A “BIG” opening for 2023-24

A “BIG” opening for 2023-24

The 2023-24 season kicked off in a BIG way, with four performances of Joanna Kotze’s BIG BEATS, a free outdoor performance on Aug 25 and 26 at the Salt Lake City Public Library and the U of U’s Marriot Library.

The cast included professional dancers, as well as students and faculty from the U’s School of Dance. Kotze was in Salt Lake City for two weeks leading up to the performances, working with dancers and UtahPresents and School of Dance staff to set the work and ensure a perfect execution of such a large event.

“This was quite an event to put together – 24 dancers, one live musician, outside, and free. There are so many variables,” said Kotze. “The dancers worked very hard, taking on the rigorous, detailed movement with openness, concentration, and humor. They were an absolute pleasure to work with. They performed in the heat and sun, on concrete, twice each day, and they had positive energy the whole time.”

As the name implies, the dancers perform to music driven by a very loud beat. Though it’s often performed to recorded music, composer Ryan Seaton performed the music live for all four performances, adding a special component to the event. “The music is a huge part of the piece and musician/performer, Ryan Seaton was able to really showcase all the facets of the music,” Kotze added. “It would not have been as successful without the production support given by UtahPresents, especially the incredible production team and sound set up they provided.”

Though many people planned to attend, the nature of performance in a public place with loud music is intended to draw passersby, and many additional audience members were drawn in by the spectacle. One nearby resident heard the beat, came to see what was up, and then went home to grab his camera.

BIG BEATS, and next May’s ‘lectric Eye, Kotze’s evening length work performed at Marriott Center for Dance, are part of a long-standing collaboration between UtahPresents and the School of Dance, working together to provide not only opportunities for local audiences to see new and cutting-edge contemporary dance, but also opportunities for students to learn from and perform alongside professional artists. “This would not have been possible without the collaboration between UtahPresents and the School of Dance – and namely Chloe Jones and Melonie Buchanan Murray,” said Kotze. “It also would not have been possible without the administrative and rehearsal support given by assistant professor, Molly Heller, and graduate student, Roxanne Gray who took on much of the communication with the large cast as well as organizing the audition and rehearsal space.”

Molly Heller, assistant professor in the U School of Dance and a longtime collaborator with Kotze, felt the impact on faculty and students performing together. “We don’t really ever, except when we are teaching, have the opportunity to dance alongside one another in a decentralized power dynamic,” Heller said in an interview with The Finer Points Blog. “No one is grading anyone. We are all in the same boat, swimming through complex material, figuring it out. For my colleagues and I to experience it together is bonding. I can feel the excitement in our faculty meetings to be sharing this, inviting everyone to come see what we are doing.”

By all metrics, the event was a resounding success! “I can’t say enough about this beautiful, talented, very generous community,” Kotze added. “It’s the first time I’ve set BIG BEATS on a combination of professional freelance dancers, University students, and University faculty. What an opportunity for students to dance WITH and learn WITH their teachers and professional dancers in their community. What an opportunity for the faculty to perform together and learn alongside their students. What an opportunity for me to witness these relationships grow and see the admiration everyone has for each other. I hope to share this with other communities in this way!”

Tickets for ‘lectric Eye on May 9-11 are available now at https://www.utahpresents.org/events/lectriceye/

Learn about UtahPresents’ Dance Package at UtahPresents.org/dance

Community Engagement for K-12 Students in the 2022-23 Season

Community Engagement for K-12 Students in the 2022-23 Season

UtahPresents’ seasons are full of amazing artists from around the world, performing at the top of their genres. But did you also know that most of these artists are also deeply engaged in community and often connect with student and community groups before or after their performances?

During our 2022-23 season, 16 artists/ensembles performed 23 public shows at Kingsbury Hall and other venues. But in addition, they also participated in 48 community events, impacting nearly 10,000 people in Salt Lake and the surrounding areas.

A significant part of our engagement work is with K-12 students, including student matinees. Students come to Kingsbury Hall to see a live performance and often have an opportunity to ask questions of the artists afterwards. For many students, this is the first time they have been in a theatre like Kingsbury Hall for a professional arts experience. In addition, we work with campus partners to provide opportunities for groups of students to stay after matinees and tour the campus, meet with student leaders, and begin to see pathways into higher education.

