SALT LAKE CITY — Since Efren Corado joined Repertory Dance Theatre in 2013, his dancing has been about more than movement.
“One of the (reasons) I’m proud to … work with Repertory Dance Theatre is that we tell stories that are really important socially — it’s not just work for the sake of creating abstract dance," he told the Deseret News. "(RDT is) really focused on creating an opportunity for really human experiences to unfold on the stage. … Behind it all is a social responsibility.”
After six years with the company, Corado, a Guatemalan dancer who left his home country at age 11, will give his last performance with RDT in this spring’s “Voices,” a repertoire displaying the works of five different choreographers running April 11-13 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Among those presenting their work will be choreographer Bebe Miller, whose eight-person dance, “Events,” explores the theme of community that has kept Corado inspired over the course of his career.
“It’s a contemporary piece built around a recorded text that I really love that sort of outlines for all of us how we see ourselves over time,” Miller said. “In a large, global sense as well as in a small sense — something can happen, and we're all affected."
Miller, who usually choreographs for a familiar set of dancers at her own studio, Bebe Miller Company, opened herself to a different experience when she agreed to choreograph a piece for RDT’s dancers. Conversation, group improvisation sessions and input from each dancer went into creating the piece in its final form.
“I'm looking at who (the dancers) are as people and who are they as a community,” Miller said. “They have the job of quickly trying to figure out 'What is this new person asking of me? How can I still be myself and be present with what they're doing?' … That's a very specialized skill.”
That “specialized skill” is one that Corado has been mastering over time. While learning to work with a new choreographer such as Bebe is one challenge, he and other dancers at RDT are often tasked with expressing the stories, histories and experiences of people with identities that have little resemblance to their own.
For example, RDT visited Bears Ears National Monument in 2017 to create a work representative of the “ideas and histories there that are often untold,” Corado said.
“In order for you to be a storyteller, you have to be able to interpret meaning and decipher personal history, or the significance of personal subjects within the work. … As a dancer, I'm just a storyteller," he said. "I have to really be able to place myself inside of other people's story and really interpret what that means to me, and what it meant to them and what it means socially.”
While a major part of RDT’s work is telling the stories of specific individuals and groups, Miller’s piece aims to explore the fundamentals of what it means to be part of a community — regardless of particulars.
“We live in complicated times, so it's almost like if you soften your focus, you see a lot of interaction between people … then suddenly the space is clear and it's just Efren and another dancer, and he's whispering in her ear," Miller said. And it's like, 'Oh, right, it comes down to that — that kind of simplicity, that kind of visibility.’”
As far as who Corado is within his own community? There’s more to the story than could be shared in a phone interview, but a large part of his presence onstage comes from a sense of personal responsibility for his ethnicity.1 comment on this story
“It matters to know that there's this first generation immigrant kid from Guatemala now onstage living and reenacting American modern dance history — that's actually kind of a big deal,” he said. “And definitely, I think my social responsibility has been heightened by that fact.”
If you go ...
What: Repertory Dance Theatre's "Voices"
When: April 11-13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South
How much: $30 for adults, $15 for seniors and students