Lane welcomed the Repertory Dance Theatre back to Building 6 on Jan. 28.
“We’ve been coming to the Eugene area for the last couple of years. We’ve made great connections here with the dance program and (Lane dance instructor) Bonnie Simoa,” RDT assistant artistic director Nicholas Cendese said.
RDT, which was founded in Salt Lake City in 1966, dedicates itself to “the education and perpetuation of modern dance,” he said. “We really value exposing younger people to art. It changes the way they will look at art the rest of their lives.”
As the audience members took their seats, a team of dancers prepared itself for the night’s performance.
“Most of our dancers have trained for 10-plus years and have degrees from colleges and universities,” Cendese said.
RDT performed an eclectic arrangement, primarily featuring choreography from Michio Ito, “a pioneer in the way of creating codified gesture to support his choreography,” Simoa said. “It kind of got lost in the historical view.”
To pay tribute and raise awareness of Ito’s name, the team at RDT put this performance together.
“We have paired up with The Michio Ito Foundation and are working on becoming a repository for all of his work,” Cendese said.
The Michio Ito Foundation offers RDT dancers and representatives the unique opportunity to meet with masters of the Ito technique.
In January, “the company … went to Pennsylvania, where we actually spent two full weeks working with the Ito masters from Japan. You’ll see tonight with the Ito work that it’s about simplicity and purity, and it’s a different way to train dancers. It demands clarity and precision and absolute control of your body,” Cendese said.
Simoa said most modern companies now are making their own work.
“They’re not really interested in being a carrier of the history of modern dance,” she said. “One of the important things to know about Repertory Dance Theater is that they are the only repertory company in the U.S. that is actually preserving historical dance works that go all the way back to Ito and perhaps before.”
After the intermission, there were some technical difficulties: As the curtain went up and the dancers began their choreography in unison, there was no music to accompany them.
After a slight delay, the curtains went down again and a poised Cendese addressed the audience. He informed the audience that the show would resume momentarily.
As the show continued the dancers performed more complex pieces that loosely guided the audience from Ito’s most prolific period in the early 1900s then segued to the more modern choreography, of 2010.
“What’s unique about our company is that we don’t do the work of just one choreographer,” Cendese said. “We function as a library. We have a repertory that spans over a hundred years of modern dance. We have pieces from the 1920s, the 1930s — all the way up to 2010 to 2013.”
The RDT has made an impression on audience member Gwen Curran over the years.
“I have seen them perform here before and I’ve also seen them in Salt Lake City. They have a niche,” she said.