Elle Johansen: How to Keep it all Straight
Repertory Dance Theatre has over 300 dances in our repertory, or “library of dances.” So how do dancers keep it all straight? Second-year Company member Elle Johansen explains how she does it — especially in learning different roles in different dances as both a guest and full-time company member.
If you ask an RDT dancer how long they have been on the company, most have a definitive answer, but I often struggle to find mine. I have been learning various choreographic pieces as an understudy since I was a senior in college at the University of Utah. I’ve performed with the company multiple times as a guest, and I wouldn’t say there is a world’s difference now that I am an official company member. However, I have noticed both advantages and disadvantages to learning so much material before I formally started. The biggest advantage was knowing the material, and the biggest disadvantage was knowing the material. A catch-22 as some might say.
People probably think dancers only know our roles, but in any given dance we probably know 2 or 3. Due to this, I had a hard start to the year when I had to switch all of the roles I learned the previous year. There are still times when we are in the middle of a piece and I start doing someone else part with them, or I am standing in their place.
Perhaps this is why when I learn a new role today I try to see what is going on all around me. That way if I am ever needing to switch roles or counts I can be more flexible in doing so.
I also have been rehearsing in my free time more often. Whether that’s listening to music before bed, working on something during our lunch break, or watching a video — I always find time to go over something at least once.
I’ve learned that we may not have as much time as I would like to re-stage a certain piece in the studio, so it’s imperative that I work on them whenever I can.
Elle Johansen, originally from Salt Lake City Utah, began her dance training at the age of 9 with the Janet Gray School in Salt Lake City Utah. Elle earned her BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah in 2015 where she received both the “Outstanding Senior Award” and the “Student Service Award.” Elle has been a guest dancer with RDT since 2015 and officially joined the company in 2017.