Repertory Dance Theatre’s “Women of Valor” melds stories and dance as a tribute to women in the military.
While it is a noble experiment, the best part of the evening is still the dance works — the best of which didn’t show up until after intermission.
What worked especially well in the second half was dancer Toni Lugo’s solo, “The Mechanic,” a collaboration with choreographer Lynne Wimmer. Lugo’s credible delivery tied the narrative to the gestures and interpreted the emotional content in a non-literal way. Witty movements such as placing her hands underneath her breasts and pausing each time before saying the word “female,” brought truth to the humorous contradiction.
“The Mechanic” also succeeds because the text is well written and based on an interview with a female army mechanic. The other successful monologue, performed by Karin Fenn, was based on the WW II cultural icon “Rosy The Riveter” and created a frame for the cyclical metaphor of war to unfold.
What didn’t work were literal and linear stories that slowed down the momentum and chopped up the performance. This is a dance performance and the monologues were static and separate from the movement.
There is a distinction between a Support Our Troops rally and more nuanced interpretation of what war means. The second half of the program chose the path with more hues.
Susan Hadley’s “Commonplace” was not specifically about war but her work is based in community ritual. She uses the folk forms of line and circle to develop special relationships, breaking them up and weaving them back together. Delicate supportive movements in which dancers gracefully arched and fell into each other’s arms like dominoes in a line, was repeated in a circle – and serves as a reminder that support for each other grows more complicated as times become more difficult.
One reason artists have been reluctant to address military theme is running the risk of getting it wrong. But choreographer Joanie Shapiro’s hard-hitting piece “Bolero,” set to Ravel’s famous score, extrapolated the trauma and struggle she suffered after the recent death of her husband, artistic partner, and muse. The piece is a crowd pleaser and the explosive movement is stirring and effective.
The first part of “Women of Valor” wasn’t a complete loss. Just before intermission, the audience got an enticing glimpse of good things to come with Abby Fiat’s brief yet tender “A Mother’s Farewell.”
It doesn’t matter what the lens, whether a dance critic or a military veteran, the nuanced performances are ultimately the most compelling.
Thursday’s benefit performance opened with a Colour Guard and a patriotic song which is something you can get anywhere. The artistic message however, is that serving your country is full of contradicting emotions and experiences, and anyone who doesn’t see that has either never experienced it or isn’t interested in an honest exploration of the subject.
RDT’s ‘Women of Valor’
P Repertory Dance Theatre’s tribute to women in the military finds its momentum after the intermission. The first half suffers from too much talking not enough dance.
When • Reviewed Thursday, April 11, continues Saturday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $30; $15 for military (includes active duty, active reserve, retired military and immediate family members); VIP tickets are $75, a includes priority seating and post-concert reception
Running time • Two hours with one 15-minute intermission