Browsed by
Tag: modern dance

VOYAGE: RDT takes you on a trip through World Dance

VOYAGE: RDT takes you on a trip through World Dance

Using the Utah Core Curriculum Standards for Dance, Social Studies and Language Arts, Repertory Dance Theatre presented a special matinee to over 1,500 students last week at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

American Modern Dance is a rich tapestry which has been influenced by the music and movement of cultures worldwide. Dance has been part of community life as a form of communication, empowerment, and entertainment for centuries. Rhythms and patterns gathered from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas connect the past with the present to illustrate how dance can document history and culture and tell our collective story. Take your own voyage below with some highlights of the concert. You can see excerpts from Voyage Saturday, March 11 at 11:00 AM at RDT’s Ring Around the Rose.

DANCES FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE

Dance from Africa

The first dances were prayers designed to send messages to the gods … they insured a bountiful harvest and celebrated the important events in the life of the community. A birth, a marriage or a coming-of-age ceremony all involved dance. Dances were thought to give people magical power over the elements … Dances were performed to invite the sun to rise and to bring the rain.

For VOYAGE Rosie Banchero (our RDT Dance Center on Broadway African teacher) taught us a traditional West African dance that we performed with live drummers!

Photo by Sharon Kain

 

FOLK DANCE around the World and the DABKE

Dabke is a traditional folk dance found all across the Middle East. It combines circle dancing and line dancing and is widely performed at weddings and other joyous occasions. Each country in the Middle East has their own version–some similar and some very different from each other. In some countries, anyone can dance the dabke. In others, it is only allowed for either men or women to dance the dabke.  In Jordan, there are 19 different types of the dabke dance.

Folk dances can be found all over the world and were some of the first dances to bring people together in celebration. Folk dances were used to create a sense of community and mark a special occasion.  What is your heritage and ethnicity? Do you have any folk dances that connect you to your background?  Do you know any of them?

P.S. – RDT will be performing the full evening-length work by Zvi Gotheiner, DABKE, April 6-8, 2017. 

ASIAN DANCES: MICHIO ITO

Ethnic dances from Asia have inspired American choreographers. An ancient form of theater in Japan known as Kabuki is a rich blend of music, dance and pantomime. It has spectacular staging and costuming and the movement is performed in a highly stylized manner. Kabuki has been a major theatrical form in Japan for almost 4 centuries and it inspired a Japanese-American dancer named Michio Ito to create modern dances that blend movement from both Eastern and Western Cultures about 100 years ago.

Photo by Sharon Kain

EAST INDIAN DANCE

Dance in India goes back thousands of years. It is one of the oldest forms in the world. Most of the classical dance in India has developed from a type of dance/drama in which performers act out a story from Hindu mythology almost exclusively through gestures. The complexity of the footwork lies in elaborate stamping rhythms and many dancers wear bells around their ankles, supplying their own accompaniment. The torso, face, arms and hands are extremely active. The head movement emphasizing the dancer’s changing facial expressions and the movement of the torso is graceful and fluid. The movement of the hands and arms is subtle and elaborate, every gesture has a function and a meaning. Indian dancers have a vast number of gestures through which they express complex events, ideas and emotions. For example, there are 13 gestures of the head, 36 different glances, and 67 hand gestures, that can, in different combinations, yield several thousand different meanings.

Raksha Karpoor (RDT’s Dance Center on Broadway BOLLYWOOD teacher) choreographed this awesome piece for us!

Photo by Sharon Kain

STEPPIN’

Steppin’ is an African American art form, a form of percussive dance in which the entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word and hand claps. It is jazz, funk, rhythm and blues and rap without instruments.

Photo by Sharon Kain

We’ll be performing excerpts of this show on Saturday, March 11 at RDT’s Ring Around the Rose. Learn more here.

REGALIA 2017

REGALIA 2017

REGALIA 2017 was a process, a performance, and a party for the ages.

On February 11, 2017, four choreographers {Nick Blaylock, Aubry Dally, Eric Handman, and Nichele Van Portfleet} were each given 8 dancers and 4 hours to create a brand new piece of choreography. The audience was invited to watch the choreographers work in the studio, and then see the final performance in the Jeanne Wagner Theatre.