One especially meaningful group from the past season was a group of 7-8 grade students from Granite Park Junior High. The students wrote essays about why they wanted to attend, and 50 students were selected. The group saw a performance of Sugar Skull!, a story of a Mexican American girl who wants to celebrate Halloween with her friends but over the course of the story learns to appreciate her family’s Dia de los Muertos traditions. The cast met with the Granite Park students afterwards, and students expressed appreciation for the story and the performance. Several mentioned that they related to the main character and felt more appreciate for their own family’s traditions after seeing the show.

The students then met with First Generation Scholars, a group of first-generation student leaders at the University of Utah. They gave the junior high students a tour of campus and talked to them about opportunities to attend the U and the ways to overcome challenges if they are the first in their family to attend college.

UtahPresents also brings artists directly into schools (see a separate story about Kalani Pe’a at Mana Academy here) to perform or teach workshops and classes with K-12 students. This past season, the artists from Manual Cinema, who performed their amazing family-friendly show Leonardo! A Wonderful Story about a Terrible Monster, based on popular children’s books by author Mo Willems. Prior to the show, the artists taught a puppet making class with students involved in Promise South Salt Lake’s after school programs, helping the students make their own puppets and create stories for their puppet characters.

On occasion, we are able to create an opportunity for young artists to perform with professional companies. This season, UtahPresents and the School of Dance partnered to present Collage Dance Collective, a renowned ballet company out of Memphis with a cast of BIPOC dancers. The company was in Salt Lake City for two weeks in March, working with local dancers from both the School of Dance and two area schools. 18 university dancers and 60 community dancers, aged 8-18 from Westpoint Ballet in Herriman and Bountiful School of Ballet, took classes from the dancers, learned choreography, and then performed in two student matinees and two public performances at Marriott Center for Dance. For these young dancers, the opportunity to work, rehearse and perform with professional dancers was priceless.

For more information on community engagement events coming up in the 2023-24 season, visit this link.

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner Anushka Sen on their move to Chicago

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner Anushka Sen on their move to Chicago

Congratulations to Willy Palomo and his partner, Anushka Sen, who has recently accepted a tenure track position at Loyola University in Chicago. They will be moving there this summer, and we wish them all the best!

Although Willy’s time at UtahPresents was short, it was incredibly impactful. Continuing existing partnerships and developing new ones, Willy planned and executed 22 engagement events between January and May of 2023, impacting more than 5800 community members. These included student matinee performances of Youth Theatre at the U and Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, as well as a visit to Mana Academy with Hawaiian singer Kalani Pe’a, a puppet-making class with artists from Manual Cinema and Promise South Salt Lake’s after school programs for elementary school students, and hosting the Utah State Poetry Slam Finals with guest poet Justice Ameer, just to name a few.

“I have immensely enjoyed my time at UtahPresents, connecting artists like Heidi Schreck and Manual Cinema to low-income schools and juvenile detention centers,” Willy said. “I am grateful to our community partners like SLCC Dream Center and Burning Sissy Valley for co-building events with us to reach some of Utah’s most marginalized communities. I am sad to be leaving so soon, but excited for the adventures and learning I’m sure to find in Chicago.”

“It’s been a tremendous gift to have Willy on the team at UtahPresents,” said Chloe Jones, executive director of UtahPresents.” He is simply brilliant at building community through the arts. In addition to all the programming he spearheaded this year, he was an invaluable collaborator to me in curating our 2023-2024 season.”

Although we are extremely sad not to continue working with Willy, we are very happy for him and Anushka and their new adventures in Chicago!

Willy will continue to work full-time for UtahPresents through the end of June and part-time through September, allowing for a smooth transition. The search for a new Community Engagement Manager is now open at this link: https://employment.utah.edu/salt-lake-city-ut/community-engagement-manager/6B05BC843C3E417A8A71B6BF7E75487D/job/. Please help us spread the word!

