'Seven Year Itch': REALMdanceproject's lucky number

Folks don't often make a big deal out of a seventh anniversary, but with all the changes in REALMdanceproject this year, the troupe thought it a good idea, hence its new show, 'Seven Year Itch'

I probably don't need to tell you that seven is a special number. It's the number of notes in the musical scale, the number of continents on the planet Earth, the number of days in a week, and the number of colors in a rainbow. Then, you've got your lucky sevens, your seven wonders of the ancient and modern worlds, your seven samurai, seven virtues, seven habits of highly effective people, seven brides for seven brothers, and the fact that God, fortunately for all of us in His infinite wisdom, rested on the seventh day. Significantly – at least for this particular story – you've also got your seventh anniversary of Austin's own REALMdanceproject, and to celebrate, REALM is offering its Seven Year Itch, although all seven original company members won't be participating.

So why make a big deal out of a seventh anniversary? "It seemed somewhat random at first," says Rachael Lieck Bryce, one of the original seven. "Most anniversaries are five, 10, 15, 25. Doing the seventh was kind of funny, but then we're all changing, there's so much change." Which is somewhat of an understatement. Of the original members, only one remains in Austin. The rest are spread from coast to coast in six different states. Two of them moved within the last month, and one of them had a baby four months ago. Yet five will appear in this production, and in the future they plan to continue dancing together and producing in Austin. Says Rebecca Ouellette, another original company member, "With all the changes, it seemed like a good time to reflect on how we got started."

They got started like this: "We all met in classes at ACC in the late Nineties – classes that Darla Johnson taught," says Ouellette. Right after Rachael's daughter was born, she realized she had a lot to say, a lot she needed to express. So she and Betty Law discussed it and decided that it was possible. And that was something that Darla instilled in us – that you don't have to wait for somebody to convince you of anything. If you've got something to express, express it. So Rachael and Betty found like-minded people, and we decided to push right through and put on a show, even though we had no money and had to find a venue."

What started as a one-time performance at the Paradox Nightclub became a full-fledged company, offering 19 different productions over seven years, as well as tours around Texas and to the New York City International Fringe Festival. This latest production will offer new pieces, re-stagings of old pieces, and a special tribute to Johnson. "We're closing the piece with Darla's choreography," says Bryce, "as a sort of thank you to her. She's such an amazing person, such an amazing dancer and performer, who is so Austin. We feel like more people, who maybe don't know her, need to know how wonderful she is and that we all started with her." And, of course, there's a theme that revolves around the number seven and ties everything in the show together. But in order to find out what that is, you're just going to have to go and see for yourself.

Seven Year Itch runs Aug. 12-19, Friday-Saturday, 8pm, Sunday, 3pm, at the Boyd Vance Theatre in the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina. For more information, call 825-3203 or visit www.realmdanceproject.org.

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Seven Year Itch, REALMdanceproject, Rachael Lieck Bryce, Rebecca Ouellette, Betty Law, Darla Johnson

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