Odyssey Dance Theatre performed its Shut Up and Dance season finale and it was a wonderful way to end the 2018/19 season. The finale debuted three dance performances on from Feb. 27 thru March 9, 2019. I was fortunate to go to all the three performances on the last week of the season finale.

First Night

The first evening was a look back on the 25 years that ODT has been performing. Derryl Yeager Founder and Artistic Director started the evening by reading some thoughts that he had put together on the past 25 years and what this company has meant to him. You can tell that this has been his project of love—creating a space where talented dancers who want to stay in Utah can show their skills and abilities.

The evening proceeded with a performance stunning performance of “Traditional Illuminations” choreographed by Mia Michaels of So You Think You Can Dance. Laura Brick-Kempski was a standout as the lead for this number. She was grounded, strong and you could feel the emotion. The second number of the night was the first number that Derryl Yeager ever choreographed for ODT set to Kurt Bestor’s “Prayer of the Children.” I personally have always loved this song and the dance number was beautifully paired with the music. The evening continued with four more dance pieces:

“Between Disconnect” choreographed by Christian Denice a former ODT dancer who has gone on to do some amazing work around the country. He was in the audience that evening. This number had very cool technical music with precise, intricate and often angular movements.

“SoundTrax” by Eldon Johnson who has choreographed a number of pieces over the years for ODT. It featured wonderful music that makes you feel like you are watching a movie; along with incredible transitions and use of space.

“Meraki” was an all-male number that has never been performed here in Salt Lake City. The men of ODT perform with strength, power and agility, (along with some pretty amazing gymnastic moves).

“Rain” was the last number for this part of the evening. A jazz number that ends up with the ODT dancers, dancing in actual water coming from spouts in the ceiling. Kingsbury Hall smelt like it had rained after the number was done.  A very effective, cool and original dance number to end this half of the evening.

The second half of the evening was all about disco with “Dance Fever,” choreographed by Darryl Yeager, Allison Thornton and Jessica Holker. Holker was in the audience and the performance was dedicated to her sister, Allison who has appeared on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with The Stars. For me this was the highlight of the evening, it took me back to the days of Saturday Night Fever and disco nights. (I met my husband while dancing at the disco.) The costumes were perfect renditions of the style of era. Standing out were Brandon Glass, Bailey Evan, and Madee Kunz who proved they could get down and boogie. Brandon danced in 6-inch heels!

The “Fifth of Beethoven” number (disco-style) featured some ballet moves and unfortunately one of the couples struggled with the lifts. With only six dancers on the stage it is pretty apparent when someone doesn’t execute the moves. But then came “Boogie Shoes” a remarkable tap number by Ryan Moguel and Samantha Jo Ruotsi. 

At the end of the evening Darryl Yeager asked all the former dancers from ODT come to the stage and dance with the company. Many of the dancers remembered the number and those who didn’t helped encourage all those dancing.

Second Night

The second evening a performance of Romeo + Juliet conceived and directed by Darryl Yeager. Costumes by Cheryl Yeager and choreographed by Eldon Johnson, Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello (of So You Think You Can Dance fame.) Alan Salazar, Thayne Jasperson (one of the original cast members of Hamilton), Veronica Cabling, Gev Monaoukian, and Natalie Reid. The performance sets Romeo and Juliet in modern times with the Montagues (Montes) and Capulets (Caputans) as rival gangs.

Romeo, danced by Casey Peterson, and Juliet, danced by Darby Jones, with Mercutio danced by Diego Ballesteros and Benvolio danced by Sage Swenson. The stand outs for me were the “Pas de Deux” of Romeo and Juliet performed with such innocence and feelings of young love. The scene when Romeo thinks that his Juliet is dead and he dances with her “lifeless” body was danced with such sorrow and heartache. This is technically difficult piece to maneuver and he pulled it off. The most moving part of the whole evening was when Mercutio and Benvolio are killed in the gang fight. The heartbreaking movements brought me to tears. And in a surprise ending, the audience gets to decide if Romeo and his Juliet get to live or die.

I voted for them to live but the audience gave them a thumbs down. This story has always tugged at me heart and I often wonder as many years ago that this was written and we really haven’t grown or changed that much as societies have we? Sad. All in all it was a very powerful performance.

Third night

The third evening of the season finale was Chicago Nights. This performance was set in the 1920s during Al Capone’s reign of Chicago. Conceived and Directed by Derryl Yeager, choreographed by Veronica Cabling and costumes by Cheryl Yeager. Great music throughout this performance and a good variety of dance styles, including tap, hip-hop, contemporary and jazz. Roxie Hart was danced by Amber Morain and she danced the part very well. She was believable as a dumb but not-so-dumb blonde. Velma was danced by Amanda Kier, Al Capone danced by Casey Johnson, Matilda Carse danced by Laura Brick-Kempski and Amos by Sage Swenson. Some of the stand outs for me were the Charleston and flapper number, the tap number in the Speakeasy and Mr. Cellophane which was a great hip-hop number with a lot of isolated movement. It was an evening that was full of gangsters, Christian temperance union, drunkards and murderesses.

Bottom line: I wish that the community was more supportive of this great company. I was surprised by the sparse audience. C’mon tickets are reasonable and they really do a good job. Shut up and get tickets to keep this company going for another 25 plus years!

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