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Theater highlights century of dance

"TIME CAPSULE," REPERTORY DANCE THEATRE, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, additional performances Friday and Saturday (355-2787).

Repertory Dance Theatre's production "Time Capsule" is a few minutes longer than usual. To understand why, observe that the program's subtitle is "A Century of Dance."

RDT was founded in 1966, but the company has in its repertoire works that go back to 1905. And, since this is the company's 40th anniversary season, artistic director Linda C. Smith decided to revive some of these works and educate the public.

The 22 works in this two-hour program are danced superbly by the RDT dancers. While some of the selections are done in their entirety — Daniel Nagrin's gritty 1948 solo "Strange Hero" and Shapiro & Smith's physically exhausting 1992 work "Dance with Two Army Blankets," to name just a couple — there are others that have been cut down to excerpts. Zvi Gotheiner's 1991 masterpiece "Chairs" and Laura Dean's 1982 martial-artistic "Sky Light," for example, have been edited for time-constraint purposes.

However, choosing to edit these works has not damaged the integrity of the dancing. Instead, it allows the company to fit these pieces into the program, giving the audience a feel for what these choreographers had to contribute to the history of modern dance.

The evening begins with Isadora Duncan's ground-breaking 1905 "Valse Brilliante." Up next is Ruth St. Denis' 1918 trademark work "Valse a la Loie (Scarf Dance)."

Interestingly, the audience can see the similarities in the styles but also see the differences in the movement executions. While some of these works seem mild now, they were shocking back in the day.

Michio Ito's symbolic "Warrior" (1927) brings out the martial arts and Ted Shawn's masculine "Cutting the Sugar Cane" (1933) give the spotlight to RDT's men. But the work that gets the most reaction is John Butler's 1955 comedic "Holy Rollers," which is culled from a larger work ("Three Promenades with the Lord"). Chien-Ying Wang, Angela Banchero-Kelleher and Nicholas Cendese are hilarious in Butler's exaggerated study of religious fanaticism.

The most poignant selection is titled "Martha Graham (movement phase)," which, in a nutshell, shows why Graham was a master at knowing how the human body can move. RDT dancer Chien-Ying Wang channels the late choreographer in this emotional tribute.

These are just highlights. This program is a great lesson in Modern Dance 101 for casual fans, and a nice refresher course for modern-dance aficionados. We are fortunate to have RDT preserving these works for posterity.