Repertory Dance Theatre offers a smorgasbord of art
The Repertory Dance Theatre will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $19 to $29, with student tickets at $10. For information and to buy tickets, visit www.parkcityshows.com.
Modern dance lovers will get a three-course artistic meal when the Repertory Dance Theatre returns to Park City on Friday and Saturday.
The two evenings performed at the Egyptian Theatre will be filled with pieces that serve as appetizers, entrees and desserts, said Linda C. Smith, artistic director of Repertory Dance Theatre.
“I think the audience likes to see a variety in the menu, so everyone who comes and sees us will have something to like,” Smith said. “I think we have a very diverse show that includes a little bit of our history and some works that have just been created, and I always say ‘if you don’t like this choreographer, just wait 15 minutes and there will be another.’”
The performance will kick off with a series of Michio Ito numbers, which reach back to 1916, according to Smith.
“Michio came to the United States from Japan in 1914, and built a bridge between Eastern and Western art forms,” she said. “He was on the forefront of creating modern choreography with a fusion of cultures.”
Performing these pieces is part of the Repertory Dance Theatre’s mission.
“We preserve and honor the work of the founders and pioneers of the early 20th century modern dance, and Ito’s works and method of choreography is a cherished part of our archive,” Smith said.
The works have been re-staged by master teachers Kyoko Imura and Kumiko Komine from the Michio Ito Doomonkai (Association of Michio Ito Disciples), an organization founded in 1964 by former teachers and students from the Tokyo Michio Ito Studio, Smith explained.
“All of these works are short and there is a nice arrangement of textures,” she said.
The performance of these works was authorized by the Michio Ito Foundation directed by Michelle Ito, granddaughter of Michio Ito, who has given her permission for the RDT to be the U.S. repository for the Ito technique and repertory.
“These pieces are not only beautiful,” Smith said. “They are accessible. So they are a nice way to introduce the dancers to the audience. It’s our appetizer.”
A tribute to Ito, titled “Taeko’s Pavane: Homage to Michio Ito,” choreographed by Taeko Furusho, will also be performed during this segment.
“The Pavane is based on Michio’s ‘Gesture Series,’” Smith said. “His choreography is inspired by gestures he had created, and Taeko has captured the way Michio moved when choreographing his works.”
The second piece of the evening will be a cultural fusion called “Tin Tai,” which was choreographed by former RDT member Bill Evans.
“Bill drew on his studies of both Bharatanatyam, which is a classical dance form from southern India — and West African dance to embody the expressive qualities he heard in Hindustani music,” Smith said.
The piece was originally created in 1972, and Smith was a member of the first cast.
“We reconstructed the piece with Bill last summer,” she said. “It’s a pure movement piece that is kind of seductive and luscious. The dancers have loved learning the piece, and we took it out on tour this year.”
Closing the first half of the evening is a new piece, “Still Life with Flight,” that was choreographed by another former company member, Sarah Donohue, who is now teaching dance at Utah Valley University.
“This is a duet about two strangers meeting in a public mode of transportation,” Smith said. “They are kind of trapped together, but then the relationship evolves.”
The work is witty, according to Smith.
“Sarah told me it started with movements she thought were humorous,” she said.
The audience will be treated to “Aloneness,” a piece choreographed by another former Repertory Dance Theatre member, Francisco Gella.
“We just premiered this piece a few weeks ago, and it is based on the children’s book by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks,” Smith said.
The piece, like the book of the same title, shows that there is a difference between loneliness and being alone.
“It’s a nice message, especially for today’s young people, who are apparently reliant on staying connected through social media,” Smith said. “The intimacy of the theater will lend itself to this piece.”
Gella was the Repertory Dance Theatre’s artist in residence in 2015, and has since been with several ballet companies.
“He has become a sort of master teacher, especially of young dancers who want to see the combination between ballet, modern and contemporary dance,” Smith said. “He is really known for finding a way to let people know that modern dance isn’t scary. It can be entertaining, thoughtful and poetic.”
The final piece of the night will be “Bolero,” by Shapiro and Smith Dance.
Shapiro and Smith is the brainchild of husband and wife, Danny Shapiro, who passed away in 2006, and Joanie Smith, who now runs the company.
“The choreography, like all of Shapiro and Smith’s works, is full of the wonderful, athletic and dynamic movement,” said Linda Smith, who is not related to Joanie Smith. “It’s full of life and a real treat. It’s dessert.”
Repertory Dance Theatre is looking forward to its return to the Egyptian Theatre.
“It’s such a nice, intimate house and we like that,” Smith said. “Plus the people who run and work at the Egyptian are so great. We always enjoy our experience, and we’re thrilled to be invited back.”
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