Repertory Dance Theatre’s LINK series presented Brine for the second time at the Leona Wagner Blackbox. Brine was created by Symmer Andrews, Ashley Creek and Sara Pickett, who each presented work alongside guest choreographers Aimee Winn Swenson, Destiny S. Olsen and Natalie Desch.
The show began with Pickett’s Son Tutta duet, a cheeky piece featuring Red and Yellow, two wind dancers (also known as those inflatable-things that are outside of stores to attract your attention). Their dance is a light-hearted way to begin, and while Red and Yellow have some obvious artistic and physical limitations, it is curious how musical their inflating and deflating bodies can be.
In an abrupt thematic transition, That Time choreographed by Swenson was a group piece dealing with grief and companionship. The opening and closing monologues were heavy-handed (Swenson’s solo moving body would have been enough) but, among the supportive audiences of peers and friends, I am left wondering if I have permission to offer structural ideas about a work that is about something extremely personal to the choreographer, the death of her parents. Some of the music choices (Johnny Cash and Jim Croce) were unexpected and refreshing, each imbuing the piece with the intended nostalgia.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Olsen’s provocative trio, featured three women in nude leotards, contorting and wilting with chains around their necks while a video of someone slicing raw meat played on the cyc. Enough said? If not, it should be noted that Ching-I Chang Bigelow, the central dancer in the trio, is a stand-out performer who elevates every project she is in. She somehow finds a quiet power and resistance while chained and smearing red lipstick frantically around her mouth. Olsen initially gives us unsettling images to reconcile, but the piece concludes with the dancers in solidarity, traversing the floor, posing, as if staging selfie after selfie. There is meat to this work, and if desired, it could continue to be fleshed out (puns intended).
Strange Dream by Natalie Desch is the most distilled work of the evening, and is a re-staging of a work she initially created for Hillcrest High School. Colorful costuming, stylized dancing, and the raspy voice of Tom Waits distinguishes this work, and the trio of women fully commit to the quirky and off-center movements. The piece ends with the dancers trying to create structure and stability, but instead repeatedly crumbling into a drunken heap on the floor. This created world is colorful and fun, but like everything, is vulnerable to collapse.
The final piece, In the collective quiet by Pickett, is another re-staged work, this time one that was made for UVU’s dance company. While the large group number is well-danced and a large cast is always lovely to see, the re-staging of dances created in academic contexts defines the crossroads of this burgeoning collective. Brine straddles a line between art making and community engagement, and is very successful with the latter as they gather community both to perform and to witness; there were upwards of forty artists involved in the show as well as robust turnouts for weeknight concerts. As this collective moves forward it will be interesting to see if original works specific to the collective be presented with artists who are, for the moment, dipping their toes back into the field, could instead, fully submerge.
Erica Womack is a Salt Lake based choreographer and adjunct faculty member at SLCC. Her recent work was a collaboration with The Weekenders at the State Room.