Repertory Dance Theatre's 2012-2013 season opener, "Embark," mines the local community for inspiration, ranging from a social scientist to a six-year-old Utah's Arts Festival attendee.
Last week in rehearsal, RDT dancers seemed energized by the community and dancer-created work, "8 Seconds of Fame," and "Hello World," a collaborative debut by University of Utah's adjunct associate professor of theater Jacque Lynn Bell and her husband, Barton Poulson, an associate professor of psychology at Utah Valley University.
"These collaborations bring out the best in us all," veteran RDT dancer Nicholas Cendese said. "We don't have a lot of turnover in this company, and we respect each other's abilities and appreciate each other's insights when creating new work or finding relevance in the historical pieces."
The "8 Seconds of Fame" project began last summer at the Utah Arts Festival, when RDT began collecting bits and pieces of movement from anyone who walked past their booth. Artistic director Linda Smith said it wasn't easy to get people to add to the movement bank but "you'll be able to recognize the baby ballerinas, air guitar, and scary face" contributions when you see them.
The most-experienced choreographers in the company Sarah Donohue, Aaron Wood and Cendese were tasked with using the shared material of gestures, shapes, dance-movements, and facial expressions to set choreography for "8 Seconds of Fame." A loop of the entire collection was edited by videographer Lynne Wimmer and will play in the lobby during the run. RDT company members Donohue and Wood have a side company (obscurely named My Turkey Sandwich), and Cendese has recently become the owner of South Valley Creative Dance studio in Sandy and is co-director with Natosha Washington of "RawMoves."
For the program's other collaboration, "Hello World," the backdrop was the muse for the physical movement.
Poulson, a Ph.D. in social and personality psychology, took a sabbatical from UVU and put himself in the vulnerable position of being a freshman student in the University of Utah's Arts Technology program. He developed a collection of dance and interactive technology pieces with fellow UVU professor Nichole Ortega, which they called "Dance Loops." Poulson's wife has been a part of Utah's modern scene all her professional life, so when Smith asked her create movement for the visual backdrop, she jumped at the opportunity.
"We've never before had a chance to combine our backgrounds and it has been a wonderful process," Bell said. "Working with the dancers, movement, technology, and my husband gives me insight into what it means to fully be human which is what the piece turned out to be about."
Also on the program is "How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run," by iconic choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009). It features a music/spoken-word score composed by John Cage, which will be performed by musician Ricklen Nobis and X96 "Radio From Hell" co-host Bill Allred.
Rounding out the program is a selection of pieces by Japanese-American choreographer Michio Ito (1893-1961), whose work RDT received an NEA American Masters grant to preserve in 2009.
RDT company members agree that re-rehearsing the repertory and historical works on the program turned out to be more interesting than usual, with new company member Tyler Orcutt's excitement, quick memory and curiosity.
"Tyler reminded me of how exciting it is to have this job," Wood said. "He reflects on the work and what was simply muscle memory feels fresh again."
The dancers revealed their practice of having a group talk to support and encourage each other before going on stage. Orcutt is new, and was quiet in the company in-studio interview, but from what I've seen so far, he is one to watch, and is likely to speak volumes on stages.
Repertory Dance Theatre's "Embark"
The modern-dance company will showcase the Utah premiere of Merce Cunningham's 1965 "How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run," with a sound-score by John Cage delivered by Bill Allred of X96's Radio from Hell and RDT's Ricklen Nobis. Other works on the program are "Hello World," a multimedia collaboration between choreographer Jacque Bell and social psychologist Barton Poulson; a spotlight on the work of pioneering choreographer Michio Ito; and "Eight Seconds of Fame," with movement phrases suggested by community members.
When • Thursday to Saturday, Oct. 4-6, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $30 ($15 students/seniors); $20 for Thursday performances; subscription $90; at 801-355-2787 or http://www.arttix.org.