Keven Myhre Moves Into New Role, Willy Palomo Hired as Community Engagement Manager

Keven Myhre Moves Into New Role, Willy Palomo Hired as Community Engagement Manager

After leading UtahPresents and Kingsbury Hall through the COVID shutdown and the monumental task of reopening and presenting live shows again, Keven Myhre, our longtime Operations Director, is stepping into a new role as Finance Manager, overseeing budgeting for the organization. We are thrilled to continue working with Keven at UtahPresents and are excited to support him in his new role.

Keven has been the Operations Director at UtahPresents since 2015. He began his career as a set designer, and has worked as a designer, director, and production manager. During his career he has worked for many, if not all, of the local theatre companies, including Salt Lake Acting Company, The Grand Theatre, Sundance Theatre, Plan-B Theatre, Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Utah Musical Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and the Babcock Theatre.

In 2016, he received the Thomas DeGaetani Award from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, which honors an outstanding lifetime contribution to the performing arts by an individual or organization. He received the Mayor’s Artists Award in the Performing Arts in 2009. In 2008 he was awarded the City Weekly Award for directing The Clean House and Moonlight and Magnolias at SLAC. He earned his BFA from the University of Utah and his MFA in theatre from the University of Michigan.

We are also pleased to announce that Willy Palomo has joined our staff as Community Engagement Manager. Willy comes to UtahPresents from Utah Humanities Council, where he oversaw the Book Festival and Center for the Book since 2019.

Willy is also a writer, poet, and performer. He has performed his poetry (inter)nationally at the National Poetry Slam, CUPSI, and Festival Internacional de Poesía Amada Libertad in El Salvador. His writing has been featured in Best New Poets 2018, Latino Rebels, The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, and more. In 2017, he received the City of Bloomington Latino Leadership Award and the MLK Building Bridges Graduate Student Award for his work serving undocumented communities in Indiana. He has taught literature, creative writing, and the Poetics of Rap in universities, juvenile detention centers, community centers, and high schools. Willy earned an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and an MFA in Poetry from Indiana University.

Kalani Pe’a Brings Joyous Music to Salt Lake City

Kalani Pe’a Brings Joyous Music to Salt Lake City

Music rang out in the cavernous room, filling the space with joyous sound. The students at Mana Academy in West Valley City were singing to welcome Hawaiian singer/songwriter Kalani Pe’a to their school. The power of their song, and the beauty of the harmonies, set the tone for what would be a meaningful time of discussion and music.

Kalani performed for the group of 7th – 12th grade students, and also spoke about his journey to becoming a multiple Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and performer, emphasizing the importance of the Hawaiian language on his music. He taught the students several traditional Hawaiian songs, and encouraged them to follow their dreams and work hard to achieve them.

Kalani’s visit to Mana Academy was part of UtahPresents’ REACHUP program, that creates opportunities for engagement and deeper interaction between artists and members of our community. While he was in Salt Lake for his February 3 live concert, Kalani visited Mana Academy, lectured in a Pacific Islands Studies class on the U campus, and participated in a dialogue with the Pacific Islander Student Association.

Throughout the day, Kalani shared the inspiration he takes from the beauty of the natural world, and specifically the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. Building on traditional Hawaiian song structures, Kalani writes songs in both Hawaiian and English languages. He also incorporates traditional movement into his performances, dancing himself and also inviting local hula groups to join his live performances. For his concert at UtahPresents, dancers from local studios Kēhaulani Hula Studio and Hālau Kūpono hula, performed during several of Kalani’s songs.

At Mana Academy, several native Hawaiian students presented Kalani with a gift as the event drew to a close. The students expressed gratitude that Kalani spent time with them and visited their school. Providing opportunities for students to interact with and learn from artists, especially artists who come from similar backgrounds and experiences, is a driving force behind UtahPresents’ mission. Many students and teachers who interacted with Kalani at the three REACHUP events attended the live public performance, finishing the week with joyous music and dance.

