"ECHOS," Repertory Dance Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Thursday; additional performances tonight and Saturday 8 p.m. (355-2787)

Repertory Dance Theatre reminds us why the company is one of the best modern dance organizations in the West with the season opener "Echos."

Comprised of three revived works, "Echos" explores an array of emotions and examines this thing called the human experience.

Susan Hadley's 1998 work "Blue Grass" opens the evening with its sometimes whimsical, athletic and balletic (with a little soft-shoe thrown in for good measure) dance of joy. Inspired and backed by recorded roots music performed by Mark O'Connor and friends, RDT dancers draw the audience in with contagious odes to unity and friendship.

The contrast comes with the late modern-dance pioneer Anna Sokolow's stark "Lyric Suite." The work, created in 1954 and first performed by RDT in 1969, is a collage of emotion-charged movement. Working the angst some 40 years before the word became chic, Sokolow's choreography is inspired by various iconoclasts and thought-changing stories: Vaslav Nijinsky, Isadora Duncan, "Tristan & Isolde," Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and a lone soldier caught up in his guilt and grief.

Striking and edgy choreography takes hold of the audience with mesmerizing theatrics, which intertwine movement, precision lighting and frantic and atonal music by Alban Berg. Without a doubt, the work is heavy, but at the same time a masterpiece of mid-century modern dance. And the dancers live up to the challenge.

Closing the evening is Zvi Gotheiner's creation of hope, "Bricks." First performed in 2005, "Bricks" takes the audience by surprise as it begins before the theater house lights dim.

Utilizing glass tiles — which become graves, walls, gateways and boundaries — the dancers build and symbolically dance stories of despair, love and hope.

Audiences can get caught up in watching the wall building or the dancing, because they both are executed in an unobtrusive and complementary fluidity.

And at the end, one of the bricks represents that ever-important glimmer of hope for the human race to be passed on to the world.


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