Photo by Adam Finkle
When it comes to do it yourself, most of us think of repainting the bathroom or, if we’re really creative, decoupaging wine labels on a wastebasket. So it’s disorienting to hear a ballet company and a musical group that dabbles in European cabaret music being casually described as “DIY.”
“Our company is a lot like the handmade crafts at the Craft Lake City Festival—things that don’t need to be made by hand anymore but are, by artisans who do something contemporary with the craft,” says Sarah Longoria, founder of Municipal Ballet Co. “I wanted a ballet company to happen—and it happened.”
After getting a masters in ballet at the University of Utah earlier this year, Longoria decided to DIY—there’s no better way to describe it—a 12-member group of dancers and choreographers with the goal of making ballet a “public utility” (hence the pun in Municipal Ballet Co.) Rather than preserve classical ballet forms, MBC works to give ballet a contemporary feel. “We hope that if people are exposed to ballet and good music they will love it,” she says.
After MBC’s application was accepted by the Craft Lake City Fest (“I was afraid ballet wasn’t cool enough for the diverse crowd at the festival,” she says), Longoria met fellow exhibiter Beaux Ellis Underwood, whose band St. Bohème specializes in European cabaret music, including the songs of Edith Piaf and the impossibly romantic compositions of Yann Tiersen (most famous for the music of the film Amélie).
The one thing her performances had lacked, Longoria says, was live music. She found St. Bohème’s music “very conceptual, like my dances.”
Underwood embraces the DIY label: “I consider myself first and foremost an artist, not a businessman. But every artist, at some point, is a business person.”
Though St. Bohème and Municipal Dance Co. never performed together at Craft Lake City, they later collaborated in a ballet Son et Lumière last February at the historic Ladies Literary Club Building on South Temple. Longoria found the prairie style-architecture building perfect for the ballet, but couldn’t afford to rent it. Again, the DIY spirit kicked in. She offered the Utah Heritage Foundation a 50 percent split of the performance’s take for their restoration fund and a successful two-night run ensued.
“Do it yourself isn’t just about home-improvement shows,” says Craft Lake City founder Angela Brown. “It’s about being an entrepreneur. And that describes an artist who is creating art works or collaborating with another group. These are essentially micro businesses.”
“Sarah and Beaux are really pioneering,” Brown says. “They’re taking ballet out of the grand hall and making it accessible to the people by saying, ‘Let’s open ballet to a new audience and show them how beautiful it is and prove it isn’t as pretentious as it may have seemed.’”
Municipal Ballet Co. and St. Bohème will do street performances, excerpted from Son et Lumière, during the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll, July 18 and Aug. 15. You can also see them at the Craft Lake City DIY Festival, Aug. 8–9.