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Magic Numbers

To stand out in a sea of world premieres, honesty and emotionality are key, if Repertory Dance Theatre’s most recent program, “Venture,” is any indication. “Venture,” presented from November 16-18, featured four debuts by local and international choreographers, in addition to a 2023 work by Meghan Durham Wall. Each work presented one vignette of the company’s vast repertory—and contained just enough contrast to stand out from the rest.

Performance

Repertory Dance Theatre in Ruger Memmott’s “Shest,” Rachel Barker’s “Six is a Crowd,” Shane Urton’s “Sweetspot,” Meghan Durham Wall’s “Poetics of Aging,” and Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s “Oktet: In Situ” 

Place

Jeanne Wagner Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City, UT, November 16, 2023

Words

Sophie Bress

Repertory Dance Theatre in Ruger Memmott's “Shest.” Photograph by Stuart Rickman

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Ruger Memmott’s “Shest,” a world premiere featuring music by Michael Wall, opened the evening. The work served as a bite-sized introduction to the company, featuring six (shest is six in Russian) of the eight RDT dancers. The movement was organic, deeply musical, and expressive, especially with the upper body. My only complaint about “Shest” was that it wasn’t longer. Memmott’s movement language was interesting and this work was like an appetizer—I would have loved the chance to sink my teeth into the main course. 

“Shest” was followed by Rachel Barker’s “Six is a Crowd,” which opened with six of the company dancers sliding onto the stage in wide second positions, clad in socks and brightly colored costumes. Set to a mixed score by Albert Mathias, The Juju Orchestra, and Andrew Bird, the work was fun, quirky, and had a dance theater bent, incorporating spoken word and a few simple storylines. As “Six is a Crowd” progressed, it became more and more like a dream—one where locations, people, and events are almost familiar, but have a fantastical element. The stage belonged to the dancers for this work, with the choreography bolstering the dreamscape setting. 

Repertory Dance Theatre in Rachel Barker’s “Six is a Crowd.” Photograph by Stuart Rickman

Shane Urton’s “Sweetspotwas also for a sextet of dancers, as well as a duet between movement and light. The stage, void of set and stripped to its very back wall, felt cavernous, almost like a construction site or a dimly lit warehouse. For the first half of the work, the dancers came in and out of the light, body part by body part. During the second half, they bathed in the spotlight, exulting in each step. “Sweetspot” ended on a high, with an inventive and intuitive duet for Ursula Perry and Caleb Daly, which made Urton’s abstract choreography feel almost conversational. 

Meghan Durham Wall created “Poetics of Aging” for the members of RDT’s Prime Performance Workshop, a group of older adults from the Salt Lake City community, set to music by Michael Wall and Dom la Nena. It’s no secret that the dance field struggles with ageism. “Poetics of Aging” felt respectful, revealing a new sort of virtuosity that doesn’t come with high kicks and perfect pirouettes, but rather with softness, emotionality, honesty, joy, and connection. 

Repertory Dance Theatre's Prime Performance Workshop group perform Meghan Durham Wall’s “Poetics of Aging.” Photograph by Stuart Rickman

Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s “Oktet: In Situ” closed the evening. Skarpetowska is a former member of both Parsons Dance Company and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and, in addition to collaborating with Lubovitch, she is a repetiteur of his work. The Lubtovich influence is apparent in both Skarpetowska’s adept use of musicality and her movement choice, which emphasizes the natural beauty of the human body in motion. 

Repertory Dance Theatre in Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s “Oktet: In Situ.” Photograph by Stuart Rickman 

For this work, the stage was adorned with eight cubes, which the dancers rearranged, sat, and stood on over the course of the performance. The simplicity of the set design gave it a classically modern feel, like a painting by Piet Mondrian. The music, a version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, felt new paired with the subtle sets and balletic, yet current, choreography. Despite this modernity, “Oktet: In Situ” was not devoid of emotions. Dancers smiled at one another as they performed, creating an intimate feeling onstage, almost as if the true audience wasn’t in the house, but rather onstage, sharing the spotlight. 

Sophie Bress


Sophie Bress is an arts and culture journalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. In her writing, she focuses on placing the arts within our cultural conversations and recognizing art makers as essential elements of our societal framework. Sophie holds a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. She has been published in Dance Magazine, L.A. Dance Chronicle, The Argonaut, Festival Advisor, and more.

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