Wasatch Contemporary lets graduates dance again

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Jessie McCloskey, assistant to the director of Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company, shows off her dance moves. McCloskey said Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company fits her lifestyle. (Luke Isley)

Jessie Heaton thought her days of performance dance were over when she graduated from BYU. But while her husband was finishing his degree she decided to fill the void by starting Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company.

“It was depressing, thinking about life without dance,” Heaton said. “I wanted to make something that would give myself and other dancers in Utah County a chance to continue dancing.”

Heaton started Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company in Provo in 2010, which gives graduates from schools in Utah County, like BYU and UVU, a chance to keep dancing.

Next month, Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company will  re-stage “Articulate,” a 3-D, multimedia show addressing how communication has evolved through technology, according to Robison. They initially performed the show in 2014.

It wasn’t easy to keep the company open at first because the company often struggled financially, according to Heaton.

“We know we live in a very frugal place in Utah County, so we work hard to keep our tickets very affordable,” Heaton said.

Heaton said the company has grown through fundraisers, dance classes at schools and grants from the government as the company became a nonprofit.

Heaton said a unique challenge of running a dance company in Utah County is balancing family time and dance time.

“We don’t want to force the dancers away from their families, but we know how important it is for them to keep dancing,” Heaton said.

Heaton has a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. She said it was hard to balance dance and family life at first but it got easier. Heaton brings her kids to the studio to expose them to art.

Assistant to the director Jessie McCloskey, a dance graduate from BYU, thinks being a part of the company has helped her in her family life.

“If anything, (Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company) has helped me be a better wife and mother,” McCloskey said. “It is my outlet, my me time. And I am a better, more balanced person because of it.”

Rachel Robison, associate director of Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company and BYU dance graduate, didn’t know Heaton as a student but shares a similar story with her. She danced for about 13 years but stopped for a year after college. She missed dancing and decided to try out for Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company.

“I remember my audition was very informal. I just came to one of their little technique classes, and I got accepted as a company member right away,” Robison said.

Though dancing is her passion, Robison has to find a healthy balance between dance and family. Robison praised Heaton and said one of the biggest challenges was staying as motivated as her in running the nonprofit company.

“It’s like being part of a small business. (It takes) lots of time and energy,” Robison said.

“We received such wonderful feedback about this show,” said Robison. “We really wanted to bring it back to life, give more people the opportunity to be a part of it and for ourselves to really smooth out some of the edges, choreography and technical components.”

McCloskey said she looks forward to all the changes for this performance. In her opinion, they were only able to scratch the surface with their ideas from the last show.

Heaton said the company will encourage the audience to record the performance and post it on social media.

“We want them to feel like they are part of the experience,” Heaton said. “Their involvement in the show is the goal.”

Robison said she was a member of the dance company for its first full concert and is amazed by how far it has come. Just as the company has changed, the directors have tried to change “Articulate.”

“The world changes too fast, and we don’t want the show to feel static,” Robison said.

Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company is performing “Articulate” in the Provo Library Ballroom on Nov. 15 and 16. Tickets will be available their website in mid-October.