Photos by Asia Morris of RhetOracle dancers rehearsing Repertory Reimagined (RE) at MMSdance studio in Long Beach.
Long Beach-based RhetOracle Dance Company is celebrating 10 years of bringing innovative contemporary dance to Southern California and has organized a repertory show, but with a twist.
Voted Best Hidden Cultural Treasure by the Post’s readers in our 2012 Best of Long Beach competition, the company is truly a Long Beach gem, made up of 15 passionate dancers, a third of which have been with the company since its inception in 2006.
Repertory Reimagined (RE), to be held this Saturday and Sunday at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater next to the Walter Pyramid, plays with the traditional idea of bringing past performances to the stage.
Instead of simply taking the group’s best dances and making a show of it, RE will feature revisited and reworked dances originally choreographed during the company’s early years of existence, exploring the intersections between works from the past and RhetOracle’s current practice.
“[...]I know that the artist that I am now is not the same artist that I was 10 years ago, so it was crazy watching some of these old dances and thinking, ‘I would never do that now[...],’” Nate Hodges, RhetOracle’s founder and “head honcho”, told the Post. “So we got to talking about this idea of, well, what if we took these really good ideas and revisited them with our newer aesthetic, with the aesthetic we work in right now?”
One example includes RhetOracle’s very first piece, titled "Debut", which was originally choreographed by Hodges and has now been reimagined by him. The new version is a debut in itself, an acknowledgement of the company’s humble beginnings and also an introduction to their newly evolved way of working together.
Founder Nate Hodges.
“Because the way that we work [now] is also very different,” Hodges said. “It’s much more collaborative, there’s more workshopping, it’s less of me coming in and being like, ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,’ regimented and to the music, and more, ‘Let’s experiment with this, let’s play with that.’”
Another example includes RhetOracle’s 2008 dance, “The Ties,” created by Rio Liu, exploring the relationship between a couple living in a post-apocalyptic world. Recreated by Bryana Zaragoza for RE, what was originally a duet now shows three different “couples” expressing isolated responses to living in a caustic, albeit imagined, environment as the last people on earth.
Although each piece has been reworked, RE’s choreographers have been able to translate certain themes that were socially and politically relevant in RhetOracle’s early years to today’s political climate. Other themes include how music brings people together, time, death and new beginnings, to word it lightly.
“The pieces sound really heavy, and a lot of our work, it can get very intense, but right now the show focuses on things that feel really relevant,” Hodges said. “This idea of paranoia and the idea of endings... I think the climate right now socially and politically, there’s a lot of apprehension and I feel like people feel more disconnected than ever. It’s interesting how all of these themes that felt very relevant in 2008, 2009 still feel very relevant today.”
RhetOracle’s next steps include becoming further invested in Long Beach, said Hodges, which would entail becoming more involved in local events and continuing to introduce dance to students through initiatives such as the Carpenter Center’s Arts for Life program, and focusing on creating their next five-year plan.
But for now, the members of RhetOracle would urge you to enjoy the upcoming show. It’s sure to be a fantastic celebration of movement.
“It’s crazy to think that 10 years has passed,” Hodges said. “We wanted to celebrate the people that we’ve become and we wanted to share that with the people that have supported us, that felt important.”
Follow RhetOracle Dance Company through their Facebook page here.
Performances will take place on Saturday at 2:00PM and 8:00PM and Sunday at 5:00PM. Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for general admission. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Facebook event page here.
The Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater, at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), is located at 6200 East Atherton Street.