Repertory Dance Theatre

RDT dancers perform repertory spanning 102 years. How do dancers find the right emotional qualities in such a wide range of choreographic styles? Fifth-year company member, Dan Higgins, explores what works best for him in our latest dancer blog post!

Often throughout our artistic endeavors we are faced with subject matter that is daunting, unfamiliar, and challenging to connect to. Perhaps one of the most difficult notions to grasp as a dance and movement artist is how to portray an array of captivating emotional qualities while performing live. How does a performer intrigue the eye of an audience member? What makes them desirable to watch? A simple answer could be that they are a seemingly flawless mover. A great technical dancer seamlessly covers space in a dynamic way; sweeping, pushing, and casting their body with ease. However, there is more to being a great artist than being a great technician.

Dan Higgins & Lauren Curley perform Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow Round My Shoulder”

As artists and dancers for RDT our job requires us to engage in a variety of “roles” which, in all honesty, is very exciting but also extremely difficult. I find myself eager to work on a new piece, knowing that I will be exploring new movement patterns and reaching a higher level of understanding in my career as a performer. The challenge here is how to stay true to the work. With such a vast amount of repertory to learn and perform at RDT, the true struggle for me becomes authenticity. How does a performer create the immersive world over and over again, not only for themselves but for the audience?

The method that rings most true in my practice is recalling certain times and events from my own life to inform the present space that I am working in. This means sometimes revisiting life’s hardships, traumas, but also joyous moments to create a genuine quality of artistry. For an artist, specifically in live performance, there is an incredible amount of vulnerability that is involved in each “moment” on stage. The moments I enjoy most, or perhaps remember with great power, are when a performer uses their vulnerable inner state as a means to connect to the audience, and also themselves. As performers we are asking ourselves to invest, using perhaps a metaphysical approach to time and energy to seek new paths, ultimately seeking to understand on a deeper level, what it means to be human. In this process we give ourselves permission to delve deeply into subject matter that may not be directly our own.

There are many reasons why live theater and live performance has been an important part of society for generations. It is much more than a venue to be entertained. The theatre is a place for us to have difficult, cathartic conversations. It is a place for joy, a place to be unapologetically open, to be challenged, a place to examine, and a place to think.

RDT dancers perform “Say Their Names” by Natosha Washington


Dan Higgins, Bay Area native, began dancing at the age of eighteen after a long history with organized sports. The physicality and athleticism directly translated into his love for dance. Dan received his training from the University of Wyoming, obtaining his B.F.A. in Dance Performance. Dan is a performer, teacher and choreographer who is currently interested in the mergence of semantic expression and body composition as they relate to the human condition. 

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