Get to know the masterminds behind the moves of Dance Repertory Theatre’s Momentum (on stage through February 26, 2017). Featuring nationally renowned choreographers, these artists use movement to express what often cannot be put into words and bring to light important and powerful conversations present in today’s society.
First up on our list is DR. LORENZO “RENNIE” HARRIS. Since the age of 15, Harris has been conducting workshops and classes at universities across the nation. He has been compared to legendary choreographers Alvin Ailey and Bob Fosse. Harris combines traditional dance elements of the past while crafting a story through dance that reflects and gives something back to present and future generations. His piece, Second to Khan, centers around the recent rise in school shootings, police brutality and the BlackLivesMatter movement. Harris is committed to providing audiences with a sincere view of the essence and spirit of hip hop and offer a new perspective on how audiences view the genre. (Photo by Bob Emmott, Rennie Harris Puremovement 1994)
ABBY ZBIKOWSKI’s dance works pay homage to the effort of living and tactics of survival. She utilizes the embodied practice of Afro-Diasporic dance forms like hip-hop, as well as a punk musical influence in her pieces. She is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and serves on the faculty at the American Dance Festival. Zbikowski’s work with her company, Abby Z and the New Utility, has been presented by the Bates Dance Festival, Dance New Amsterdam, the Gibney Dance Center and the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, among other venues. Her piece in Momentun, entitled Under the Asphalt, attempts to intertwine both traditional dance forms with a unique punk musicality. (Photo by Nick Fancher)
GESEL MASON is no stranger to using dance as a medium to bring attention to those without voices, situations that have been ignored or matters that are considered controversial and taboo in society. This method has been met with great praise and her work has been presented at venues across the world, including at Joyce SoHo, 651 Arts, Bates Dance Festival, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Painted Bride, Dance Place, the International Contemporary Dance Conference and Performance Festival in Bytom (Poland), DanceAfrica and the International Association of Blacks in Dance. Mason’s piece titled, Lec/Dem or How Do You Spell Femaphobic (excerpt from antithesis), builds upon poet Audre Lorde’s essay Uses of the Erotic, which fuses the genres, bodies and cultures of both postmodern dance and erotic dance. (Photo by Paul Emerson)
JEREMY ARNOLD asked for his mother for his first pair of “tappy shoes” at age two after watching Savion Glover on Sesame Street. More than twenty years later he still hasn’t stopped moving his feet. An esteemed tap dancer and choreographer, Arnold has served as a faculty member of Tap Ties, Dance Olympus/Dance America, International Dance Challenge, Dance Masters of America, the Cecchettti Council of America and The University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance. He is one of the co-artistic directors of Momentum and choreographed Bach in Time, is Dance Repertory Theatre’s first ever tap performance which blends tap dance with the classical music of Bach. (Photo from Lehigh Valley Live, 2011)
CHARLES O. ANDERSON is the head of the dance program and a producing artistic director of Dance Repertory Theatre at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as artistic director of the critically-acclaimed afro-contemporary dance theatre company, dance theatre X (founded in 2003). Among his achievements in afro-contemporary choreography and dance theatre, Anderson was selected as one of “25 Artists to watch” by Dance Magazine and is a Pew Fellowship in the Arts recipient. His choreography has been nationally showcased twice at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through the American College Dance Association and he has been recognized for outstanding achievement in experimental dance theatre by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Momentum features the second installment of Anderson’s (Re)current Unrest project. Inspired by the BlackLivesMatters movement and exploring notions of citizenship and personhood, (Re)current Unrest pt. 2: In D’Nile immerses the audience in a sonic landscape, revealing the sociocultural realities and imaginings that inform the utterances of the African American voices featured in composer Steve Reich’s works. Anderson’s (Re)current Unrest, the first work in his series, was premiered by Dance Repertory Theatre in the 2016 concert Bodies & Souls. (Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki. Arts + Culture Texas, 2016)
LYN C. WILTSHIRE‘s dance movement foundation is rooted in professional training with world-renowned choreographers and directors: Arthur Mitchell, Jose Limon, Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey. She has performed and toured with many notable directors and dance companies, including the Dance Theatre of Harlem and internationally with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As a professor of dance at The University of Texas at Austin, she is a dance educator, administrator, director and Fulbright Senior Scholar. Beyond her work at the university, Wiltshire travels regularly as a master teacher and has presented lectures in London, Portugal, Taiwan, all over the continental U.S. and Hawaii.
ADRIENNE HURD is a native New Yorker and began her training studying at the legendary Joffery Ballet School, School of American Ballet and the Alvin Ailey School, all on scholarship. She worked with Judith Jamison as an assistant and rehearsal director for The Jamison Project. Hurd has worked with several choreographers including Alvin Ailey, Paula Abdul, Twyla Tharp, Garth Fagan, Vince Patterson and Early Mosley, among others. She has choreographed for The Ailey School/Fordham University, University of Minnesota, The Ailey School Junior Division, American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive NYC, Lynch Ballet Company, Professional Performing Arts School and The University of Texas at Austin. She has choreographed original musicals CRACKED, The Lost Boys, Open Rehearsal at the Theatre for the New City and SPEAK the Show for SummerStage NYC. (Photo by Melissa Bartucci, Nomad Contemporary Ballet 2016)
NETTA YERUSHALMY is an award-winning dance artist based in New York City since 2000. Her work aims to engage with audiences by imparting the sensation of things as they are perceived, not as they are known, and to challenge how meaning is attributed and constructed. She is currently a participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life program, and an artist in residence at Movement Research. Other residencies include Jacob’s Pillow’s CDR, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Watermill Center and Harkness Dance Center. She has previously worked with the Djerassi Arts Program, Gibney Dance Center DiP, the Institute for Cultural Inquiry Berlin, Baryshnikov Arts Center and Tribeca Performing Arts Center, among others. Yerushalmy’s work has been commissioned and presented by Joyce Theater, Danspace Project, American Dance Festival Curtain-Up, Jerusalem International Dance Week and Intimadance, among others. Her piece Paramodernities #3 is a meditation on different tracks of modernism within and beyond the purview of dance. (Photo by Renee Rosenthal, Doug Varone and Dancers 2011)
ANANYA CHATTERJEA grew up in Kolkata, India where she was trained in Indian classical and folk dance, particularly the Odissi style. Growing up in India she struggled to reconcile the beauty of dance she was learning and practicing with the injustices around her. This began her journey to explore contemporary Indian dance with meaning rooted in social justice. In the early 90s, she moved to New York City and began studying at Columbia University. Chatterjea now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she is a professor of dance at the University of Minnesota and leads her dance company, Ananya Dance Theatre, a professional, contemporary Indian dance company composed of women artists of color. Her work in Momentum, entitled Walking With Natasha, mixes traditional indian dance form with contemporary issues and is an homage to young black and brown women thriving in the face of hate. (Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)
Student choreographers include OLUWASEUN SAMUEL OLAYIWOLA, a third-year B.F.A. in Dance major whose work Black is the New Black is a meditation on contrast and racial tension; as well as GIANINA CASALE, a senior B.F.A. in Dance major who has taken a millennial approach to challenging what is appropriate on stage and how we deal with the discomfort of taking risks in her piece, A-Peeling.
Featured Image by Lawrence Peart (Momentum, 2017)