Curating Creativity: UtahPresents and U. of Utah College of Fine Arts Welcome Chloe Jones as New Executive Director/Assistant Dean

Curating Creativity: UtahPresents and U. of Utah College of Fine Arts Welcome Chloe Jones as New Executive Director/Assistant Dean

The University of Utah College of Fine Arts is pleased to announce Chloe Jones will be joining the team as the next Executive Director of UtahPresents and Assistant Dean for Art & Creative Engagement. Jones comes to the U from The Yard, a creation and performance platform in Martha’s Vineyard that supports diverse, contemporary dance-makers and related artists in their creative processes. She will join the University on October 31, 2022, with the goal of furthering UtahPresents’ mission as a multi-disciplinary presenter at the University of Utah that brings diverse artistic and cultural experiences to campus and the region, to explore and enrich the human experience through the lens of creativity and the arts.

“The momentum generated in the last couple of years by UtahPresents is going to be well fueled by the talents and experience Chloe will bring to this role,” said John Scheib, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Associate Vice President for the Arts at the U. “We’re thrilled to have her at the helm.”

She feels similarly.

“Leading UtahPresents into its next chapter will be an honor,” Jones said. “I am inspired by the legacy of the organization and energized by what we can do next. We have a strong foundation to build on and exciting opportunities ahead. Applying rigor to curiosity is the work of both artists and scholars, and it will be my guiding principle as Executive Director.

“On a personal note, joining the team is the homecoming of my dreams,” continued Jones. “I grew up in Salt Lake City and have maintained a close connection to Utah since moving away. SLC’s landscape and creative community offer one of the most compelling combinations anywhere, and I look forward to both drawing from and contributing to that wellspring of inspiration.”

Starting with her first class at Tanner Dance at age 2, Jones developed a lifelong love of the arts. After studying dance in high school at Rowland Hall and at the Ballet West Academy, she attended Wesleyan University where she majored in dance and Hispanic literatures & cultures.

She began her career in arts administration at the Wesleyan Center for the Arts, and prior to her role as Executive Director, she was The Yard’s Director of Development, where she increased the overall contributed revenue of the organization by more than 40%. Jones took the helm at The Yard just as COVID-19 closures were beginning, and despite the impact of the pandemic, Jones was able to reset the organization’s finances and create an operating surplus and cash reserve.

“We are thrilled to welcome Chloe to UtahPresents,” said David Kirby, Chair of UtahPresents’ Advisory Board and Senior Vice President at Zions Bank. “Her dedication and love for the arts is evident, and the passion and vision she presented will move the organization forward. The board members are excited to support her as we work together to grow and expand the mission and impact of UtahPresents.”

Versa-Style with Miss Funk and Breeze Lee

Versa-Style with Miss Funk and Breeze Lee

Watch an interview with Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez and Leigh “Breeze Lee” Foaad, where you’ll hear about the mission of the company, some of the creation process, and what you can expect from their show on September 16 at Kingsbury Hall (buy your tickets HERE if you haven’t already!)

COVID-19 Precautions

For the safety of our audiences, artists, and staff, UtahPresents and Kingsbury Hall remain mask-friendly environments and we encourage all who wish to wear masks to continue to do so at our events.

We ask that patrons please not attend any show if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are feeling unwell. We will refund ticket costs and applicable fees for any patrons who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing flu-like symptoms, if the patron notifies the ticket office prior to showtime.

The University of Utah is monitoring the current public health situation and may adapt these policies at any time.

Marking a Path: Sustainability and the Arts

Marking a Path: Sustainability and the Arts

Posted in @theU, March 25, 2021

GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky at the 2020 Under the Radar Incoming! Created by All My Relations Collective core collaborators Ty Defoe, Lux Haac, Marika Kent, and Katherine Freer with Guest Collaborator Daniel Banks. Photograph by Skye Morse-Hodgson.

Finding long-term solutions to complex problems is not just about the destination. It’s about marking the path for others to follow so they can discover the next solution. Named after the human-made piles of stones found at trail markers around the world, “Cairns” is a new art residency at the University of Utah will mark the progress made as we strive for sustainability.

UtahPresents, the campus inter-disciplinary performing arts presenter, is partnering with the Sustainability Office and the Global Change & Sustainability Center on the project. The staff in each department have brought their collective resources and expertise together to make Cairns a success. Together they will convene artists, scientists, students and community organizers to explore complex sustainability questions from the ground up.

