RDT’s CURRENT presents up and coming choreographers

By Claire Brown
“Material Tokens of the Freedom of Thought” by Angela Banchero-Kelleher

Repertory Dance Theatre’s CURRENT opened Thursday, April 12 in the Jeanné Wagner Theater at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Their last show of the 2017-2018 home season featured choreography by “the next generation”—three RDT alumni (Sarah Donohue, Francisco Gella and Angela Banchero-Kelleher) plus the winner of last year’s choreographer competition (Nichele Van Portfleet). RDT is known for presenting weekends of monumental historical works; however, RDT has shown with CURRENTS that the company can do justice to new pieces as well.

Still Life with Flight (2015), choreographed by Sara Donohue who is now a professor of dance at Utah Valley University, was performed by Justin Bass and Tyler Orcutt. Bold, full-bodied movement and subtle shades of expression gave me the feeling of what it’s like to be in a fresh romance. This piece was selected to perform at the American College Dance Association’s National Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Aloneness, choreographed by Francisco Gella, was based on a children’s book by Gwendolyn Brooks, about a young boy reflecting on the difference between feeling lonely and being alone. The curtains rose on dancer Ursula Perry in front of a mirror. A translucent screen the first few minutes of the piece made me feel like an onlooker peeking into the personal life of this woman. Other dancers would come and go, as if they were representing various parts of her personality. Gella took a bow at the end; this was the first time Aloneness had ever been performed for an audience.

Up next after a quick intermission was Flood by Nichele Van Portfleet (the winner of RDT’s choreography competition REGALIA in 2017), also a premiere. The dancers wore street clothing. Muted lighting and deep heavy music by Anna S. Thorvaldsdóttir set a dreary mood. Flood was an intense fight among the dancers, which ended with Efrén Corado Garcia on the floor and barely moving. The realism drew me into the story — I felt their expression of connection and rage.

Schubert Impromptu (2015), also by Francisco Gella, was a stunning duet between dancers Jaclyn Brown and Justin Bass that allowed some much needed relaxation after Flood, thanks in part to a Franz Schubert piano piece. Gella used the dancers to enhance the experience of the music. The dancers’ movements ebbed and flowed beautifully with the piano.

Relationships between mother and daughter are often complicated beyond words, which gave Material Tokens of the Freedom of Thought (2015) by Angela Banchero-Kelleher so much power. Banchero-Kelleher expressed the tangled mother-daughter bond through the cathartic movements of Justin Bass, Jaclyn Brown, Lauren Curley, Efren Corado Garcia, Dan Higgins, Elle Johansen and Tyler Orcutt—precise and fluid, yet strong and filled with passion. Sometimes Banchero-Kelleher’s choreography glorified the individual dancer; other times, it presented them as a group, expressing the many emotions that occur in a mother-daughter relationship. Banchero-Kelleher choreographed this piece in response to the death of her mother. The sorrowful emotion along with the passion and freedom expressed by the dancers was conveyed to the audience. I applaud Banchero-Kelleher’s courage to invite us so deeply into her difficult experience.

CURRENT will be presented on both Friday (13th) and Saturday (14th) at 7:30pm.


Claire Brown is an intern for CATALYST. She is currently a student at Westminster College.

This article was originally published on April 16, 2018.