The University of Texas’ department of theatre and dance’s Dance Repertory Theatre presented its annual fall showcase this wekend, which included five pieces by choreographers ranging from Mark Morris to West Virginia University professor Yoav Kaddar and UT professors David Justin and Holly Williams, as well as a piece by BFA student Stacy Skolnik.
Show opener “Raw” (a 2005 choreography by Kaddar) featured an animalistic ensemble of dancers in flesh-toned garments against a red backdrop, hair teased wildly. Low-to-the-ground stalking stances were contrasted with high-energy leaps as the dancers navigated imagined terrain.
The next two choreographies, both premieres, were quieter. In Skolnik’s “Unspeakable Truths,” the dancers manifested a theme by alternately gathering in their arms and dropping imagined weight. In Williams’ “Orchid,” the music of ukulele artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole set the stage for a serene atmosphere. Donning purple-drape dresses, the seven dancers moved smoothly against a backdrop featuring images of palm fronds, the deep waters of the ocean and a blue sky with puffy clouds.
The final pieces, Justin’s “Quiver” (2013) and Morris’ “Grand Duo” (1993), were both danced to live music.
In “Quiver,” violinist Molly Emerman of the Austin Symphony Orchestra joined six dancers onstage, where her presence not just as a musician but also as a mover was integral. Her swaying motions as she played Bach’s “Partita No. 2 in D Minor” were reverberated in the dancers’ movements, which had a luxurious quality. It was easy to become entranced by the connection readily apparent between the dancers and musician; even when Emerman ceased to play for a moment, she continued to rock side to side, while the dancers fed off the energy. “Quiver” was the stuff of goosebumps, with the dancers delivering an unshakable performance filled with long lines from outstretched hands to pointed toes, and winding turns.
For Morris’ “Grand Duo,” violinist Emerman was joined by pianist and UT Butler School of Music doctoral student Nicholas Reynolds to play Lou Harrison’s “Grand Duo for Violin and Piano.” The choreography, divided into four parts, called for a 14-member cast. In the first part, each dancer moved at a different pace, performing different sections of choreography in place to occasionally return to a wide-legged stance, hands forming a diamond shape on the belly. The pings of the piano inspired sharp movement in the dance. In the final section, the dancers formed a large circle that gave way to concentric circles, creating a snail-shell-like illusion.
The “Fall for Dance” cast demonstrated not only its versatility, but also the power of combining dance with live music. The energy exhibited onstage was contagious.