As Danny Kaye’s character in “White Christmas” said, chaps who did taps aren’t tapping anymore; they’re doing choreography. In fact, several chaps and chicks from Weber State University are participating in the Rocky Mountain Choreography Festival.
Raymond Van Mason, artistic director of Imagine Ballet Theater and co-founder of the RMCF, started the annual choreography festival, now it its fourth year, as a way to showcase a section of dance that is incredibly important, but often over looked.
Van Mason explained that choreography competitions and dance competitions differ greatly. In dance competitions, it’s about showing how many tricks a dancer can put into a piece whereas a choreography competition is about showcasing purposeful and thoughtfully chosen moves and telling an emotional story through dance.
Van Mason said while there are many competitions and venues that exhibit excellent dancing, there aren’t many opportunities for choreographers to do the same.
“I think too many people aren’t exposed to it,” Van Mason said. “I think people hear ‘choreography festival,’ and they say ‘oh dear, I’m not going to understand that.’”
Lack of experience or understanding isn’t a reason to shy away from the festival, according to Van Mason. He said it’s better to come and experience something new, rather than stay home out of fear of ignorance.
“In my opinion, there is no wrong interpretation of a dance,” Van Mason said. “You may not get anything that the choreographer was thinking, and it might strike you entirely different, but it’s valid because it’s your interpretation.”
Sara Pickett, adjunct professor of dance at WSU, wrote in an email that she thinks the RMCF offers students a great way to experience what it’s really like to be a professional performer while still attending WSU. She also noted this type of experience where students get feedback from both judges and audience members is crucial to students developing their craft as dancers.
“The department of performing arts at WSU is turning out exemplary artists who continue to create work long after their time at the university, and the RMCF is one of those stepping towards the end,” Pickett wrote.
Rodolfo Rafael, WSU senior in dance performance and choreography, has participated as a dancer or a choreographer in RMCF since it began back in 2012. This year, he will be participating with the piece he choreographed called “This and That.”
Rafael said he is grateful for the opportunity to broaden his skills and prepare more for what it will really be like as a professional dancer. While it is a more difficult kind of competition to judge, Rafael said he’s excited to have an opportunity to use the skills he’s learning in the classroom.
“It’s a little bit harder to judge choreography because there’s so much that goes into it whereas opposed to that, when you’re dancing, it becomes about your techniques and what you can do,” Rafael said. “When you judge choreography, there’s a lot more room to interpret what each choreographer is trying to portray.”
Madison Jones, senior in dance performance and choreography, who is also participating in RMCF, said she’s also excited to be participating in the competition. She will be participating as a choreographer with her piece “Path of Purpose.” For Jones, the best part of participating in competitions is being able to share her work and the joy that dancing brings to her with others.
Jones also noted that events like this one can help a community come together and show support in a way that isn’t always easy to do.
“Especially in our day-to-day lives, that sense of community is getting lost, so I think it’s important for people to broaden what they view,” Jones said. “As a person, I think it helps us learn different things and open up, and being open to things is so important.”
Van Mason encouraged students and community members alike to come to the RMCF, which will be held Feb. 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Peery’s Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden. Choreographers from Ogden to Albuquerque will be featured in the competition. Tickets are available online or over the phone.