When learning new dances, as a company, we have a flexible system in place that allows us to best serve each choreographer’s individual needs. In the topic I’m writing about today, this flexibility comes in the form of learning from a former company dancer and current staff member rather than the choreographer himself. During my seven years on the company, we have learned four dances this way. Usually, we use this method for two reasons. One, restraints on scheduling and two, restraints on the physical movement capacity of the choreographer.
For three weeks, we had the pleasure of working with Kate Skarpetowska while she re-staged Something About Night, a dance choreographed by Lar Lubovitch. What made this experience unique was that this was the first time, since I joined RDT, that we were learning a dance from someone who had not performed in the piece herself. Something About Night was choreographed in 2018 for the 50th Anniversary of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. This was several years after Kate shifted her role away from being a dancer in the company. She had, however, performed in many of the works that Something About Night pulled from, as this work was partially a homage to the past 50 years.
I bring up the last point for one specific reason that I find important. In the past, when we have worked with dancers who performed in the piece they were re-staging, I noticed that whichever RDT dancer was performing the same role as the dancer who was there re-staging the piece often got a lot more critical feedback than others. The reverse of this was also true. A solo, for example, that the dancer did not perform but had to learn for re-staging purposes only, would not get the same attention as the solo they did perform. This, however, has never once come from a place of neglect, nor lack of being prepared. It is simply the result of knowing something in your body like the back of your hand because you performed it fifty times versus something you have not.
Working with Kate, there was no doubt that from the very opening head lift to the ending fade out of lights, every section and every individual movement was given equal attention. Kate was clear with her directions and precise with her feedback. These attributes were not only reflected in the re-staging process, but also in her technique class. It is a style I prefer to learn by because the directness makes for a clean-cut process.
Working with Kate and Lar was a true treat this summer. I am excited to be performing in Something About Night this October. Come that time, I will be thinking of them both dearly.
The attributes I mentioned above can make a process efficient, but not always an experience fulfilling. I’d like to note, before continuing on, that I one-hundred percent believe that all creators and performers of any kind need a certain amount of ego to do what we do. With that being said, I have observed over the years that directness, while not always, can come with a more inflated ego. This can typically result in what some would consider a condescending experience. The reverse, however, is that when someone is too humble, they cannot provide efficient feedback, in which case, the dance suffers. My favorite thing about Kate was how balanced and professional she was. She was not there to befriend or belittle anyone. She was there to do a job and an amazing job she did.
Lar Lubovitch flew in during the last few days of the process to clean the work and make changes where he saw fit. Upon his arrival, I immediately knew why Kate was the one sent to re-stage his dance. Like her, Lar was direct, professional, and kind. The way they worked was so similar that nothing felt jarring when he took the reins. Even their time management of the process and when they chose to give breaks were the same. What I really admired, however, was the amount of respect and care they had for one another. I could instantly see that the strength of their friendship was one that had been formed over years of trust.
Tyler Orcutt was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. He earned his BFA in Modern Dance at the University of South Florida in 2012. Currently, Tyler is in his seventh season with Repertory Dance Theatre.