Presenting PDC, a Live Performance for a Virtual World

21 October 2020 Published in News and Announcements

Screen Shot 2020 10 21 at 11.59.57 AMThe Hayes-Christensen Theatre has been modified into a high-end sound stage to video live performances and stream them in real time directly to your electronic tether to the COVID world. And what’s more, it’s absolutely free.

The choreographers and student performers have been busy since classes began creating four new works for the Performing Dance Company Concert October 29-31, 2020.  The concert features premieres from faculty choreographers: Natalie Desch, Christine McMillan, and Satu Hummasti & Daniel Clifton. Guest choreographer Melanie George, from New York City will also premiere a work on eight University of Utah dancers. 

“We recognize that the arts are a vital part of our connection to one another, and we need connection now more than ever,” said School of Dance Director Luc Vanier. “So, we, in the School of Dance, have made the decision to provide free access to any patron who would like to be moved by our movement this year. No cost. Just click.”

The live streamed performance will highlight a wide variety styles and themes.

Christine McMillan originally intended to create individual solos to reflect the current experiences of feeling more isolated during the pandemic. However, “When I was finally able to get into a studio with the dancers, I became so excited seeing several dancers moving within the space together. I realized I was so hungry for what we haven't been able to do recently that the whole concept shifted. There is one solo within the piece, but instead of a series of solos, now the dancers are often doing individual movement but in juxtaposition to each other reflecting the individuality of experience but also the reality that we are always relating to others in some form. The title of the piece is "Shift & Flux." Change is the only thing we can be sure of in life; however, the current pandemic has made that even more clear. Life currently feels like an unending stream of shifting, changing, modifying, and adapting.”

Natalie Desch has also been inspired to create a new work for 10 dancers in response to the pandemic. Her work "Particles, Echoes, and Light" explores how inspiration and hope manifests, not only in severe times but also in times of normalcy. Space exploration is one human endeavor that has always been a source of human inspiration and hope. The rehearsal process evolved as the cast adjusted to the safety protocols in place for the pandemic; everyone in the room was masked and physically distanced from each other, which led to explorations of individual and collective space – how we exist in this world with those who inhabit the space with us.

"Bell Hill" co-created by faculty members Satu Hummasti and Daniel Clifton, and the performers, is a dance, a ritual, a gathering, an offering, a way to come to come together as a community during a global pandemic. The piece roves from place to place in Salt Lake City-- a hill filled with trees, some of which were felled during an inland hurricane; a wild field at the Red Butte Gardens where tarantulas emerge to mate in October (true); a fragrance garden; the Salt Lake Capitol Building as a protest dance; and ultimately in an empty theater. We see this as an offering and as a way to keep working together under some guise of normalcy in a tumultuous time. The piece includes nine performers from the University of Utah School of Dance, costumes by Rachel Hayes, music by Daniel Clifton, and some cow bells. 

“…from Down Here”, is choreographed in Melanie George’s signature Neo-Jazz Style. The dance is a blues-based jazz work emphasizing themes of labor for the individual and the group through gesture and rhythm. Melanie describes Neo-Jazz as “a historically informed jazz style, as a radical act in both the commercial and concert dance worlds. I mine the riff, embrace the shed, cultivate the groove, and seek the pocket. My willingness to rhythmic, weighted, and vernacular is purposely perpendicular to the predisposition of valuing modern and contemporary dance over other forms.” The performers and choreographer were challenged by setting this work entirely through Zoom with the choreographer in NYC and the dancers in Salt Lake City. Dancers can overcome any obstacle!

The School of Dance has made it possible to allow as many people into the “audience” as possible by live-streaming the work at no cost. We are anxious to share the amazing talents of our students and choreographers. The link to watched the streamed performance is dance.utah/edu/virtualshows and is also listed on the School of Dance website at

Showtimes are October 29-31: Thursday at 5:30, Friday at 7:30, and Saturday at 2:00 & 7:30.