UT Dance students premiere new works at annual spring concert

For UT dance students and friends Erica Saucedo and Kelsey Oliver, dance is a mental, physical and emotional experience.

Saucedo and Oliver, both part of UT’s ensemble Dance Repertory Theatre, will premiere their dance pieces — “White Noise (RGB)” and “The Great Green Greazy Limpopo River,” respectively — at Dance Repertory Theatre’s annual “Kinesthetic Imperative” showcase this Thursday.

While one dance piece explores the interrelationship of memories and experiences associated with aging and growing up, the other is an exploration of color and abstraction.

Saucedo, a dance senior specializing in ballet and contemporary dance, initially began her studies at UT switching back and forth between English and psychology but finally decided to pursue dance full-time in her sophomore year.

“I kind of lost myself without dance,” Saucedo said. “I didn’t have a way of understanding myself, and, as time went on, I realized I want to pursue dance professionally.”

It was in her sophomore year that Saucedo performed her first concert dance piece, “Ripe,” at UT. She had recently lost a family member and was going through a highly emotional period in her life.

“I had a really difficult rehearsal process,” Saucedo said. “Because Charles Anderson, the choreographer, was asking me to strip away any sort of presentational dance movements and expressions, things we are taught to do in commercial and competitive dance. I’d been raised in the competition dance world, where we’re taught to show off all our tricks all at once to impress an audience.”

Saucedo grew up training primarily in jazz, tap, ballet and contemporary dance. Oliver, a dance and advertising junior, learned a variety of other dance styles such as lyrical, modern, hip hop and African fusion.

“I just have always known that I wanted to dance,” Oliver said. “Anytime I didn’t dance for even a short amount of time, I felt like I was having withdrawal symptoms. Dance was always very fulfilling for me, and I knew that it would always be a part of me in some way.”

Oliver believes in challenging the norms as a performer and as a choreographer.

“I create expectations for myself to do things that have never been done before,” Oliver said. “Just seeing how much art can change over the years and how much it relates to our minds and perception — that world of unknown is always exciting to pursue.”

A childhood memory of a story told by her grandfather inspired Oliver to choreograph “The Great Green Greazy Limpopo River.”

“It inspired me to look more into the memories and experiences we do remember, how they are placed into our identities and in our voices,” Oliver said. “How, over time, our identities are really just a collection of titles and experiences that we either put on ourselves or that are placed upon us.”

Saucedo, on the other hand, relies on her emotions to create the dance movements.

Her piece, “White Noise (RGB),” is a collaborative dance piece. Hope Bennett, Saucedo’s costume designer, was inspired by an art installation in Milan. 

Saucedo’s dancers wear specially designed unitards, which have layers of images printed on them. When the colored light changes, different patterns will be visible on the unitards.

Associate dance professor David Justin worked with both Saucedo and Oliver to help choreograph their pieces.

“We act as interpreters when they may be trying to figure out how to realize a vision in three dimensions, with the dancers and other collaborators,” Justin said. “We are very careful to make sure it is their voice — their vision that is being realized.”

Oliver began choreographing her piece by understanding the intricacies of her own body.

“It allows me to explore what the body is capable of, by feeling comfortable with exploring the uncomfortable,” Oliver said. “It allows me to just learn more about myself.”

By contrast, Saucedo seeks to bring audiences into the moment through her choreography.

“This forward motion in our lives prevents us from living in the moment,” Saucedo said. “I wanted to create a piece for the audience that will keep the audience in the moment every step of the way.”