It's April, which in the land of performance arts means we're enterting the last run of several seasons for local companies. --- The first one up will be Repertory Dance Theatre that will be clocing out its 2013-2014 season with Land, an epic season closer featuring works choreographed by Molissa Fenley, Zvi Gotheiner, Ze’eva Cohen and Joanie Smith & Danial Shapiro. The show will kick off on April 10 for a three day engagement at the Rose Wagner, with tickets still available as of this post.
Today we chat with dancer Efren Corado Garcia, as well as RDT's Education Director (and former RDT dancer) Lynne Larson about their careers and this production before they kick off this Thursday. (All pictures courtesy of RDT.)
Lynne Larson & Efren Corado Garcia
Gavin: Hello to you both. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Efren: Gavin, I was born in Guatemala in a remote town in the middle of nowhere. I lived in California for 15 years before moving to Salt Lake City. I earned my undergraduate degree in dance from Chapman University, my masters and certification as a Movement Analyst from the University of Utah. I performed locally for two years prior to joining RDT full-time this past summer.
Lynne: I received a BFA in dance from Western Michigan University and a MFA in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I lived in New York in the early '90s and performed there with Martita Goshen’s Earthworks. I also received a lot of training in arts administration by working for Gina Gibney, The Field and the International Festival of the Arts. I traveled to Utah in 1995 to attend the RDT Summerdance Workshop with Susan McClain. Linda asked me to guest perform for a work being presented that fall, Doris Humprhey’s With My Red Fires, so I moved here and have stayed. I danced with RDT as a guest for three years and then as a full company member for seven years. I also performed during that time with SBdance and Koester & Dancers. I am currently the education director for RDT and also rehearsal direct, teach company class and coach the company.
Gavin: How did you each take an interest in dance and what what were some early influences on you?
Efren: Honestly, when I was in high school I was accidentally signed up for freshman basketball training, which made me dislike running. In my other P.E. classes they would also run every Friday. I hated it so much I though it would be easier to take a dance class. I ended up taking dance classes the last two years of high school, with little intention of continuing to study movement in college. I really wanted to teach math. Unfortunately, once in college my math classes gradually became far less interesting. In those first years I met Heather Gillette, my dance mom. She was a huge influence in those early years, in fact, I say that when you see me dance you can also see her in me. She guided me, allowed me to be foolish and her passion for dance left an imprint in my heart. I just found out that she had previously performed with RDT as a guest dancer. I am truly following her footsteps.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you growing up performing prior to college?
Efren: As I mentioned, dance was a very small part of my life in high school. It was an escape goat. I didn't perform very much, in fact in those early years I don't think I even knew what it meant to perform. It was in college that I met fellow dancers that were exemplary performers. it was through them that I realized what dance could be.
Gavin: Lynne, let's examine your career first. How was it for you coming up through college and then going professional?
Lynne: I started dancing when I was 4. My mom signed me up with a friend for pre-ballet classes and I continued from there. I took ballet, jazz and tap all during my childhood and high school years. I started modern dance when I was in college.
Gavin: What brought you to Utah and what was it like joining RDT at that time?
Lynne: I came to Utah to dance. I joined RDT at a time when the Rose Wagner was just being built. At that time, RDT was housed in an old restaurant supply warehouse next door. I found some tremendous mentors in the company that inspired me and pushed me to become a better dancer and teacher.
Gavin: How was it performing here with the crew who run RDT and how would you compare your time here with the rest of your career?
Lynne: It has been a wonderful experience performing for RDT. I was able to work with some amazing artists and choreographers throughout my time and have been able to dance in wonderful work. Some highlights are working with Daniel Nagrin on a solo, Spanish Dance and working with Zvi Gotheiner on many pieces, Chairs, Glacier, Lapse, Brazilian Duets, Bricks and Erosion.
Gavin: How did the opportunity come about to become the director of education and how has it been working in that position?
