Dance Repertory Theatre's 2019 Fall for Dance

In works ranging from tender to tense, the student dancers in the UT Department of Theatre & Dance embodied the spirit of "I can do anything"

Dancers in Renaissance Futura (Photo by Lawrence Peart)

"I can do anything."

The line was sung as a dozen women, all of them students in the University of Texas Department of Theatre & Dance, were tearing up the stage of the B. Iden Payne Theatre. Inspired and energized, each dancer embodied that lyric's unstoppable spirit, every movement a vigorous expression of confidence in her abilities and her potential realized.

The dance had begun with a woman in a ruffed collar reading from a traditional history text about the Renaissance arising from the Dark Ages, but these women weren't having it. They noted how this was a history of men, by men, and for men, and a Renaissance that benefited males exclusively. Some dancers read aloud current news stories reporting violence against women, a sign that, for women, it's still the Dark Ages. So they called for a 21st century rebirth and overtook the stage as if it were the world. Assuming their rightful place, these sisters proved they could do anything, starting at the beginning: They re-created The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo with a female God extending Her finger to the first woman's, and reset Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper with a table full of women, including a female Christ. In this Renaissance Futura, choreographed by Dance Repertory Theatre co-Artistic Director Gesel Mason, women danced on tables, clapped, chanted, and spun across the stage like a collective whirlwind, owning the space.

That piece may have been the only one in this year's Fall for Dance concert in which the idea of being able to do anything was stated explicitly, but the sentiment echoed throughout the program, even as it veered from the sweetness of young romance to the terror of an Amber Alert abduction to Soviet oppression during the lifetime of Dmitri Shostakovich.

In the blissful Nostalgia, guest choreographer Elijah Alhadji Gibson had two dancers fall for each other. Avery Moore and Khorii Tinson were a study in contrasts – the former white, the latter black; Moore a head taller than Tinson – but their carefree movements and the way they beamed at each other made clear that they knew nothing could stand in the way of their love. And seeing them dance slowly with Tinson standing on Moore's feet, then leaping up and wrapping her legs around Moore's waist bespoke a tenderness that belongs especially to young lovers.

In have you seen me?, which Tinson choreographed, the show opened on a powerful note of dread: blasting an Amber Alert as dancers lying on the stage stared into the glow of what looked to be cell phone screens. From that too-familiar, adrenaline-activating start, Tinson sustained a high level of intensity, having dancers struggle, kick, and run, at times from other dancers clad in black with masks over their faces, in the deep shadows and red backdrops of Amber Whatley's moody lighting. But even in all the darkness, Tinson seeded a belief in reclaiming the missing, a possibility of breaking free and returning to the light.

Escape felt less likely in Sinfonia, a revised version of a work that DRT co-Artistic Director Dorothy O'Shea Overbey had shown in town previously. The musicians of Austin Camerata, who ringed the stage and periodically strolled among the dancers, stood in for the omnipresent Soviet state, keeping a close eye on figures such as Shostakovich. The formality of the movement conveyed a sense of the complex and careful dance that artists must engage in with a brutal regime, but it also revealed, as did the music of Shostakovich that we heard performed, the beauty that can be created in an oppressive environment.

Beauty. Hope. Love. Spirit. These young dancers showed us again and again: Anything is possible, and they can do anything.

Fall for Dance

B. Iden Payne Theatre, UT campus
Nov. 17

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More UT Department of Theatre & Dance
For His Dance <i>(Re)current Unrest</i>, Charles O. Anderson Keeps Moving
For His Dance (Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson Keeps Moving
Through the pandemic and other obstacles, the choreographer and UT teacher continues to adapt

Robert Faires, Oct. 16, 2020

UT Department of Theatre & Dance's <i>Spring Awakening</i>
UT Department of Theatre & Dance's Spring Awakening
This staging of the hit musical blends the old and new, petticoats and punk, with a power and seductiveness that enraptures

Laura Jones, Nov. 15, 2019

More Dance Repertory Theatre
UT Dance Repertory Theatre’s <i>Fall for Dance</i>
UT Dance Repertory Theatre’s Fall for Dance
Work after work in this program emphatically spoke to current events, to the here and now

Robert Faires, Nov. 17, 2017

Dance Repertory Theatre's <i>Momentum</i>
Dance Repertory Theatre's Momentum
This program of dances informed by African American experiences and culture was highly physical and emotionally urgent

Jonelle Seitz, Feb. 24, 2017

More Arts Reviews
Visual Arts Review: “Bending Light” at Women & Their Work
Visual Arts Review: “Bending Light” at Women & Their Work
Texas artists showcase the strength of a story

Cat McCarrey, July 26, 2024

Art Review: “Masters: Calder and Dalí”
Art Review: “Masters: Calder and Dalí”
Rare gems get the chance to shine at Ao5

Cat McCarrey, July 19, 2024

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


UT Department of Theatre & Dance, Dance Repertory Theatre, Gesel Mason, Dorothy O'Shea Overbey, Elijah Alhadji Gibson, Khorii Tinson, Avery Moore, Amber Whatley

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle