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Lively Movement from Still Paintings
Repertory Dance Company Looks to the Future
By Karen Anne Webb

Dance Review:
Postcards from Utah
Repertory Dance Company

Rose Wagner Center


If Repertory Dance Theatre's previous concert was a retrospective of modern dance works, "Postcards from Utah" might be seen as a pro-spective. The company rounded out its 40th anniversary season the first week of April with the forward-looking show at the Rose Wagner Center.

It was a collection of 16 new works developed with the inspiration of art pieces from the Springville Museum of Art. Several were complete works by established choreographers. Others were movement studies—really extended phrases—that the dancers developed during a movement exploration workshop with choreographer Lynne Wimmer. As with Weber State’s current "Home Grown" concert, contributors were either company members or company alums.

The paintings that inspired the dances ran the gamut from simple still lifes to portraiture to landscapes to a psychedelic blue rhino. The dances' connections to the paintings ranged from very tight —Wimmer’s “The Waiting Room” dresses and poses a trio of dancers to exactly match the figures in the painting of the same name—to very loose—Nick Cendese’s costuming reflects bovine elements in “Sacred Cows of Art History,” but then takes off on its own.

The show featured exceptionally strong works by alums Todd Allen, Bill Evans and Brent Schneider. Allen’s “Argent,” a quartet based on an abstract study called “Reef,” featured Allen himself in an uncredited performance. He looks great—he has in common with the piece itself a wonderful sense of crispness and precision that gives up nothing when it comes to fluidity. Watching the piece was a little like watching a mobile sculpture unfold, ebbing and flowing, structuring and restructuring.

Evans's “In the Valley of the Sun and Moon” takes inspiration from its source painting's stylized sun amidst a moon arcing overhead, progressing through all its phases. Soloist Thayer Jonutz arced across the stage, moonlike. Rather than having him attempt to go through literal phases, Evans toyed with Jonutz's movement qualities so he went from hovering to rotating frenetically on his own axis. A lot went into both the lighting and costuming in this piece to create a solo that was utterly fulfilling.

Schneider’s “Gathering” is an ensemble piece based on a distant landscape called “Afternoon Shower.” I have always liked the completeness and intelligence with which Schneider uses his space, and “Gathering” is a lovely example of his stagecraft. Buoyant, serene despite its energy, ultimately optimistic while abstract, it left a lot of the audience sighing happily, content in the sense that all was well with the world.

Of the pieces developed by the dancers, several were complete works rather than short movement studies. With “Moon Pool,” Jonutz came up with an interesting compositional study that integrated both mobile cutwork and video footage. This is a tough one to capture with simple description. His quartet of dancers are mirroring the cogs, gears and wheels of the video footage and cutwork. But, like Schneider, he moves his dancers around the stage with such intelligent facility, opposing soloist with trio, then recombining all four back into a quartet, and his movement is so inventive that the piece becomes far more than the sum of its parts and is ultimately very satisfying.

The standout movement study was a piece both choreographed and performed by Joshua Larson, based on the odd little painting “Jaguarundi with Green Iguanas and Banded Basilisks.” Short, quirky, and humorous, the study feels very complete. Likewise, the short “Old Rhino” by artistic director Linda C. Smith was fun and cohesive. Both pieces remind us that it is the movement quality that makes the art and that dance is not necessarily defined by huge extensions and multiple turns.

Although some of the other pieces were not equally compelling, a program like this coupled with the retrospective reveals what is best about RDT—a sense of preservation of the past coupled with a sense of responsibility to cultivate new talent that will ensure a bright future. Happy 40th, RDT.


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