Repertory Dance Theatre’s Emerge was an opportunity for each of its company members to choreograph a short piece performed by local dancers. This review reads like the show itself: eight disparate dance works, reflected upon individually. Although the choreographers might share conceptual interests and influences, having performed with each other extensively, their works were not directly in dialogue with one another.
You Can Sit With Us, choreographed by Justin Bass:
The dancers began scattered on the floor amidst overturned metal chairs and tables. This careful dishevelment ended immediately when the dancers started moving, tidying up. They rose doing lovely tilts with their legs while beaming at the audience and putting the outdoor furniture in well-balanced arrangements. Occasionally the dancers would arrange themselves downstage and gaze at the audience invitingly. I wondered what warranted their relentless expressions of joy mixed with occasional ambivalence and why we were invited to sit with them.
One Step Forward, 500 Miles Back, choreographed and performed by Efrén Corado García:
The lights illuminated García in a striking position - his back to the audience, dark tresses shifting with his rippling arm movements. The piece was parsed into images triggered by the lights going off and then on again, similar to David Parson’s Caught. García, however, was not “caught” in midair, but grounded. He seemed to transform into a new entity for each snapshot, his still-visible silhouette running to a new location onstage and then settling into position in quasi-darkness (due to the blaring lights from the sound booth). Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel gently pushed the dance forward; each repetition of layered melodies created a common thread between dynamically distinct movement images.
Miasma, choreographed by Jaclyn Brown:
The first third of this piece was a loose-limbed solo danced by Alicia Trump, whose hands occasionally cupped Martha Graham-style, but without the usual rigid arms and contracted torso - a compelling anachronism. This was followed by another solo danced by Marty Buhler, whose likewise loose limbs traversed the opposite diagonal. In the third section the two abruptly came into contact with familiar combative duet material. It was more interesting to witness the two when they were physically separate but moving in relation to each other, connected by common movement vocabulary and compositional elements rather than the obvious physical connection that is expected of a duet between a male and female. The piece started so strikingly with isolated solos, but deferred to duet material without precedence from within the piece to do so.
Figure it out, choreographed by Tyler Orcutt:
This piece consisted of a foundational walking pattern executed by Natalie Border, Tiana Lovett, and Gaby Zabka. Their knees were bent while walking, keeping them in a middle range between standing and fully descended, which they remained within even when they deviated from the walking pattern. Sometimes one dancer would fall in a sustained manner into the arms of the other two, or all of them would do their own phrase. But they consistently settled back into the original pattern that seemed to demand a lot of focus, both from the dancers to stay in sync and from the audience to “figure it out”.
Folie a Deux , choreographed by Nicholas Cendese:
Company members Ursula Perry and Daniel Higgins performed this duet exploring the “madness of two”. Their shared psychosis was manifested in a tense physicality and dim lights. Higgins repeatedly lifted Perry’s arm from the wrist, then tried to encircle her with both arms, only to encircle air as she ducked out of the way. Perry usually manipulated Higgins indirectly while repeating her own phrase that would happen to nudge him out of the way or allow her to slither out of his more direct grasp. Folie a Deux seemed to be an unabashed acknowledgement of the futility of repeating the same action without resolution.
Ipseity, choreographed by Daniel Higgins:
The music of Turkish composer and DJ Mercan Dede created a driving sound texture to which seven white, female dancers moved confidently while wearing identical tan, long-sleeved mini-dresses with slits on the sides. A loose narrative developed, punctuated by a scene in which all of the dancers stood around Elle Johansen who was lying supine. Natalie Border placed her hand on Johansen’s torso and then moved downstage. The two performed mirrored movement upstage and downstage while the other dancers sat in the middle creating a barrier. The piece ended with a powerfully tender solo performed by Border downstage while the rest of the dancers were shrouded in darkness upstage.
after/ever, choreographed by Lauren Curley:
For after/ever, Curley mixed and matched . Dancer Micah Burkhardt wore a skirt that matched the shirt of partner Megan O’Brien. Composer Eli Wrankle performed the violin live onstage, but was accompanied by a recording of himself that served as the rhythm to the melody that he performed. Both pairs - skirt and shirt, melody and rhythm - were separated by space and composition. The implied interdependency of these pairings was subverted by the fact that each component was operated by either another person or a rigid recording. Sometimes Burkhardt would lift O’Brien onto his shoulders or balance her in a fetal position on his reclined torso, emphasizing that the two were not actually one entity despite what their outfits might imply. after/ever brusquely revealed glitches in connectivity between autonomous beings.
Lively Sa-Sa, choreographed by Justin Bass and Ursula Perry:
This collaboration certainly was lively. The dancers had all participated in the company’s Winterdance Workshop and this piece served as a demonstration of what they had done. The movement was alternately wiggly and linear, like a graceful classic jazz dancer acting silly on the dance floor at a wedding reception. The workshop seemed like an upbeat way to stay warm in the beginning of January.
Emerge seemed to feature mere glimpses of what RDT dancers are interested in choreographically partly because it was structured like a recital, not an interwoven concert. I am curious to see if any members continue these explorations beyond initial emergence.
Emma Wilson is a graduate of the University of Utah and regular contributor to loveDANCEmore. She frequently jams with Porridge for Goldilocks and was recently a choreographer for Red Lake at the Fringe Festival.