Lynne: When I retired from performing, RDT was granted a new sum of money for arts in education. This money was one-time money and the artistic director decided it was a good idea to create a director of education position. I have always loved teaching and during my time in Utah have always been involved in teaching dance whether in the public schools or a private studio setting. It was a good transition for me and for the company.
Gavin: Efren, what was it like attending Chapman University and studying dance there?
Efren: Chapman was a small program filled with encouragement and some amazing faculty. It was in this program that I learned the importance of technique, clarity and to exercise curiosity.
Gavin: What brought you to the University of Utah and how did their program compare to Chapman's?
Efren: I applied to the University of Utah because my mentor Heather received her master's degree from the university. I knew it was a good program but I didn't know much of what even a master's degree entailed. The experience differed from my undergraduate degree in that it was much more analytical, critical and life changing. I learned to be my own teacher, to stand outside of my self and question every action. The faculty was incredible in guiding learning processes that emphasized personal research on theory and how to apply it to your product as an artist. I was also very lucky to be recipient of a scholarship to the Integrated Movement System Certification program. IMS is a program that helps realize the body's unique potential to be expressive, functional and creative. It was this program that changed my life while at the University. In it you learn to talk about movement thru an analytical lens, while also having a strong foundation in the lived experience of movement. It was also the stepping stone to get my first teaching job at a University.
Gavin: You're a first-run dancer of Bare Dance Company, what was it like starting up your own company and participating as both a dancer and the team?
Efren:%uFFFDI was part of the company for the first four years and I would do that all over again. Mike and the dancers were integral in building my foundation as a professional. With them I learned to be a hard worker, to challenge my body, to be a quick learner and curious. Many of the dancers have now moved on to travel the world with Broadway shows such as Wicked, The Lion King or have started their own companies. When I started Project Revisited Grounds, a project based umbrella functioning to support local social service agencies, I wanted to mimic much of the service Bare had provided for its community when I was a company member. It was a jarring shift going from company member to director. The administrative work in putting together a show, bringing in guests artists from other states, the publication and promotion of a show, all of it was daunting. I hope to bring back PRG in the next year but only time will tell.
Gavin: How did you get involved with RDT and what was it like for you joining the company?
Efren: I first considered working with RDT when a friend asked me to join her to one of their auditions. I didn't expect anything to happen but I was lucky enough to have been offered a position as a guest artist performing a work by Merce Cunningham. A few months after that first show, I was offered a second stint as a guest artists. I enjoyed the work, the process so much that when a final decision was to be made if I would be joining RDT full-time, my heart knew that it was the best decision I could make. In the span of my educational career, studying and trying to grasp the importance of historic work was always last on my list of priorities. I never had the opportunity to perform classical modern work and now I can't get enough. I wish every dance student would get the opportunity that I have now. I just performed a solo by Ted Shawn, work by Jose Limon, Merce Cunningham, Bill Evans, Michio Ito and that experience is priceless. I am also grateful to work with the people in the company. We sometimes feel like we perform for each other more so than the audiences. Only we know our triumphs, defeats and the goals. But, what I appreciate about RDT aside from its historic importance, is how incredibly difficult it is to bring these works back to life. And, I get to learn to that from some amazing people.
Gavin: Lynne, how did the plan for Land come about and how did you become involved to help set some of the works?
Lynne: The artistic plan for Land came about through a series of meetings between the staff and the artistic director. It was Linda Smith’s vision for this concert that brought these four pieces together. I became rehearsal director for three of the pieces because I had been in these pieces as a dancer and was familiar with the choreography and premise behind each piece.
Gavin: You helped set three works for this production, can you tell us a bit about all three?