In the meantime, audience members enjoyed delicious dinner from Utah Food Services, bid on silent auction items, and chatted with friends.

After seeing each piece performed, the audience was invited to “vote with their wallets” to choose the winner. The winner was awarded a commission for RDT for the 2017-2018 season {as well as epic bragging rights.}

After totaling the votes from all the audience members, we are thrilled to announce that Nichele Van Portfleet will be creating a brand new commission for RDT next season!

To close the night, everyone was invited on stage to dance the night away {and that they did} to the sounds of the Joe Muscolino Band. 

Enjoy these photos from HMPhoto.

  

 

Just a taste of the awesome dance party at #Regalia2017 last night. One for the ages. Cheers to 51! #rdtdance #rdtutah

A post shared by Repertory Dance Theatre (@rdtutah) on

Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 1

Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 1

By Joanna L. Johnston, MBA, CPA
RDT Board Treasurer and UACPA Non-Profit Committee Member

This article was originally published in The Journal Entry, a publication of the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants. Writes Joanna, “Since this article was published in 2014, I’ve learned so much more about Repertory Dance Theatre and the art form. Consequently, I’ve re-upped for another term as a trustee of RDT’s board. This extended stay at America’s premier repertory dance company has given me added insight into the way America’s arts organizations not only survive change but thrive because of it and how accounting professionals can be a critical part of that success.”

*

 

What is Modern Dance? As a board member for Repertory Dance Theater for over five years, I still have difficulty answering that question. My typical response is “Modern dance is an emotional, free-flowing dance style that needs to be experienced. Please join me at a performance. You won’t be disappointed.”

Modern Dance was born in the early 20th century. Early modern dancers broke away from classical ballet  and other forms of “academic” dance. They focused on “self-expression” and created movement to communicate the energy, the society and sometimes the politics of the 20th century.  Costumes became less restrictive; dancers frequently performed in bare feet and were not afraid to show the effort in creating movement. In the 1930’s, pioneers such as Martha Graham focused on muscular contraction and release, resulting in movements that were sharp, jagged and “fraught with inner meaning, with excitement and surge.” Other choreographers such as Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp are known world-wide for developing their own individual movement languages, styles, and choreographic theories.  Today, modern dance encompasses a wide variety of influences including African-American dance, jazz, ballet, and traditional cultural dances from across the globe. It is now an international art form.

Repertory Dance Theater (RDT) was founded in 1966 through a cooperative effort between the Salt Lake City dance community, the University of Utah, and a major grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Virginia Tanner, a respected educator and director of the Children’s Dance Theater, dreamt of having a professional company of dancers dedicated to the performance, creation and preservation of American modern dance. As a founding member of the company, Linda C. Smith has strived to fulfill that dream, first as a dancer, and now as RDT’s Executive/Artistic Director. As a result of her efforts, RDT, in residence at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, has become both a museum and contemporary gallery of modern dance.

The “storefront” for many performing arts groups including RDT is public performances. However, there is so much more to the Company than meets the eye. RDT’s community outreach programs include adult dance classes [conducted at RDT’s Dance Center on Broadway], ranging from Flamenco and Jazz to African and Ballet. Summer workshops offer high school and college students opportunities to dance and create with nationally renowned choreographers. Ring Around the Rose is a monthly series of interactive performances targeted toward families to encourage understanding and appreciation for the arts. Through Arts in Education programs sponsored by the Utah State Office of Education, each year RDT dancers visit 25,000 students in elementary schools across the state demonstrating the interaction between art, history, ecology and cultural diversity through dance. Students learn new concepts in problem-solving through movement and are presented with new avenues of awareness that can improve self-confidence and provide opportunities for each student to create and explore. RDT’s extensive collections of dance works enable the dancers to tour the country throughout the year, providing national recognition for the company. Through its performances and outreach, RDT is telling America’s story through dance.

 

Come back for part 2 on Monday to learn more about the unique difficulties and challenges RDT faces each year and the special skills Joanna brings to the board as she helps steer RDT to success.

