Repertory Dance Theatre the nation’s oldest and most successful modern dance repertory began their 54th season earlier this month. I attended opening night of the INSIDE OUTSIDE performance at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. This is the first show in the company’s season called HERE & NOW. For the entire 2019-2020 season, RDT will celebrate their diversity, their creativity as they explore the state of Utah’s heritage, geography and its people.

The first piece of the evening was choreographed in 1949 by Doris Humphrey, Invention. Humphrey is one of the founders of modern dance. RDT strives to keep historical pieces like Invention, in front of the public eye so they do not get lost as time marches on. This piece was danced by Dan Higgins, Elle Johnson and Ursula Perry. The movements showed great strength and control by the dancers. The movements were slow and technical. The piece showed to me how much modern dance has progressed and yet without the foundation of great pioneers like Doris Humphrey modern dance would not be where it is today.

The second piece of the night was called Something About Night, choreographed by world renowned choreographer Lar Lubovitch in 2018 to celebrate his own companies’ 50th anniversary. This piece was set to beautiful music by Schubert, pieces that are for a male chorus. Lubovitch mentioned in the short video before the piece was performed that he felt stillness and quiet were very important for us to find and that is what night can bring us. With this in mind the piece flowed beautifully to the music and at times you felt the stillness he was trying to portray. There was lots of shadow and shade throughout the piece. Dancers; Tyler Orcutt, Lauren Curley, Dan Higgins, Jonathan Kim and Jaclyn Brown performed this piece beautifully with some unique and gorgeous poses and partnering.  Jonathan Kim was a standout for me; his beautiful hands continued the movements beyond the extension of his arms.

The third piece was Filament. This was choreographed by Andy Noble former alumni of RDT who is now an Assistant Professor of Dance at Sam Houston State University. This piece included incredible lighting and technology that at some points the dancers were dancing with the digital versions of themselves. This piece also addressed our insatiable need for technology. There was a very moving part of the piece where one dancer was struggling to stand on his own. He was jittery and shaking until another dancer came along and offered him human touch and suddenly he was calm and could move forward. This spoke to me deeply, in this age of technology we forget we need each other to move forward in live and to help create a calmness that only happens when we get actual human touch, kindness and interaction. The dancers for this piece included the whole troupe with standouts Jaclyn Brown and Tyler Orcutt, their performance of the part that I mentioned earlier was spot on.  This was a stunning piece of work; my favorite of the evening.

The last piece was choreographed by Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof artists from Israel. This is the second time Noa and Ohad have worked with RDT, the first time was in 2014 and now for the 2019-20 season. Noa and Ohad restaged a work they created in 2018. Outdoors is an excerpt from a longer piece (Shutdown) which was created for Wee Dance Company in Germany. This piece was contemporary with interesting movements, some of these movements were what my friend I was with that evening called “Bananas”. Very tribal and ritualistic, with music that repeated the first few phrases over and over again, that for me got a bit too repetitive. The dancers for this final piece were the whole troupe again with guest dancers Severn Sargent-Catterton and Laura Baumeister. The dancers performed this number well and with precision and unity.

The evening was a wonderful show of diversity and creativity through the ages to here and now. Watch for RDT’s next performance, Sounds Familiar, November 21 – 23, 2019. Tickets are available now at ArtTix.

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