By Lauren Bloomfield
When I first found out that we were going to be working with Andy Noble and Repertory Dance Theatre and would perform in their concert, I was amazed. Though excited and grateful for the opportunity, I was also nervous. This would be a very different experience than what I had done before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
First off, I haven’t worked in that big of a group of dancers since high school and, even then, it wasn’t never over 30. Noble’s “Tower” has 33 dancers on stage: 8 from RDT dancers and 22 from Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem where I attend school. Despite the large number of dancers, I would say this experience was more organized than past ones with large groups. This is partly because the movement was a re-staging of the work, originally choreographed in 2015.
At the same time we were faced with an interesting dilemma right off the bat: Andy was stuck in Texas, where he lives, due to Hurricane Harvey. Learning someone’s choreography without the choreographer actually being there was definitely a new experience for me. But the RDT Dancers were extremely prepared! Andy, who is an RDT alum, had given each RDT dancer specific phrases of the material to transfer and rehearse with the ensemble. That they were familiar with the movement from rehearsals with Andy earlier this year allowed them to transfer everything very precisely. Having access to a video of the finished work was, of course, very helpful as well. Using the video provided specific modeling of what we were supposed to be doing, not to mention that it reassured not only those of us who were guest dancers, but the RDT Dancers as well. There’s no space for disagreeing with each other over what is supposed to be happening when the video is so clear.
Theatrically, “Tower” is a 15-minute storm that slowly builds, unleashing dancers in waves until the entire stage is flooded with moving bodies and a cascade of falling rain. The UVU dancers had learned the work this past August, and we have been rehearsing it ever since. It has been a constant challenge to watch the RDT dancers and to pinpoint what is making their performance so successful. Success, for me, isn’t a fixed point. It is constantly changing as one small goal is reached which then pushes you past that goal towards yet another one. Success is being able to learn from the less successful experiences one has and to grow from them.
A snippet from Andy Noble’s “Tower” premiering in Utah on next week’s #SanctuaryRDT. Picture 33 dancers on stage (guests from @cde_uvu) and RAIN…. Seriously, all the things are falling from the sky in this show. Do you have your tickets yet? #rdtdance #rdtutah #moderndance #downtownslc #bearsears #tower #noblemotion
So what makes the RDT dancers’ performance so successful, so powerful? They constantly push themselves to find what the piece is about and then embody that in their movement. They aren’t just going through the movement but are able to connect with the meaning of the choreography and embody that through their performance.
RDT’s Ursula Perry talked about letting the “movement happen to us” rather than our making the movement happen, which intrigued me. When I watched her I could tell that she was in control, but at the same time I could see her connection to the ground, the way the phrasing burst into her body and helped her move. Being able to watch her and listen to her explanations and insight has helped me understand why she is such a successful performer.
In the end I have come to realize that this project isn’t just about learning a dance alongside a professional company. All 33 of us have been able to learn from these dancers’ and Andy, once he finally got to out of Texas (and the rain) and to Utah where, ironically, rain is engineered live on stage during “Tower,” which commemorates the hallowed ground where the Twin Towers once stood. Our mentors’ knowledge in the dance field, their stories, how they move, why they move, etc., was not only informative for me, but showed me some of my personal options as I move towards becoming a professional dancer. Being able to watch, shadow and then perform alongside RDT dancers under the extraordinary instruction and vision of Andy has propelled me forward as a dancer and as an artist.
I hope the power of this experience over the past six weeks comes through as we perform “Tower” this weekend during the Sanctuary concert.
Tickets are available at www.rdtutah.org.
Lauren is a student at Utah Valley University and a guest performer in Andy Noble’s “Tower.”