Bravo for the Repertory Dance Theatre! At the ripe old age of 25 (and I figure companies do a heap of living, maybe twice as much as people, in a year) RDT is still trying new things and inventing new formats.
The avowed intent of "Separate Journeys" was to show the experiences of the individual when uprooted - what his feelings as an immigrant were, how he coped, how he became a whole and functioning unit in a new society that was often closed to him.It's a big and vital concept, filled with a thousand possibilities; and to their credit, those who put this program together succeeded in most respects. Their format called for the blending of photos, music, dance and narration and the assistance of many guest artists and technicians. At its best, the show was an engrossing interplay of personalities, reacting to difficult situations. At other times there was more than a hint of documentarese, with dancing taking a back seat to less engrossing elements.
"Separate Journeys" was most successful when it was simplest, with a person-to-person approach rather than too many simultaneous enhancements of an idea.
From the racial strands that make up Utah, choreographer Lynne Wimmer picked five minorities, each represented by real-life narrations from the Oral History Institute, and the program was arranged in ascending order of interest.
The Greek episode, which focused on mother-daughter conflict - the one defended the old ways, the other reached out to the new - struck live nerves. It was beautifully handled, with Linda C. Smith strolling the stage and narrating, while Melinda Evans and Angela Banchero portrayed two strong women in vivid interaction.
Almost as effective was the segment focusing on the poignance of the Japanese internment during World War II. The narrator spoke of hearing a woman go mad, then the women of the company led by Tina Misaka reacted to the loneliness of displacement, the injustice of that humiliating period, while Bernice Kida and the Buddhist Temple Dancers represented the traditional values that sustained them.
Three company men caught the youthful energy of Jewish immigrants whose experiences were different but the same: men called upon to be resilient in the face of persecution and ridicule. Music by John Mitchell, a well-conceived electronic score employing ethnic influences to underline the narration and dancing, was especially well-suited to this segment, and men of the Zivio Ensemble added Hasidic color.
The opening Indian episode had an interesting interplay between narrator/character dancer (David Marchant) pouring out the Ute's frustrations, and Andrew James in full Navajo regalia, dancing an eagle dance and fancy dance. One felt a vital connection between the two - opposite poles of the same person, being pulled toward the reservation on the one hand, toward the new society on the other.
The Mexican-Hispanic community, though it used the largest number of performers, with a story that even pulled in Pancho Villa, somehow did not make a totally successful connection between narration and stage.