April 14th marked opening night for Repertory Dance Theatre’s Revere, the culminating performance of their 50th anniversary season. In this show, RDT pays tribute to Jose Limon, a Mexican American who is attributed to both developing early modern dance and shifting the portrayal of the male dancer. The show opens with Suite From Mazurkas (1958), accompanied by pianist Vassily Primakov, and was created as a tribute to the strength of the Polish people after World War II. The show closes with the masterpiece Missa Brevis (1958) featuring music by Zoltan Kodaly sung live by the Salt Lake Vocal Artists. Limon is said to have been questioning his religion at this time, while simultaneously being inspired by people rebuilding their communities after the devastation and destruction of World War II.
Suite From Mazurkas is predominantly comprised of solos and duets, showcasing the company’s ability to shine in the classical Limon technique. Efren Corado Garcia anchors the piece with his gift of weight and abandon in the section Solo (Opus 59, No.2), which is a somber and contemplative departure from the more upbeat and light vignettes. Corado’s final move is a bow to the pianist, but unlike the previous dances, any formality or choreographed reverence is eliminated. His entire being pays homage to the music that seemingly served as a lifeline. We watch these classical works against the backdrop of what has come after, and classical modern dance can often feel presentational, with all movements held at a formal and theatrical distance. This simple bow echoes a more undone, yet still highly structured moment.
Lauren Curley shines in Solo (Posthumous A Minor). She embodies the necessary clarity in both movement and spatial design that Limon technique requires, combined with a nuanced and specific musicality. RDT names themselves as a living museum, which is equal parts commendable and challenging when one considers the varied styles and aesthetics that have developed in the 100 years plus of modern dance. In this concert of Limon works, the company is strong and competent proving that a living museum can indeed breath new life and relevance into works made in 1958.
Missa Brevis reads more narratively than Mazurkas, with Efren Corado Garcia finding the plight of an outsider as a cohesive community creates and rebuilds. University of Utah dancers complete the cast of 21 and hold their own with more seasoned company members. The choreography is rich with subtlety and texture, harmony and careful contrast, and includes a male jumping sequence so powerful that the theater walls were almost pushed away. Ursula Perry stands out with her powerful yet yielding physicality, and Corado performs with such heart that it is impossible to sit as a passive observer. This piece succeeds in its grandeur and scale, and is a timeless piece of dance history.
Thankfully Salt Lake City has a varied and abundant dance community, with performances to chose from practically every weekend. With Repertory Dance Theatre performing on the heels of Ririe Woodbury, it is hard to not to compare the two companies and their diverse programming. Seeing works that were made almost 60 years ago in this show in contrast to works that were created as premieres in RW’s show bring up questions of what is (or will be) timeless, and what is merely a stepping stone to a more distilled product. For example, will the unapologetic dissonance that we have experienced in the recent works of Joanna Kotze and Netta Yerushalmy one day be performed in the living museum alongside the more formal and highly structured works RDT has presented by Jose Limon and his contemporaries, including Doris Humphrey, and Helen Tamiris? And will there be dancers capable of traveling through all the genres of modern dance as we know them now, or even 50 years from now? Time will tell.
Erica Womack is a Salt Lake based choreographer who regularly contributes to loveDANCEmore, she also teaches dance at SLCC. Her new work "Music and Dance" will be presented at the State Room April 29th.
REVERE concludes tonight, Saturday April 16th at the Rose Wagner.
This review is shared with 15 BYTES, Utah's Visual Art Magazine.