Odyssey Dance Theatre Presents The Premiere Of “MJ” In Annual Dance Series

Sources: The Salt Lake City Tribune | Odyssey Dance Theatre


Odyssey Dance Theatre finds artistic inspiration in two very different places — stylizing classic stories and synthesizing pop music into two spectacular dance montages entitled, “Prodigals” and “MJ.”

Artistic director Derryl Yeager commissioned rising-star Garrett Smith to wrestle the parable of the prodigal son to the stage. For the second half of the program, he asked Emmy Award winner Bonnie Story to put her spin on a 50 minute celebration of pop icon Michael Jackson. Both musical premieres are part of Odyssey’s annual spring “Shut Up & Dance” series.

MJ is a collection and celebration of the music of Michael Jackson, staged with the unique styles and concepts that are Odyssey Dance Theatre.

Story’s reputation is in film, video and large-scale, live productions. Her recent and up-coming jobs include a haute couture Redken show in Barcelona, the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 and Alex Boye’s Christmas show.

Yeager asked Story to choreograph the three most significant sections in “MJ” because of her long-time professional relationship with Jackson. In addition to other shows, she danced in Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” the music video that won multiple awards in 1989.

When Story reflects on Jackson’s character, it is not conjecture and when she choreographs to his music, it is not imitative. Story asked Vincent Paterson for permission to use his iconic moves from “Smooth Criminal,” and Michael Peters to use his material from the celebrated “Beat It.” She edited them into one piece, honoring the two revered choreographers, who she says, “forever changed the youth culture and the dance and music industry.”

In addition, Story has created choreography to the up-tempo song, “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and the socially conscious ballad, “Earth Song.” For the TWYMMF, she crafted a piece in the style of dance legend Fred Astaire because “Michael studied and admired Astaire and other innovators like Gene Kelly.” She took on “Earth Song” using 26 dancers, because it “was very special to Michael.”

MJ’s music had a unique and powerful impact that equaled his talent and presence, the likes of which the world will probably never see again!


“Prodigals” brings a modern-day perspective to the Biblical parable (Luke 15:11-32) — you don’t have to continue to suffer to be forgiven. With the help of a friend, the main character, down on his luck, finds his way home. “Unlike many romantic-era classical ballets, this story is something that can happen in life, and is very relatable,” Smith said. “The story of making life decisions that bring difficult challenges is real and hopefully you meet someone along the way that helps you through.”

The Prodigals / MJ

March 11, 2016 @ 7:30pm
March 14, 2016 @ 7:30pm
March 17, 2016 @ 7:30pm
March 19, 2016 @ 7:30pm

Where: Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle on the University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City

Tickets$20-$40; tickets.utah.edu, more information at odysseydance.com

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