’s “Skein.”

Both Gorder and Walker demonstrate a finely developed sense of composition in these pieces. Both have a good sense of how to work an ensemble, when to group their dancers together, when to split the ensemble into smaller groups or solos, and when to set a smaller group against a larger.

Walker’s (I expected it to be about knitting based on the title) evoked images of aquatic birds in flight but also played with the other definitions of the title word: groupings were often complex, suggesting, perhaps, ducks in disarray (or a tangle of terns).

“Battle Ritual” felt more abstract and nicely interpreted the music of Renee Aubrey. The piece had more technical substance than a lot of work one sees in the independent market, and its quintet of dancers carried off the demands of the piece with perfect finesse. The one comment I have about both is that the content and choreographic ideas had such texture I really wanted them to go on a little longer.

Erin Kaser’s duet, “Geminus — You can decide for me,” was a sprightly duet performed by Jersey Reo Riemo and Lorin Hansen. Again, there was enough texture to this sweet little piece that I wanted to see more. Although there’s room for him to learn to use his feet a little better and for both to hit a few more notes in their phrasing, Riemo has an astounding sense of buoyancy, and Hansen an appealing light touch to all her movement.

Of the videos, the one that worked the best for me was Amy Caron’s “Pas de Deux des Fantomes,” but that may be because I review dance more frequently than avant garde video. Caron’s ground for her silhouetted dancers resembled a fractal plane — kind of a full-color, psychedelic version of the Mandelbrot set — and she created wonderful kaleidoscopic images using no more than those silhouettes and a split-screen filter.

It was difficult for me in watching Mattson McFarland’s “now: chapter 17: cocwoomb” to banish thoughts of Lennart Nilsson, who did all that seminal intrauterine photography of fetuses back in the late 70's. It was also difficult not to draw a comparison with a piece like Jane Comfort’s “Underground River,” which gets inside of the head of another type of character whose thoughts we cannot rationally know. The images of dancer-as-child-in-womb were not quite enough to sustain me for the length of this video, and I wonder if an interesting direction to go in here would be to toy with what a kid inside its mom is seeing, feeling, and thinking.

The visual parts of the program were prefaced with a free-form jazz work by a trio (Christian Asplund, Aaron Hansen, and Jason Young) featuring a viola, saxophone (and larger woodwinds), and electric guitar. While dissonance is not my cup of tea, the interplay of instruments and the tools the musicians used to pull these sounds out of their instruments (dual rubber bands, for instance, around the “waist” of the viola) was interesting, and I was thoroughly drawn in by the absolute passion the men, especially the violist, put into their playing.

karen [at]


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