“What makes Cairns so unique is the idea that multiple projects will occur over time, or even in conjunction with one another that lead to the next step, then to the next answer and eventually to the solutions to the environmental problems we see today,” said Brooke Horejsi, executive director, UtahPresents. “Our collaborative partner offices have all embodied the OneU approach to come together to find new and innovative ways to explore and solve sustainability related issues.”

Where we have been

The Cairns artist residency is unlike many others and builds on the foundation of the frequently used model. A typical artist residency creates a dedicated space for the artist to escape to and create. Of those residencies, a narrow subset includes artist and scientist collaboration. These residencies are often for a short period of time or have artists exclusively focused on science-driven storytelling.

Read more >>>

Together, Despite It All

Watch an update from executive director Brooke Horejsi, or scroll down to read the message.

Remember what experiencing live performance, in the moment, gathered with others, felt like?  I do and I miss it.  I miss the anticipation, I miss the moments of shared laughter, awe, tears, discomfort, stunned inspiration.  I miss losing myself in the show, while knowing that you are all there, with me.  The unique together-alone of live performance.

We haven’t been together-alone for months now.  Longer than I think any of us originally anticipated.  Certainly, longer than any of us would like.  Yet, we have been together, despite the first COVID disruption back in March.  We came together to postpone and reschedule.   Then the creative community came together, despite the limitations of quarantine, to share their talents, culture, and ideas with audiences on line.  Then, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many before them, demanded we come together, despite the pandemic.  To speak and to act against racism.  To stand in solidarity with communities of color, to shout BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Last week, we came together for our first virtual fundraiser, despite the continued uncertainty. We gathered virtually to look to the future, to evolve how we serve our community and support artists and to declare that free does not feed.  Art, artists, and art organizations have worth.

As the launch of our 20/21 season is just around the corner, we’ll come together, despite the challenges.  We may not be able to gather, shoulder to shoulder, like we did before, but UtahPresents is still here, and we are still passionate about the role that creativity plays in making our lives vibrant and valuable, especially during a pandemic.  We are still here, figuring out how to create these connections, how to bring all of us together, despite our darkened theaters.

I’m excited to share with you the plans for how we’ll be together – particularly because for some, the virtual space will open up possibility for participation and engagement, in a way that physical gathering sometimes can’t.

Now, no matter where you are, or whether or not you’ve showered that day, you can join us to meet the Russian activist, member of feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, author, and protest artist Nadya Tolokonnikova!  You can see her up close, from the best seat in your house.

The conversation between Nadya and KRCL’s Lara Jones, host of RadioActive, is now happening on October 15th at 7pm.  All you have to do is register for a free ticket to get the details.  If you want an even more unique experience, and to support UtahPresents’ work to connect the changemakers of the future, our students, with artists like Nadya, donate to gain access to our first ever Virtual Book Club.  Then, grab your copy of Read and Riot and join us on October 8th for a more intimate chat with Nadya and others about the book.

Or, maybe in years past you haven’t acted quickly enough to nab a ticket to the sell out TEDxSaltLakeCity?  Now, because we’ll be together virtually, we’ll have enough spots for everyone!  Join us on September 19th from the back porch, or the kitchen island, or your favorite chair to hear “ideas worth spreading” about (Un)conventional Wisdom from local speakers and performers.

Maybe you were going to be out of town in November when UtahPresents is welcoming Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations to our community?  No matter now – you can join us for their cutting edge performance piece Between Underground and Skyworld from anywhere. Created by the next generation of indigenous superheroes, BTW US Cyberspace creates an exciting new vision for what online performance can be. Now reimagined as an interactive mini-series of dynamic episodes, the story will culminate in a live, virtual performance followed by an interactive Reflection Pool with the dancers on November 20.

If you are wondering about other shows, particularly the ones that despite best efforts, just really need that in person togetherness, check your email in box, or our website, or social media posts for updates.  We’ll be working on everything and keep you in the know as we figure it out.

We are all anxious to be together-alone in the theater with one another again, and we know that artists will keep exploring complex issues, imagining different perspectives, and inspiring awe. And UtahPresents will continue to be at the leading edge of curating and connecting you with that work.

We’ll be together, despite it all.