PIVOT offers audience refreshing performance, explores social justice

Leeza Meyer, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 12, 2022 flipbook.

The theater lights flicked on, flooding the stage with color. Silhouettes listened for their cue as the long-awaited PIVOT performance began. When the music started, the dancers painted themselves across the B. Iden Payne Theatre for five straight nights of theatrical bliss. 

The award-winning student dance company, Dance Repertory Theatre, presented their collaborative choreographed dance crafted by distinguished dance faculty and students to Austin audiences from April 6 to 10. After months of rehearsals, preparation and tireless work,  dancers and choreographers combined their efforts to produce PIVOT, an 85-minute dance showcase including five works and six shows catered to this year’s theme: social change. After two years without the show due to COVID-19, PIVOT’s opening performance April 6 boasted a packed audience ready to see the once-anual PIVOT showcase again. 

Sheila Jackson, a PIVOT performer and dance junior, said the return of the show gave her the opportunity to share her talents and enjoy the process of rehearsals and shows again. 

“Being in this show and getting to be in the studio for three rehearsals a week (while collaborating) with other people felt so invigorating and inspiring,” Jackson said. “Getting to share that with audiences is just such a reignition of my passion and love for dance, but also just for life.” 

PIVOT choreographer and dance graduate student Love Muwwakkil said her work allowed her to blur the lines between history, social change and present-day conditions and relay these messages to the audience. 

The pieces conveyed social justice through visual aspects, such as a dance titled “Sawubona,” which displayed photographs of social rights activists while the dancers performed.  

“I reframe (my work), so people can start to draw those lines of history together or just make different connections because it’s easier to be in a space where we are all together celebrating that,” Muwwakkil said. “It’s about being intentional and focused, hyper tuning, and being aware. (Then), we were able to really talk and create a space for that to happen.”   

Jackson said she hopes to use her role as a dancer not to push a narrative onto the audience, but instead, to let them experience, connect and interpret the performance in their own way and take that with them when leaving the theater. 

“My goal in performing is always just to hope that it does impact the audience,” Jackson said. “I feel I’ve done my job if it did spark something within them.” 

PIVOT performer Jenna Weatherbie said she valued the community of dancers and dance appreciators who came together to celebrate the show. Weatherbie said the opportunity to engage with both peers and professors made her appreciate the experience more deeply, especially as she ends her last year as an undergraduate student at UT. 

“My favorite moment is when we circle up as a whole Dance Repertory Theater cast and perform rituals that give us a moment to see each other, breathe together and prepare us to dance together,” dance senior Weatherbie said. “It gives us a moment to appreciate each other and live performance again, and they gave seniors a moment to stand in the center, which was a moment I won’t forget.”