RDT draws inspiration from nature in 'Elements'

Published: Sunday, Sept. 27 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Repertory Dance Theatre artists perform "Rainwood" at the Rose Wagner theater.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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The Repertory Dance Theatre has been finding outlets to convey its theme, "Sense of Place," since 2002.

For the past seven years, and if technicalities are important, from the company's origins in 1966, the world-renowned modern dance group has produced works that are significant to Utah, such as Zvi Gotheiner's "Erosion," Molissa Fenley's "Desert Sea" and David Parson's "Summit."

The company has used educational outreach programs and incorporated poetry and visual arts into multimedia productions.

Always on the lookout for that "Sense of Place," RDT artistic director Linda C. Smith said she's recently had her eye on the Green Map System, a global movement mapping natural, social and cultural resources throughout the world.

The Green Map System relies on volunteers to take a neighborhood, natural site or other area and create a map using universal symbols that illustrate some of the resources and other items in the area. (More information can be found at www.greenmap.org.)

In an effort to increase awareness of the system, choreographer Gotheiner and the Repertory Dance Theatre have selected some of the symbols as a basis of "movement essays," that, said Smith, "will inspire a certain kind of response."

"A portion of the concert will be dedicated to an explanation of the Green Map project and a peek at some of these movement essays inspired by the icons." RDT will introduce the Green Map System to the community Oct. 1-3, during its season-opening concert, said Smith. The performance is called "Earth, Air, Fire and Water." In addition to the "movement essays," the company will perform Ze'eva Cohen's "Rainwood," Paul Sanasardo's "Earth," Mary Frances Lloyd's "Lady of the Lake" and Eric Handman's "Ghost Ship."

RDT is already meeting with schools across the Salt Lake Valley, asking students to Green Map their areas, Smith said.

"The state Office of Education's arts and education program is very interested in this program because they see it being a combination of interrelated subjects and also action oriented," she said.

"These are the kind of things that families can do together. They can go out with a map and do it as a family adventure."

So far, 400 cities have utilized the Green Map System, said Smith. "But none of these cities have involved dance.

"When someone understands in movement and see it in choreography, they have a different kind of ownership and knowledge of the subject matter."

RDT has drawn a plan that details the benefits of what it calls the Salt Lake County Green Map Project.

"Some of our goals are to inspire community action and partnerships," Smith said. "We're going to expand a community's sense of place, encourage environmental responsibility and celebrate environmental progress."

At the same time, RDT hopes to reach new audiences and develop a better understanding and appreciation for dance, said Smith.

"And we're going to create integrated arts-education residencies all over."

Smith said the project needs interaction and communication in order for the project to work.

"Because there are a lot of people doing environmental projects and surveys, we want to partner with many different groups, because I think everyone is realizing that it's time to look at our communities.

"They have grown, sometimes responsibly and sometimes not so responsibly. We're looking at our natural resources, (and) we're seeing because of our consumerism, we're becoming more aware of scarceness."

One concept that is dwindling, in Smith's eyes, is a "neighborhood."

"We lost a sense of neighborhood," she said. "We've created, because of our love of automobiles and also design choices, (a society where) we have to drive miles to get to any place. We need to look at cause and effect and know that when we make certain choices, there are consequences."

If you go …

What: "Elements," Repertory Dance Theatre

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South

When: Oct. 1-3, 8 p.m.

How much: $30

Phone: 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787

Web: www.arttix.org

e-mail: scott@desnews.com

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