Joanna L. Johnston, CPA is a Tax Manager at BDO USA, LLP with a passion for non-profit arts organizations. She is the Treasurer for Repertory Dance Theater, Vice-President of Finance for the Utah Wind Symphony, as well as a member of the University of Utah Business Alumni Association Board. She can be reached at jljohnston@bdo.com 

Movement That Transcends its Meaning: New Work in RDT’s EMERGE

Movement That Transcends its Meaning: New Work in RDT’s EMERGE

A hand placed over your mouth …

A hand covering your eyes … your partner’s eyes …

Grabbing someone by the neck …

Imagine my joy when I get feedback on my piece saying, “Wow, you did a whole dance about the ‘forbidden’ gestures.  That was gutsy.”

Oops … I totally did.

How did this happen?  I didn’t mean to use gestures that I’ve seen a million times before–that have been done so often that they almost don’t mean a thing.

When I choreograph I usually try to keep one thing in mind DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

What does that mean exactly?  That statement is a lot harder to fulfill than it might seem–it requires that you be fully aware of your habits, your usual choices, your movement style and movement vocabulary.  It means you have to explore new musical choices, you have to break old habits, you have to push yourself to do something you find uncomfortable. It means you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to just do something different than what I’VE done before?  Do I want to do something that NO ONE has ever seen before? Do I focus on a new movement vocabulary?  A new process?”

In this day and age, that’s very hard to do–not all movements are created equal.

Contemporary dancers live in a time that is so saturated with movement that many movements or “moves” are already freighted with associations, ideas, images, or even time and place.  They become a kind of short-hand that short-circuits the creative process. Hence, the forbidden moves …

  • death drop to one knee
  • tricks/leaps/turns that we can see coming because of a preparation, a set up, or a chasse that ALWAYS comes before the trick
  • moves that are made famous in a music video and are then copied by people in every walk of life: for example, The Whip, the Dab …
  • grabbing your head in both hands and moving it in a big circle
  • reaching out into space, grabbing nothing with a pained look on your face
  • a fan kick or side tilt with your who-who-dilly directed straight at the audience
  • any of these moves by the now in-famous Contemporary Eric …

In dance we use the term “movement vocabulary.” And as with spoken language, moves (like words) can come and go, becoming fashionable and then unfashionable. And they can also lose their meaning altogether, just as words and terminology do: Who knows what the word “synergy” means these days (especially when they appear in a business book), or “surreal.” Words actually do have a denotative meaning (you can look them up in a dictionary), but they’re used so commonly (“We need to have ‘closure’.”) that terminology can become bereft of meaning, even leading, in its extremes, to what’s been called “semantic satiation.”

The same is true of vocabulary in movement or dance. There are overused phrases or words that eventually when spoken or performed no longer carry meaning or importance which have been lost over time after they were used repeatedly without focus or intent. In dance, it’s not just mindless repetition that causes this; sometimes the language loses its power when it is tied to the lyrics of a pop song or even just the crescendo of the music.  In fact, these moves can actually subtract meaning from your work by referencing something so common place, so well-known that they become virtually indecipherable.

So why on earth did I use several of them as a motifs for my duet Folie A Duex which debuts this weekend at RDT’s Emerge?

Good question. I don’t know–all I can tell you is, I wasn’t thinking about those moves as stock gestures.

It was about following an idea … a feeling–a state of being–a brief image that popped into my head, months ago, as I was thinking about this duet.

I don’t believe in questioning an idea. I simply work to fulfill that idea, and that idea comes with a movement vocabulary, a style, a series of qualities.  I work to identify those qualities and create movement, partnering, and dance structures that fit that idea.

Yes … my original idea did include these moments of touching, of covering eyes, mouths, necks, check, hips, etc.  But it was the quality of touch that was important.  It was the way the dancer made contact with themselves or their partner that caught my attention … that’s what I was exploring.  It didn’t seem to matter that I’d seen the gestures before.  Obviously, that didn’t even cross my mind.

I guess that like a creative writer, I was exploring movement language in a new way.  I was exploring the quality of the language, these moves in their purest form. They aren’t made in anger, in sadness. They aren’t moments designed to represent tenderness or compassion.

