SALT LAKE CITY — What is the difference between aloneness and loneliness?
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks tackled this question in her 1971 children’s book “Aloneness.” And while the introspective children’s book is not among her most popular works, it holds great meaning for some of its readers. Among these readers is choreographer Francisco Gella, whose piece “Aloneness” is premiering at the upcoming Repertory Dance Theatre production “Current.” RDT's new show incorporates work from multiple choreographers.
Speaking of how the book inspired the show's choreography, Gella said reading Brooks’ work as an adult offered a new level of introspection. This compelled him to explore ideas of aloneness and loneliness through the art of dance.
“It’s a children’s book,” Gella said. “But reading it (as an adult) … it really affected and inspired me.”
After getting an original copy of the book, Gella realized there's a difference between actually choosing to be alone and the condition of being lonely, a situation which he said is beyond a person’s control. “Current” explores that contrast between choice and situation.
“What I love about the piece is that everyone has a different interpretation of the work,” Gella said. “I’m not dictating what they’re supposed to be feeling in a particular moment.”
Gella explained that one of the piece's key elements is a mirror that follows a specific path as it moves around the stage. The mirror becomes a “ninth entity” as each of the eight dancers encounter their reflections or lack thereof.
“The mirror is a symbolic way of choosing whether we want to look at ourselves fully and (whether) we want to address our individual personality flaws, or (whether) we want to go about not really looking at it,” Gella said. “When different people look at the mirror at different times and in different spaces, there is an eerie, haunting, visceral response when they do that, and I get choked up when they do that.”
For Gella, the piece is all about re-connecting with memories, and he hopes audience members can have an individualized experience that reflects that.
“In a time where we scroll so fast, we don’t get to go back and acknowledge certain parts of our lives that helped shape us,” Gella said. “And as we get older and we go back to those things and remember them, our understanding of it evolved because we are living our lives.”
“Current” is meant to make people look back and read between the lines to see what resonates, Gella said.
Such introspective and heavy meaning isn’t the show's only element. With the name “Current,” the overall performance is meant to show the physical and emotional energy that drives our everyday lives. And although the concept of energy and connection wasn’t what initially inspired choreographer Nichele Van Portfleet, it has become the theme of her piece “Flood,” which is also premiering at the performance.
As the winner of RDT’s 2017 Regalia, Van Portfleet had a shortened time frame to produce her choreography, but she said the time crunch helped her explore new avenues and methods in her work.
Learning from a recent mentorship program in New York, Van Portfleet said she focused on accessing her intuition to create material quickly, and that her piece evolved through the process of working with RDT's dancers.
“It’s really fun to see how they’ve been able to take the material into their bodies and start making choices inside of it that make it theirs,” Van Portfleet said. “It’s like a back and forth conversation. Every time I watch it, I give them my feedback and then they work with that and make decisions. I see it kind of like a dialogue.”
And the dialogue isn’t just between choreographer and dancer. It's also between the dancers themselves.
“It’s sort of an organism of individuals with lots of tension between them,” Van Portfleet said. Moving from duets to group movements, she said the piece is very physical, and that a big focus is on how people pass momentum and share energy between one another. And although Van Portfleet’s choreography usually centers on personal relationships, she said this piece “feels like it’s inspired by society.”Comment on this story
With themes of energy and relationships running through each of the pieces, “Current” is set to be a showcase of why RDT is considered a big-city dance company. And for Van Portfleet, she said it's because of the community they have within the company.
“They have a culture and they know how to work together,” she said. “They have a kinesthetic sensitivity and intelligence with each other, and that makes a big difference.”
If you go …
What: Repertory Dance Theatre’s “Current”
When: April 12–14, 7:30 pm
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 Broadway
How much: $30 for general attendees, $15 for students/seniors