MENU

Person 2 Person: Derryl Yeager

Derryl Yeager is the founder and artistic director of Odyssey Dance Theatre. Prior to starting a dance company here in Utah, Derryl was a dancer. He danced for Ballet West for six years before stepping onto Broadway and performing in shows such as A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, and Cats. This week Shauna Lake{ }sits down with Derryl Yeager, Person 2 Person.

SHAUNA LAKE: Has dancing just been your life...your life's blood?

DERRYL YEAGER: It has. It has. Somewhere when I was 16 years old I went into a dance class and I saw all these girls and no guys. And I thought, "Man I like these odds." And so I started taking classes and it was incredibly difficult. I was a jock when I was in high school. So I did all these sports and stuff, but something about taking bar and working as a dancer was really, really difficult and challenging, and what I liked about it was okay it's difficult not only physically but there's also an artistic challenge to it too. I got a scholarship to the San Francisco School of Ballet and then came back and got into Ballet West, and so I just started working there and that's where I met my wife Cheryl in Ballet West and we have five kids.

SHAUNA LAKE: Five children!

DERRYL YEAGER: Five kids and eight...no nine grandchildren now.

SHAUNA LAKE: I was interested when I was reading about you, that you studied with Ballet West, went to the University of Utah and then kind of went into the big time; performed on Broadway in New York and Los Angeles. Kind of tell me about that transition.

DERRYL YEAGER: Sure. I mean I actually I left...I had been at Ballet West for about six years and kind of had become a principal dancer and I'm like, "Okay, what's next?"

SHAUNA LAKE: You had risen to the top.

DERRYL YEAGER: Yeah what's next? And so I went down to BYU and taught there for a year and a half...about a year, after a year I was like, "I'm not..." because I was only about 23/24 at the time. I said, "You know I'm not really done performing yet." So I went to New York and I auditioned for Bob Fosse. I had a private audition for him. Bob said, "Well I really like you, come back to New York." But that same weekend that I was there I actually got offered a contract with A Chorus Line. So I went into Chorus Line and I went back to BYU and just kind of said, "Bye." And then from there, the same people I worked with there I did Cats. I did Dream Girls. And had a great career doing those Broadway shows and then decided it was time, I thought yeah it's time to go back. So we moved back here and I just when I got here I just saw this huge pool of talent. There was a lot of people that were very, very good dancers, but they didn't really want to move to L.A. or New York. And I thought, "You know the last thing we needed here was another company." You know but I felt that there was a great opportunity there to create something new and different that was based on my experience which was all kinds of dance, you know not just one style. And so we got a group of dancers that we got together and we kind of did the Mickey Rooney thing and said, "Let's do a show." And so we started off...well we had four performances scheduled at Kingsbury Hall. About ten days before we opened, the guy who was running Kingsbury Hall calls me and says, "You know Derryl you've sold like 50 tickets to this. Do you...maybe you should cancel." You know and I sat there and I thought well I know what we've been doing in the rehearsal studio and I know that we've got a lot of cool stuff here. So if I'm going to go down then I'm going to go down in flames. I'm just going to go ahead and do it and see what happens. And so we ended up with maybe three or four hundred people at each of the performances that year, but it's grown from that to now we have over 46 performances, two companies, sold out at every venue. I mean it's really quite remarkable to see the response it's had and I mean that's really what's kept us alive because 80-90 percent of our budget comes from ticket sales. We've been able to survive because people come to see our shows and in my view I think if you're in the entertainment business, somewhere along the way you should probably be entertaining someone. So having people show up is the biggest boon to me and to us that people really like our work and what we're doing.

SHAUNA LAKE: Where do you see the company in ten years? What's your dream for it?

DERRYL YEAGER: Oh my goodness. I mean my biggest dream is to take some of those things to Broadway. You know, I dream big. But I've done Broadway shows, and I've seen a lot of Broadway shows that are much worse than the stuff that we do and I think ever given the chance, I think we could really kick some serious butt there. I think it would be awesome.

SHAUNA LAKE: Thank you so much.

DERRYL YEAGER: You bet.

SHAUNA LAKE: So nice to get to know you better Person 2 Person.

DERRYL YEAGER: You bet.

SHAUNA LAKE: Thank you.

Written and produced by Leslie Tillotson

(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER