Before the pandemic halted live concerts and shows, performers were more likely than not to welcome the audience from the stage within the first moments of starting, if at all. Prior to performing in the Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts, dance artists Dan Higgins and Laura Brick went to every audience member, welcoming them and expressing their appreciation for supporting the premiere of the new piece. It was a lovely icebreaker to set a genuine tone for the anticipation of rediscovering the kinetics of a live dance concert.
Their new work Fragments Of … carried throughout that pre-performance ambience wonderfully. It was a compact presentation: the five movements of their new work took barely 25 minutes to perform. Brick and Higgins appeared to be absolutely delighted in the surroundings; the mood’s cohesion accentuated by Pilar I’s nuanced expertise that reflected precisely what the artists hoped to communicate through this work. The premiere was presented as part of Repertory Dance Theatre’s RDT Link Series.
The best way to frame the work’s artistic theme is about forming a new relationship with a familiarity that had become off limits because of social distancing restrictions over an extended time. As mentioned in the preview at The Utah Review, Higgins explained that the work is about “reclaiming what is familiar to us and to transfer that into a space where we can share precisely the moment of the movement [an idea he credits Brick for bringing to the conversation].”
Higgins is well known for creating works at least triple the length and which incorporate text, props and narrative embedded in the movement language he crafts to translate the story on stage. Here, Brick and Higgins are self-contained in their solos but also in their duets, a subtle creative decision that links all five movements seamlessly. Their personalities come through naturally in this brief but substantial exploration of dance movement and temporality. The incidental nature of the ending caps a warm, satisfying, enriching moment to relish in rediscovering the better gifts of familiarity.
Likewise, the recorded music they selected, from cellist and composer Julia Kent and multi instrumentalist Peter Broderick, truly suited the vocabulary of motion in the work. There are loops of cello incorporating baseline rhythms, drone sounds or fragments of melody. Broderick’s music builds upon fragments of continuous motion in rhythms as well. In sum, the musical arrangement for Fragments Of … is a palette of textures that Brick and Higgins play upon in interpreting through their movement. This ranges from atmospheric meditation to sparkling flashes of warmth to occasional hints of shaking and vibrating senses and to stamina emphasizing the untouchable resilience of dance artists to survive and thrive after a difficult period.
An encouraging sign was that several of the performances sold out, even as maximum occupancy in the space was still limited to 50% capacity. Both dance artists are part of companies that plan a major return to live stage performances this fall. A Tampa, Florida native, Brick, who earned her degree in modern dance at The University of Utah, has been a performer, choreographer and teacher. She has performed in and choreographed works for Odyssey Dance Theatre. In addition to choreographing his own work, Higgins, a University of Wyoming graduate, is set to start his eighth season as a dance artist with RDT.