Six years isn’t a lot of time. Linda Smith has devoted her life to Repertory Dance Theatre. As I reflect about what I learned while working for Linda, about the company’s mission to keep American Modern Dance and about the teachings from fellow dancers and about conversations with world renown artists, it is difficult to sum everything up in a few words.
There are many lessons that come hand in hand with the job. For example, we become more intelligent dancers, more complex performers, and more rounded and grounded teachers while stretching our own creative skills. We work day in and day out refining these skills. The eight dancers engage furiously in making sense of the work we perform. We problem solve structural issues inside the work. We create passionate dialogue defining the purpose of the work and clarify our intent as performers. And the most difficult task of being a dancer is learning to communicate our own psychophysical experience in such a way that our choices we make as artists and people are clearly understood. Daily practice of voicing perspective with clear articulation makes us skilled public speakers.
And we become different type of dancers.
Learning these skills is predetermined when you join a company, especially smaller companies like RDT and our counterpart Ririe Woodbury. However, for me, the most important lesson learned during my time with RDT is social civility through representation and artistic advocacy.
Linda has made bold choices in her years leading RDT. Her focus on social issues drives a different purpose inside of the company’s mission. Besides serving as an archive of incredible masterpieces, the company has presented works responding to social issues. The language Linda wraps around the topic of each work is welcoming, engaging, illuminating and relevant.
This type of social advocacy has taught me social responsibility. In addition, we are a spectrum of human color, bodies and histories on stage. Why does this matter? It matters because when we go to small towns across America, where diversity isn’t as prominent, seeing a diverse group like ours matters. I can recall many instances when a child would say things like, “Are you a Mexican?” “Look, that guy is black.” Our diversity serves as example for these communities.
Thank you Linda Smith, all the dancers and the artists who shared themselves with all of us! Thank you, Salt Lake City, for supporting our passion and for continuing to do so.
During arts education outreach, I always made it a point to showcase diversity. Moments like getting up to make a dance with the company are fleeting. But when you incrementally expose children of minorities to these opportunities, they can start to imagine their own capabilities. On April 29th, I performed my last lecture demonstration. For many reasons I was happy it was the last I would ever do. However, at the end of the performance, I was able to see more clear than ever. The small faces glowing with excitement, the colorful hijab, the children moving across the stage representing a spectrum of diversity. These images never resonated more with my heart than that day. In six years, I experienced hundreds of these moments. Each adding more to my understanding of how art serves as a partner in social advocacy.
I leave the company with the greatest gifts of all: a voice that can speak about impact, human experiences, advocacy and purpose. When Linda hired me, she gave me the most wonderful gift: an opportunity to grow beyond my wildest dreams. By example, she taught me how to lead, how to be passionate and how to be compassionate. I learned to see a greater purpose and to act with moderation. I can walk off stage one last time, close those doors behind me and know that I can walk in the world knowing how to make a difference.
Efren Corado, born in Guatemala, has been with the company for six years. He holds BFA from Chapman University, MFA from University of Utah and is also a Certified Movement Analyst.