There has been a recent spate of articles about the dynamics of live performances as musicians, actors and dancers return to the stage after more than 14 months of pandemic restrictions. While some have focused on anxieties, fears and awkward feelings for both performers and audiences, others have taken on a different tone.
In an essay for The Atlantic magazine, Grammy Award winning musician Will Butler, who also has been a core member of Arcade Fire, wrote about how his relationship to performance changed as audiences became more familiar with the music. “The energy from the crowd was greater than anything coming from the giant speaker stacks,” Butler explains. “The audience wasn’t a challenge to overcome, or an opponent to conquer. We became a team. Not in an abstract, lovey way but how a sports team operates—pushing one another to do better, sometimes failing, sometimes frustrating one another, sometimes just joking around.”
In their attempt to reclaim a live performance space that has been off limits for more than a year, dance artists Laura Brick and Dan Higgins are following their creative instincts which echo Butler’s sentiments. Later this week, Brick and Higgins will premiere Fragments Of …, a 30-minute dance composition in the intimate setting of the Studio Theatre in the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts in downtown Salt Lake City. There will be five 7:30 p.m. performances (June 4 and 5 as well as June 10-12) of the program, which is part of the Repertory Dance Theatre’s Link Series.
Set in five movements featuring three duets along with solos by each of the artists, Fragments Of … might be best described as a conversation icebreaker set in movement. During the shutdown, the dancers respectively had shifted their work to the platform of filmed content available on demand as well as classes taught on Zoom. And, last July, when any live performance in Salt Lake City would have been a rare event, Higgins performed in and co-produced a performance of seven dance solos, featuring various local artists, which took place at an underpass below 600 South and 600 West in downtown Salt Lake City. The OuterSpace concert fit the circumstances by offering a serene moment of relief with the promise of healing light during a time of disappointment, frustration and sadness, which had disrupted lives, aspirations and creative enterprise.
For this latest creative venture, Higgins and Brick, who are collaborating for the first time in a performance piece, are focused on a gentle, warm celebration of a fresh opportunity to recreate the kinetics and radiance of live dance. Thus, Fragments Of … does not emanate particularly from a narrative-driven theme (as evidenced, for example, in Higgins’ earlier works including Speak and In. Memory. Of.). Brick and Higgins meld together their respective movement vocabularies in an abstract way that also can be accessible to audience members who, in turn, are encouraged to interpret the movement in whatever manner they see fit. In an interview with The Utah Review, Brick says the collaboration originated simply as a “conversation between two friends about art who shared ideas about creating something together.” Higgins adds that they agreed that the work should encompass a dynamic which everyone could relate to, pandemic or no pandemic. That is, as he explains, “reclaiming what is familiar to us and to transfer that into a space where we can share precisely the moment of the movement [an idea he credits Brick for bringing to the conversation].”
To wit: part of their artistic statement for this new work includes the following: “It has encouraged us to question our habitual creative choices and pushed the choreographic process to become the place where we are most courageous. We’ve been emboldened through the sculptures of the body, and the artistic choice making that allows us to shape the energy that consumes it.”
Both dance artists are well-known in the community. A Tampa, Florida native, Brick, who earned her degree in modern dance at The University of Utah, has been a performer, choreographer and teacher. She has performed in and choreographed works for Odyssey Dance Theatre. In addition to choreographing his own work, Higgins, a University of Wyoming graduate, is set to start his eighth season as a dance artist with RDT.
Tickets are $15 and available online here or through any ArtTix outlet.