The Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT), led by Linda Smith, who has been with the Salt Lake City-based group for the past 44 years, first as a dancer and now as a choreographer and manager, thrilled an enthusiastic audience of 250+ at the Kanab High School auditorium last Wednesday night.

The dance troupe of five female and four male dancers, with Smith cleverly introducing each piece in the group’s repertoire, performed a variety of dance themes accompanied by appropriately selected music for each routine. Wearing simple, colorful costumes and using singular props from white plastic sacks to blue rubber balls, the show was minimalist in nature focusing one’s attention on the gyrations, acrobatics and dance skills of the performers. Their enthusiasm, prowess and stamina were captivating and the audience was engrossed during the entire hour and a quarter program.

The title of the show was “Joyride,” which it certainly was. Smith descriptively outlined each dance using successive letters of the alphabet and a word starting with that letter to introduce the dance routine. The letter “k” for kinetic, meaning movement, led to an energetic, almost gymnastic dance. 

On this and other introductions, Smith made it clear one of the missions of RDT, since it’s inception in 1966, has been the promotion of physical fitness.

Giving speeches and dance demonstrations in southern Utah towns from Manti to St. George on this trip, including Piute High School in Junction, the group encouraged people of all ages, especially students, to get moving under their own power. 

With the number of overweight or obese children at one-third of all grade-schoolers in the country, getting kids into physical activities for at least an hour per day is paramount in helping them avoid debilitating diseases associated with excess weight as they get older. All of the dancers were obviously in excellent physical condition, but the concept they personify is that everyone capable of movement is able to improve their physical state, keep unwanted weight at bay and improve their stamina, energy and well being.

Chara, a mid-30 something, first-time mother of a two and a half year old, has been dancing with RDT for the past 15 years. She stated, “I danced all during my pregnancy and I felt great. I stopped performing on stage at seven and a half months, but just prior to that I danced a highly charged 20-minute piece that I came out of surprisingly wanting more. I’ve never felt better or had more energy and I had no problems with the pregnancy.”

When I asked her if it was much harder for her physically to dance in her mid-30’s than it was in her 20’s, she replied saying, “It’s more fatiguing, but I’ve avoided the injuries I sustained in my 20’s because I’ve learned how to take better care of my body and experience teaches you how to protect yourself. I have no plans to stop dancing anytime soon. Linda was dancing well into her 40’s.”

Asked if she thought all young children had an innate enjoyment of kinetic activities that could lead them into and sustain them in the field of dance she responded, “Yes, definitely. I see it in my daughter every day and other children in our visits to schools. Unfortunately, most often it doesn’t get nurtured for whatever reason and is lost before it can ever be developed.”

Rosy was an exception to that typical scenario. Now in her early 20’s, she began dancing at the age of three and never stopped. Concentrating on ballet during her college years, she graduated and shortly thereafter, the tall brunette signed on with RDT. “It’s a regular job, 9 to 5 every day, either conditioning, practicing dance or performing, but what a fun job to have,” she said with a smile.

Earlier in the day, the troupe spent time talking with elementary school children in Kanab and Big Water and spoke with and danced for middle and high schoolers in Kanab. Many of those students brought their parents to the family oriented show that evening.

The RDT involved the audience quickly and often by engaging us in rhythmic clapping, getting us into a funny pose and at one point having everyone dancing in the aisles. Both children and adults laughed out loud during the routine involving the super-powered white plastic sacks.

Each of the nine dancers found themselves in the control of the inflated sacks they possessed. Gyrating back and forth and up and down while seemingly possessed by the energy of the sacks, the movements were hilarious. As with all of their dances, the performers were flawless in their execution and a delight to watch.

A currently popular song line asks; “Are we humans or are we dancers?” Well, Linda Smith and her talented troupe believe we are all “human dancers,” and dancing brings people together in a special joy ride that we would do well to go on more often.

RDT’s appearance in Kanab was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Utah Arts Council. It was sponsored locally by the Center for Education, Business and the Arts (CEBA), with Kelly Stowall and Linda Alderman receiving praise from Smith for their efforts to bring the show to Kanab. Mayor-elect Nina Laycook deserves a special thanks for her zeal with Kanab’s Variety Arts Council and hosting a post performance reception.