Repertory West Dance Company is one of the few California dance groups dedicated to continuing the heritage of modern dance as well as to creating new works.
The eight-member troupe, which is based at UC Santa Barbara, will serve both purposes by offering classic and more recent works by veteran choreographers Lucas Hoving and Anna Sokolow, among other artists, in a dance program at 8 p.m. Saturday at UC Irvine.
Hoving, who now lives in San Francisco, was long associated with the Jose Limon Company and was known for his dramatic and expressive dancing.
"Hoving embodies for us a living connection with classical modern dance, and we wanted to pay tribute to him," said Alice Condodina, the company's artistic director, in a recent phone interview.
"That's why we're bringing four of his works."
These are "Icarus," "Piaf," "Songs for Chile" and "The Land Is Dying."
Hoving's "Icarus," premiered in 1973, is based on the Greek myth of the youth Icarus who crashed fatally after flying too close to the sun on the wax-bound wings his father, Daedalus, had fashioned.
"It is widely considered to be his masterpiece," Condodina said.
"It's concise, universal and still relevant. Though based on the myth, it has a secondary meaning in that the father wants his son to live a life freer of the confines and standards that imprison them.
"But since the sun represents an ideal and perfection, coming too close to it can be the ruin of a man."
The three other Hoving works are familiar to the troupe. "Piaf," a character study of the great French singer, was created for Condodina and premiered earlier this month.
"Songs for Chile," which Condodina called "a pungent, dramatic celebration of a people's protest against violence," was danced by the company in 1980.
And "The Land Is Dying," an "ecology piece which demands an actor's ability as well as a dancer's skill," also was premiered by the company earlier this month.
The company also maintains a direct connection to choreographer Anna Sokolow, who was a member of the Martha Graham Company until striking out on her own in 1939. She later became identified chiefly with creating powerful dances about urban alienation and despair.
Tonia Shimin worked with Sokolow and will dance her "Preludes" (set to music by Rachmaninoff), which that choreographer created for her in 1980.
"It is very lush and full and was very much influenced by the performer," Condodina said.
"Sokolow has two styles: One is intense, the other is lyric and positive. 'Preludes' is an example of the second style."
Like Shimin, many of the other members of the company--Nolan Dennett, Delila Moseley, Rona Sande, Gail Nunan Kennedy, Rocky Angelini and Kate Pease (a student apprentice)--have been associated with major choreographers such as Sokolow, Joyce Trisler or with the Jose Limon Company after Limon's death. Most have worked with Condodina for at least five years.
(Also appearing with the company on Saturday's program will be Michael Kelly Bruce, a former lead with the Repertory Dance Theatre of Utah. Bruce will dance in "Icarus" and "The Land Is Dying.")
Condodina, a Southern California resident for 11 years, performed with Limon for 10 years, had her own company in New York in the 60s and continues the association she began then with Hoving.
Condodina has few regrets about leaving the Big Apple. She said she created her company partly "to present classic modern dance works because on the West Coast we are sort of distant from the centers where one can normally see them--that is, New York."
"Santa Barbara is a beautiful place," she added. "But if we had all started out here, we probably wouldn't have (artistically) what we have.
"We grew up in those intense areas (like New York). We feel we were nurtured in them and gained our experience--and are committed to working on that level, regardless of the sun."