'Canción del Cuerpo'

Translated through the body

Lisa Kobdish and Nemecio Berrio rehearsing in Colombia
Lisa Kobdish and Nemecio Berrio rehearsing in Colombia

Dance may be a universal language, but dancers can still face a language barrier when they come from different countries. That's one thing that students from the University of Texas Department of Theatre & Dance discovered as they worked on the Colombia Project over the past six months. The cross-cultural collaboration, initiated by the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at UT, paired five female dancers from Austin with five male dancers from El Colegio del Cuerpo (the College of the Body) in Cartagena, Colombia, in a work jointly choreographed by ECDC Artistic Director Álvaro Restrepo and Lyn C. Wiltshire, associate professor of dance at UT and co-artistic director of Dance Repertory Theatre. To develop the piece, which premieres this weekend as part of the Dance Repertory Theatre program Canción del Cuerpo (Song of the Body) at the B. Iden Payne Theatre, Restrepo and his dancers came to Austin in early September and spent 10 days in residence. Then in December, Wiltshire and her dancers (plus a number of other members of the dance's production team) made the trip to Cartagena for 10 days of work at ECDC, which is Colombia's first center for creating contemporary dance, a professional dance company, and a dance school for disadvantaged children. And in late February the Colombian team returned to Texas for the final two-week push toward public performance. (They arrived, curiously enough, the day Austin was blanketed in snow.) Along the way, dancers on both sides learned a little of one another's languages, saw a fair amount of one another's home cities, and did a lot of dancing (not all of it in a studio). On the Texas side, project participants also discovered what it's like to dance without air conditioning and without mirrors, both of which proved somewhat revelatory. (Diaries of a few of the UT students can be found at blogs.utexas.edu/texasperformingarts.)

The Dance Repertory Theatre program also includes original dance pieces from UT faculty members Andrea Beckham and Yacov Sharir and guest choreographer José Luis Bustamante of the late, lamented Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, as well as an excerpt from Restrepo's The Famished Road, performed by the five dancers from ECDC that took part in the Colombia Project. But the centerpiece of the evening will be the 45-minute collaborative work, now titled The Rope: Tres Momentos. Prior to the Friday performance, Wiltshire and Sharir, ArtesAméricas Director Joe Randel, and Rapoport Center Director Karen Engle will speak about the Colombia Project. Following the performances on Saturday and Sunday, Randel will lead a post-show discussion.

Canción del Cuerpo (Song of the Body) will be performed March 5-7, Friday & Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm, at the B. Iden Payne Theatre, E. 23rd and San Jacinto, UT campus. For more information, call 477-6060 or visit www.texasperformingarts.org.

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