RDT Dancers Ursula Perry and Dan Higgins will perform “Folie A Duex,” an original work by Nick Cendese at EMERGE.

This is a challenge for both the dancers (Ursula & Dan) and myself. We’ve worked hard to coach one another in how we touch each other: the directness of the hand, the firmness of the touch, the way the hand doesn’t caress up the body to the place where it ends. All these gestures, when you look at them closely, have what seems to be inherent meaning.  The most basic arrangement of the duet–a man and a woman–already says so much! Humans are meaning-making creatures and we subscribe meaning to almost everything we see, even when we don’t mean to or know we are doing it.

As choreographer, I want my dancers to be able to perform these gestures, which makes up the work’s “language,” without commenting on them. If I’ve done my job properly, you won’t see the touches as the main goal of the piece. These moves that have been executed a thousand times are a recurring motif that, hopefully, has been used to paint a picture of a feeling, of a moment between two people, a moment that is intangible and diffuse and ghost-like.  A moment that lives openly and allows you, the viewer, to enter the conversation and to add your own meaning. In a sense my objective is to have the movement in “Folie A Duex” transcend the meaning of its vocabulary, something that a poet–whose tools are words drawn from the pool of vocabulary we all use–is always aspiring to.

Come see if I was able to do that this weekend at Emerge–my little duet based around forbidden movements.

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

By Linda C. Smith

This weekend, RDT presents BRIO … an appropriate title for a concert filled with vigor, vivacity, gusto, verve, zest, enthusiasm, vitality, dynamism, animation, spirit and most of all energy.

BRIO will present five works created by two incomparable artists known as Shapiro & Smith. Danial Shapiro & Joanie Smith, logo_shapirosmithhusband and wife, started collaborating in 1985. Fascinated by the situations and passions which shape our behavior, they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation. Their work is balanced by a unique blend of biting sarcasm, breathtaking physicality and emotional depth. Shapiro & Smith Dance has a reputation for performing tales of beauty and wit that run the gamut from searingly provocative to absurdly hilarious.  They have earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment.

… they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation.

RDT became acquainted with the choreographic duo in the mid 1990’s. I was initially impressed with their remarkable method of collaboration and their inventive use of props. In 1996, RDT was able to acquire a short but unique dance featuring items from World War II army surplus.  The work highlights close coordination as dancers leap, catapult, catch and soar with the aid of two vintage blankets. I never tire of watching the daring RDT dancers execute tireless and unexpected movement on the edge of chaos.

"Dance With Two Army Blankets"
“Dance With Two Army Blankets”
Turf2_photocredit_Nathan_Sweet
“Turf” featuring dancer, Katherine Winder

When Utah was named as the site for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I began to commission works that celebrated the spirit of human excellence, human effort and human creativity. I invited Shapiro & Smith to choreograph a work that would make a statement about the spirit of friendly competition, ownership and territory. Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

We were heartbroken when Danny Shapiro died of complications from prostate cancer in 2006. Joanie kept Shapiro & Smith Dance going and began creating works on her own. RDT’s association with her continued. In 2013, we presented her Bolero on a concert honoring the strength and courage of men and women in the armed forces. Bolero is a thrill ride of a dance about the dynamic tensions that define the human experience. The dance explores the endless nature of physical struggle, from war to personal ordeal. It is a dance that demands much of those who perform it as it tests the limits of physicality. Bolero is explosive, with the dancers and momentum never letting up until after the final note.

bolero800x400
“Bolero” performed in 2013.

Joanie’s distinctive wit is highlighted in two new acquisitions that put a spin on classic children’s games and nursery rhythms. Jack and Pat-a-Cake remind us that dance cannot only document history, comment on social issues and inspire a dialogue … it can also make us smile. This is a wonderful way to start celebrating the holidays.

"Jack" performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass
“Jack” performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass

We hope you’ll join us for a weekend of joy.

Get tickets here>>

Linda C. Smith is the Executive/Artistic Director of RDT.  A founding member of the Company, she now divides her time between preparing budgets for grants and wrangling dancers in the studio.  She also likes to vacuum the RDT Offices.