Repertory Dance Theatre’s Current included five dances presented one after the other, after the other, and yet… after another. Because they were all made recently, they are a reflection of “right now”; they are current.
To begin, the silhouettes of Justin Bass and Tyler Orcutt spoke their way across the stage, beginning “Still Life With Flight,” by former RDT member Sarah Donohue. The faces of the dancers were illuminated once they landed their popping (not locking) bodies on a bench. They shifted ever-so-slightly with harmonized pulses of their torsos that incidentally executed the larger movement of wringing hands, crossing legs and shrugging, casting quick glances at each other before interlocking to perform cartwheels over the bench. Through a series of turns en dehors with their legs in arabesque (legs held behind, turning counterclockwise) the two moved around the bench, holding each other often and expertly.
Cut to Ursula Perry dancing to herself in a mirror with a scrim hanging downstage, creating a hazy, sepia effect. “Aloneness,” choreographed by Francisco Gella, contained a lot of unison phrases considering its subject of solitude. Or, not solitude — loneliness. The choice of being alone. I sometimes got lost on the bridge connecting etymology to physicality: Were the movements representing different definitions of aloneness? Were they enacting solitude? They wore black so they must have been mourning the loss of community. Nothing was certain save for the calm and careful movement of Perry, who pierces space with her gaze. Even her fingertips and shins saw what they were moving toward.
“Flood” began with the company in line, facing the audience, shifting together on the pads of their feet, creating a “tiny dance” of utmost specificity. (Choreographer Nichele Van Portfleet is always specific.) The dancers wove in and out of this line throughout the piece, pushing and displacing one another from the line, and carefully buttoning up their shirts in a mime-like fashion, ending with a gesture to form a suffocating collar made of flesh and bone (their own hand). This sequence communicated internal flooding — perhaps a flood of information, perhaps something else entirely. I was reminded of “The Green Table,” choreographed by Kurt Jooss, depicting pre-World War II “peace” negotiations and their ultimate futility. In both pieces, the dancers embody caricatures of those in power, whether world leaders or parts of themselves. The performers in “Flood” were not at peace with themselves nor with one another. They often were on the edge of physical stability, twisting themselves with movement overlapping and interweaving dynamically, likewise putting me on the edge of the seat beneath me.
Next on the program was a bonus duet by Gella, aptly called “Schubert Impromptu,” as if one of many Schubert compositions was picked out of a hat to entertain us after “Aloneness” and “Flood.” Justin Bass and Jaclyn Brown appeared to have been directed to move in sync with the music, and it was very satisfying, if predictable. At one point, Brown slows down a cartwheel on her forearms over Bass, leaving me impressed with her ability to resist gravity. The two wore black, like the costumes in Gella’s previous piece. Some of the movements were similar, but, in “Schubert Impromptu,” there were no mirrors reflecting long beams of light into the audience, slicing through the space between stage and seats. “Schubert” seemed purposefully intimate — the dancers’ light did not come to us, but we could go to it for a diversion or a shelter from darker subject matter.
“Material Tokens of the Freedom of Thought,” choreographed by Angela Banchero-Kelleher to the music of Wojciech Kilar in honor of her mother, ended the evening. Many of the movement phrases in the piece were punctuated by the dancers pausing at length to look out into the audience, arms placed at their sides, forming a slight oval around them. They stood this way, waiting for their turn to move again, and in these moments I saw their eyes searching, perhaps to find the meaning of “mother” in the midst of the fan-like movement surrounding them.
Current flowed — or careened — like a recital. One can only do so much to connect a playful duet to a reconciliation with one’s deceased mother to a sociopolitical abstraction to an exploration of being “alone together,” without any transition other than closing and opening a curtain. However, the members of RDT moved through the evening with grace and deep breaths. They exhibited a cohesion that prompted the friend accompanying me to wonder if some of the choreography throughout all five pieces was extremely similar, if not the same. Each moment of contact carried with it a familiarity stemming from continued physical practice as a company. The dancers are fully integrated, if not the dances they are dancing.
“Current” was performed April 12-14 at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org
Emma Wilson is a recent graduate of the University of Utah with a BFA in Modern dance and a minor in Environmental Studies as well as in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. She has written for loveDANCEMORE along with 15Bytes and creates socially and environmentally engaged dance-theater work.