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Wasatch Contemporary Dance: Dancing through life

By Kari Kenner - Daily Herald - | Apr 3, 2014

Editor’s note: This story is an extended cut of the content promoted in the Daily Herald’s recent Talent Guide and is part of a performing arts series. For more information on performing arts in Utah Valley, visit heraldextra.com/talent.

It isn’t just the younger generations excelling at and in need of opportunities to develop their talents when it comes to dance. From ballroom to contemporary, tap to jazz, ballet and lyrical artists of all ages are flooding the area, and in need of opportunities for growth.

It’s that need that spurred the creation of the Wasatch Contemporary Dance, according to the company’s artistic director, Jessica Heaton.

“I always wanted to start a dance company,” Heaton said. “I didn’t think I’d do it in Utah but realized there’s real need here. There is a huge pool of dancers who tend to stick around because our husbands are still in college. We work at studios and teach kids to dance, but don’t progress ourselves. I realized there is a huge pool of dancers in the Provo/Orem area and we need to keep using our degrees and progressing artistically.”

Heaton originally began her time at Brigham Young University as a dance major, before changing her path based on a meeting she attended early on. “The person who ran the meeting said 10 percent [of dance majors] become teachers if they stay in Utah with two percent on performance companies and the rest becoming secretaries. I ended up changing majors because of that, but dance is a big part of me and I can’t imagine life without dance and choreography.”

That love for the art is precisely why Heaton took her contemporary dance minor and, in March of 2010, began Wasatch Contemporary Dance.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities for children to dance,” Heaton said. “There is the BYU children’s dance program and tons of studios that compete. The high schools have great programs but it kind of stops there. There are not a lot of venues for adults to keep progressing in the arts. People see the value for kids, but adults still need that, too, and it’s important that we teach the community to value adults, art made for and by adults … I think it’s important for adults to keep producing art and keep making great art statements.”

Wasatch Contemporary Dance now consists of 14 adult dancers and has established a deal to make its home at SMASH Dance Academy in the Riverwoods in Provo, a recreational dance studio that provides lessons for youth age 3 to 18.

Though Wasatch hosts two full-length shows a year (June and November) at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo, that certainly isn’t the extent of its outreach. The studio will also be participating in a benefit concert next month, performing as a guest with Artist Interrupted in May and taking on a variety of side shows as well, on top of the weekly adult public dance class the group is currently hosting Wednesday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the SMASH Dance Academy studio.

The class offers everything from hip hop to ballet, contemporary and modern, and though Heaton knows the group can’t appeal to every dancer in the area, she hopes it will help to further her goal of promoting the arts for adults in the area.

“Wasatch can’t appeal to every dancer in the community but we can get word out about other concerts and auditions,” she said. ” It’s a great place to promote dance. We want to help dancers find their right niche, develop their own skills and find ways to be using and performing their own skills — it’s all part or our goal to increase dance in Utah County.”

Though Wasatch is still a newer studio in the area, it has big goals for outreach and bigger goals for developing local talent in the future. Among those goals are potentially establishing a junior competition company and continuing to grow, expand and promote exercise and professional wellness. As the company’s website aptly describes, they hope to “create more dance opportunities in Provo, a city that houses one of the largest University dance programs in the nation. We desire to help Provo grow as a hub for dance and the arts, giving expression to the many adult dancers in this area that yearn to dance and choreograph.”

“Wasatch Contemporary’s dancers, choreographers and administrators all share a love for movement and are united by their passion to express through dance what matters most to them.” — wasatchcontemporary.com

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