In BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre, Department of Dance

Love has many faces. It is often what we long for, hurt from, and live for. Love, in its various forms, is sometimes all we need. With the help of innovative choreographers, multimedia, and a little bit of rain to set the mood, Contemporary Dance Theatre will explore the age-old language of love in its new show, The Thing About Love.

In an effort to show the joys and heartbreaks of life that come from experiencing a first love, motherly love, mature love, and God’s love, Contemporary Dance Theatre worked with professional, pioneering choreographers and educators. According to Michelle Nielsen, the new artistic director, “these choreographers are excited about what we are doing here at BYU.” She explained that the BYU dance company has a new approach: “We want to make something really different, really magical. Our name is Contemporary Dance Theatre, and we are using the aspect of theatre like we never have before. This year we are showcasing what that can mean.”

Two choreographers from Diavolo Dance Theater came to instruct BYU contemporary dancers in technically and athletically rigorous sequences. Known as a front-runner in innovation, Diavolo is a contemporary dance company that has toured Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. They use unconventional sets and staggering athleticism to explore day-to-day life.

Other choreographers who visited BYU include Donald McKayle and Joni Tuttle. McKayle is an African-American choreographer known for his socially conscious works. He joined with Contemporary Dance Theatre to produce “Songs of the Disinherited,” a dance that expresses the struggles and experiences of the African-American community during slavery. Tuttle is a Utah native who competed in the TV show A Chance to Dance and toured with the live show of So You Think You Can Dance. She returned to Utah to choreograph the title number ofThe Thing About Love, for Contemporary Dance Theatre.

One unique number in the show is an animated short titled “Thought of You”—Ryan Woodward’s YouTube sensation that has garnered more than 3 million views. Woodward made a name for himself in the film industry working as a storyboard/animatic artist for films like The Avengers and Ironman 2. But on a plane ride home from California, Woodward felt a desire to express the emotions he felt being away from his family.

“Certain thoughts root us in a world that just spins—like thoughts of our loved ones,” Woodward said in a documentary about the film. “[They] bring us back to a solid base so we’re not spinning with that world.”

With that idea in mind, Woodward approached Kori Wakamatsu of BYU’s Department of Dance, who worked with four dancers to choreograph a series of movements. Woodward then animated each movement, and the result was a beautiful three-minute film of love and longing set to the song “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies.

“Thought of You” and “The Making of Thought of You” can be viewed on Woodward’s animation website, conteanimated.com.

Presenting a new show is exciting, but it requires intense dedication from the dancers. After investing so much time and energy, the company hopes the production will touch those who see it and allow them to reflect on the many forms of love in their lives.

“There are 100 different messages in the show,” Nielsen said. “Whether it is how the dancers interact with each other or if there is a piece that touches their heart, I hope audience members come and have a personal experience—that the show makes them see love and see life differently.”

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