Allison To, a twelve-year-old piano prodigy and winner of the 2012 Bachauer Junior International Piano Competition. Photo: Dana Sohm / sohmphoto.com
If an event called “The Rose Exposed Variety Show” conjures images of burlesque dancers artfully hiding their naughty bits behind oversized fans made from fluffy pink feathers, you’re not alone (indeed, that’s why I accepted this assignment in the first place). However, you would be incorrect. The Rose Exposed is a kickoff party of sorts, designed to celebrate the upcoming seasons of six very local and very talented groups of performing artists: The Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, Pygmalion Theatre Company, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Repertory Dance Theatre, Plan-B Theatre Company and SB Dance. Performers from each of these organizations were on hand to present new material that attendees can look forward to during their fall season. With performances ranging from modern dance to miniature piano concertos, The Rose Exposed offered a little something for everyone.
The Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation prides itself on cultivating young talent. This evening, Allison To, a twelve-year-old piano prodigy and winner of the 2012 Bachauer Junior International Piano Competition, treated us to a performance. As she took the stage, it was easy to be fooled by her demure appearance and slightly bashful stage presence. As soon as she launched into her rendition of Liszt’s “Faust Waltz,” however, the audience quickly realized that they were in the presence of a rock star. To’s performance was an impressive mixture of passion and precision, and it made me slightly ashamed of my claim to fame when I was twelve, which was (and still is, as a matter of fact) my ability to fit a quarter into each of my nostrils.
For over 15 years, Pygmalion Theatre Company has celebrated women’s voices in theatre. This evening, Pygmalion featured snippets from When Pygs Fly and Motherhood Out Loud. When Pygs Fly is an open mic which gives would-be performers the opportunity to perform those pesky showtunes that they’d never be realistically considered for. Pygmalion alums Tamara Howell and Elise Groves lent their formidable voices to Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man”—Howell would indeed be an interesting choice for Tevyeh—and Beauty and the Beast’s “If I Can’t Love Her.” I thought the song choices were excellent—when women take on songs that were originally written by or for men, they’re able to create something entirely new. Sandwiched between Howell’s and Groves’ musical numbers, Barb Gandy and Betsy West performed a scene from Motherhood Out Loud. Their performance captured the bittersweet realization that all mothers of sons must eventually make—someday, their son will get married and leave the nest forever.
This coming Spring, Plan-B will be taking their youth-centric play Different=Amazing on the road to visit different elementary schools in Salt Lake and Davis counties. Based on what we saw tonight, I think those lucky kids are in for quite a memorable show. The monologue chronicled the unlikely victory that one young child with a penchant for pink sweatshirts gains over a schoolyard menace. It’s a painful story about bullying, but playwright/actor Matthew Ivan Bennett and fellow actress Stephanie Howell managed to ground the scene with a healthy portion of nerdy childhood humor.
The final half of the show was dedicated to showcasing three of Utah’s most prominent dance companies: Ririe-Woodbury, SB Dance and Repertory Dance Theatre. Their performances demonstrated the wide arc of the dance spectrum here in the Beehive State. Daniel Charon, Ririe-Woodbury’s new artistic director, showcased a sneak peek of his contemporary dance performance that will be completely revealed later in the dance company’s season. As the performance evolved, the lines between dance and static art were seriously blurred—but that was a good thing. When it becomes difficult to separate a dancer from the art form, a fascinating imagery presents itself. The ephemeral depictions of loss and recognition that played out on stage were emotionally eloquent, but throughout the performance, I also caught glimpses of a very dark and primal world that exists on the fringes of these powerful themes.
SB Dance presented a performance that was also dark and moody, but they threw in a generous helping of headcheese from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for good measure. Their piece was taken from their upcoming Halloween thriller Of Meat and Marrow, which promises to shove dance and contortionism into a rock opera and suture it together. This evening, we saw dancers clad in bloodstained burlap bags and tattered bridesmaids dresses put on a performance that reached a cadaverous and visceral climax in which I couldn’t tell if someone was murdered or brought back from the dead. I’m secretly hoping that jets of fake blood will figure into their full performance, but we’ll just have to find out this October.
In sharp contrast to the previous performances, Repertory Dance Theatre ended the evening with something more lighthearted and classical. The dancers from RDT treated us to a piece called “For Betty,” a springy and graceful performance to the music of Antonio Vivaldi. The performers finished out the evening with an elegant and disciplined number that demonstrated how beautiful a body in motion could be. “For Betty” will be featured in Legacy, which RDT will be performing this October.
Based on the bite-sized performances that were delivered this evening, it’s a safe bet that something cool will be consistently taking place at the Rose Wagner from now until winter. For those wanting the full experience, check out the ticket six-pack offer, which lets you choose one performance from each company during their fall seasons.