This past weekend, I visited Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts to view Rebecca Hite’s Masters of Fine Arts in Dance Thesis. I was very impressed with her inventive and forward-thinking choreography. I have known Rebecca for a very long time and I have seen her grow as a dancer and choreographer at Connecticut College and now, after two years of further study, I can see a distinct artistic vision.
Rebecca’s pieces have all been somewhat twisted. They work the body in odd angles and strange shapes. In her latest piece, The Tale, she has harnessed this vocabulary of movement, telling a narrative tale of transformation. She opens with a man unknowingly reading a book on stage, acting as a narrator who eventually falls into the story himself.
When the story begins, we find Rebecca in a standing pose with her back to the audience, on a tuffet of grass downstage left. She’s wearing a cropped navy blazer and a mutilayered, multicolored tutu that is straight and long in the front and juts out straight-back in the rear. The shapes that the costumes make are askew and bold and also very danceable. The music and lighting were also spot on – illuminating the story and enhancing the dance without distracting.
The solo performed on the grass has the dynamics of stillness and repetition. Rebecca then disappears and four dancers cross the stage diagonally, very intently in a uniformed, march-like step that took an excruciating amount of time all the while keeping the audience in engaged suspense. Finally, they cross the entire stage, then appear at a party and drink an elixir which eventually transforms them into animals.
There is something a bit too obvious with the elixir in a red solo cup that cheapens the work. Yet the genius of the work reveals itself in the final moments when the animals start to eat and kill the narrator, crossing the boundary of story realm and dropping the audience in a new territory. The piece ends with this dark and twisted note. Outstanding.
All in all, emerging with this distinct choreography and finely crafting her vision, Rebecca is becoming an artist. She is honing her skills and exploring new genres while completing her masters. I look forward to seeing her development.