While compiling works for Repertory Dance Theatre's season opener, "Terrain," artistic director Linda C. Smith wanted to keep in mind the company's central theme: Sense of place.
"There is a trend that our landscapes are being affected by businesses, rather than people," Smith said during an interview in the RDT offices. "Our landscapes are losing their identity, and the community is looking like nothing more than big-box building stores and strip malls. They are everywhere, and every place looks the same as other places. We're becoming a monoculture.
"And we wanted to get away from that with the works we selected for 'Terrain.' The works look at our differences."
Smith chose five pieces, which, she said, would represent various aspects and styles in modern dance: Pat Catterson's "Generations," Yvonne Rainer's "Trio A," Susan Hadley's "Solitaire," John Butler's "The Initiate" and Kathryn Posin's "Waves."
"Pat's piece is a lovely movement work," said Smith. "It's as if the dancers are passing life's energy to each other. There are so many layers to this work, and I l have loved it ever since I first saw it back in 1999."
If any work on the program aligns itself with postmodern dance, it's "Trio A," said Smith. "This work was done back in 1966. It's a solo work by four people and is a sequence of movements. The catch is, nothing repeats, and the dancers are to do it with no emotion. There is no climax, but a steady stream of movement. And it was a challenge for the dancers to pull it off. They are used to dancing with emotion."
With "Solitaire," Smith said Hadley understood losing one's identity. "This beautiful work is trying to get back to the individual."
"The Initiate" is the opposite of "Trio A," said Smith. "There is an abundance of drama and emotion. It's akin to Glen Tetley's 'Rite of Spring.' It uses the mythological themes of the hero, the initiation, the death and rebirth. This work was choreographed in 1968, a volatile time in our country's history. And it is as if John was showing the violence of the times and what it was breeding. Turmoil and movement are used throughout this work."
Which brings the program to "Waves." "This work," said Smith, "is our return to nature. The idea of our world, we being a part of it and its fragility is what Kathryn's work means to me. We have been abusing our oceans and the sea life that dwells in it.
"It is a beautiful work that ends our production in, what it seems like, a full circle. With 'Waves,' we appear to have found our way back to nature. The place where life started. Our origins. Our 'Sense of Place.' "
"Waves" was a commissioned work for the American Dance Festival in 1975. The music, composed by Laurie Spiegel, and Posin's dance movements were created simultaneously. "I would crouch down," Posin said by phone from her New York home," and do all the sea animal movements, and then head to Laurie's apartment and show her what I was doing. And she'd take notes and come up with the music.
"I brought the idea of waves to her, because I was fond of watching rivers. She liked what I was doing, and we did what we did."
Sea urchins, sea anemones, fish — Posin wanted to put them all in the work. "The ocean is home to all these creatures," Posin said. "I wanted to show what the sea creatures do to the ocean and what the ocean does for the creatures. I had been snorkeling and it sparked my imagination."
Posin has a gift. Her body is triple-jointed, and she can move in ways that are impossible for others. And that proved to be a challenge when creating this work. "We've had dancers — when Alvin Ailey Dance Company did this work — who got injured with torn muscles doing this work. It was so bad that Alvin called me and told me that they had to pull it from their repertoire.
"So, I started redoing the work using standardized movement. Although it still is very difficult to do."
Posin said if any company can do "Waves" justice, it's RDT.
"I am shocked, first of all, that Linda wanted to do the work," Posin said with a laugh. "But I am also honored.
"Today's dancers are more educated than we were at their age. And they know the correct movement of the body. And so, you could say I am honored and worried that the company wanted to do this work, because I don't want them to get hurt."
If you go
What: "Terrain," Repertory Dance Theatre
Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center
When: Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $25
Phone: 255-2787 or 1-800-451-2787