Lynne: First there's “Desert Sea” – choreographed by Molissa Fenley. I was in the original cast. Molissa entered RDT’s national choreography competition for Sense of Place in 2004 and won. She came and set the work during two weeks in December. It was an amazing experience. Her idea for the piece came from the Native American weaving of the Navajo people. The movement was physically challenging and the process itself mentally challenging. As dancers we were expected to know the movement forward and backward, so Molissa was able to change our facings, where we started in each phrase, which foot we started on, etc. with great ease. The piece has no counts per say, the dancers aim for music cues and felt timing. Almost no movement in the piece repeats. None of the current dancers in RDT had performed this piece, so it took quite a bit of time to set this piece. Molissa Fenley came in October to coach the piece for a few days. Since then, the piece has been performed on tour with rehearsal sessions in between. Next there's “Turf” – choreographed by Shapiro & Smith. I was in this piece when it was re-staged a year or so after its premiere. Danny Shapiro came out to re-work some of the piece and also to help coach the four of us who were new to the piece. The piece is sectional with the use of unique props, rugs, and based on the spirit of friendly competition.
Lynne: There is beautiful partnering, lots of fun, athletic movement and great camaraderie with the dancers. I was chosen to set this piece, because I am currently the only person here who has danced it. Joanie Smith came to clean the piece last month and made numerous changes, all wonderful additions to their original premise. The dancers have settled into the piece and are looking forward to performing it. Finally there's “Erosion” – choreography by Zvi Gotheiner. I was also in a re-staging of this piece as well, so that is why I was selected to re-stage it this time. This piece was commissioned to be part of RDT’s Landscape Suite. A series of commissions based on the diverse landscapes of our State. Zvi visited Bryce Canyon as part of his research about Utah’s red rock region and was inspired to create Erosion. The piece is a journey for the dancers and the audience. The movement is luscious and beautiful. The dancers work as a group moving through their unique world working, moving, loving, exploring and conquering. The process for re-setting this piece was very satisfying. The dancers were committed to the movement and took to the themes very quickly. Zvi just left a couple days ago from being here to coach the piece and get it performance ready.
Gavin: How has it been working with the dancers and the crew to help make this production happen?
Lynne: The dancers have worked very hard during the entire year to make this production come together. Because of choreographer’s schedules and our schedule. Pieces can be set throughout our season regardless of when they will be performed. The dancers started Desert Sea in October, Turf in February and Erosion in March.
Gavin: Efren, what were your first impressions of the show when you learned about it?
Efren: Gavin, to be honest we have been so busy, touring two or three different shows at a time that I don't think I ever had the time to build any impressions. As I'm answering these questions I can only tell you what each piece looks like, we have yet to run the entire show from beginning to end.
Gavin: How has it been for you learning these works and working with the other dancers to being the show to life?
Efren: Every work was a mountain all on its own. Each is 15 to 20-plus minutes. It really takes a team to make these pieces work. For every one of these pieces we had the opportunity to work with the choreographer. That experience of working with them in person helps us find our home in each of the dances, to love it and hate it at the same time. It also makes us realize how lucky we are.
Gavin: What has been your personal favorite piece to work on, and why?
Efren: I love "Rainwood" by Ze'va Cohen. It is pure. The work requires a sense of clarity in the body and mind that sweeps me off my feet.
Lynne: I have enjoyed setting each piece. They are all so different that it makes the rehearsal process interesting!
Gavin: What are both of your thoughts headed into opening night?
Efren: Come to the show! I'm proud of this show. We have worked very hard and have devoted ourselves to make it beautiful.
Lynne: The concert will be diverse and beautiful!
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you over the rest of the year?
Efren: I am currently marinating over developing my first full-evening work. Ideas are floating, feelings are being tossed around.
Lynne: The rest of my year will be filled with teaching in the public schools, reports and gearing up for the summer workshop season.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Efren: RDT has some amazing community school classes. We are not a studio, we tailor to the community. You can't say you are too old or too uncoordinated to dance. Our classes help you feel good about moving your body. We have beginning modern classes, Soma Dance for those over 40 years old, hip hop. Come and join us!
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