Rice Dance Theater opens their spring performance, Moving Stories on April 14th, which will showcase choreography from a variety of dance styles. RDT, a pre-professional dance company for Rice students, provides members with the opportunity to explore their capabilities both as dancers and as choreographers. Moving Stories features pieces by 6 student choreographers, as well as a piece by guest choreographer Jennifer Mabus, a Texas-based dance artist and educator who is currently working with RDT under the Dance Artist in Residence Grant provided by the university.
The company’s artistic director, Heather Nabors, developed the concept of Moving Stories to highlight the narratives behind each choreographer’s creative process.
“For a lot of the stories that are told in the dance concert, the inspiration comes from real life experience, or in the case of our guest choreographer, from poetry,” said Nabors.
Moving Stories marks the end of a chapter for RDT, as this will be the majority of the choreographer’s last performance with the company. Senior choreographers Victoria Chen, Adeene Denton, Emily Huang, Christine Lin and Jacqueline Nguyen will all be graduating in May, ending many longstanding relationships with the company.
“My piece marks the culmination of all my experiences at Rice that have shaped my worldview and how I’ve learned how to communicate my ideas,” said senior choreographer Adeene Denton (Jones, ‘16), who has danced for 8 semesters with the company and choreographed 7 pieces. Adeene’s piece acts as a feminist statement and a continuation of themes explored in her previous work. Her piece is a non-traditional mix of hip hop and ballet styles, an effect that is mainly achieved through body roles juxtaposed with arabesques and other prototypical ballet elements. Hip-hop is a new style for many of the dancers in the piece, but Denton highlights their technical ballet backgrounds through difficult balances and turns, and features acrobatic elements from Jones senior Momona Yamagami.
While RDT faces the challenge of starting a new era, new choreographers like freshman Rae Holcomb provide a glimpse as to what will be coming next for the company. In her contemporary piece, Dreamstate, her use of quick isolations and fragmented movement complement her choice in music and demonstrate a knowledge in a variety of styles. The piece experiments with different levels and uses of partnering, showing a lot of creative promise.
With 11 seniors total leaving the company, it is no surprise that a sense of sentimentality resonates in the dancers’ performances, particularly in six-time choreographer Jacqueline Nguyen’s piece, The Beautiful Machine and All of it’s Individual, Irreplaceable Parts. The piece itself is divided into two parts. The first implements mechanical movements to provide commentary on the dancer’s seemingly cog-like function in the company “machine.” The dancers in the piece turn their bodies into percussive instruments through fast-paced patterns of stomps and claps, a demanding coordination task for 10 performers. The second part shifts abruptly to a happier, more lyrical style, a change in mood that eventually culminates in a full-on dance party. Although there is a lack of apparent continuity between the two parts that can be confusing to the viewer, the second part acts as a celebration of dance and is one of my favorite moments from the dances I was able to preview.
The final moment of the piece, in which the dancers collapse in a cheerful heap, provides a glimpse into the sense of community between the company members at RDT. It shows how dance can bring people together, and why all the hours they have spent rehearsing in the studio are worth it.