A Brief History of Astor Johnson and the Repertory Dance Theatre
Astor Johnson had a dream - a dream of establishing a dance company which embodied a powerful contemporary Caribbean style. In his own right, Astor came to be recognized as one of the foremost dance figures in the region, having studied and danced with Rupert de Suzay and Julia Edwards in Trinidad, and Erika Thimey's Dance Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem in the United States, among others.
In 1972, his dream of a Caribbean company was realized when a group of dancers from various companies, schools and traditions decided to share their knowledge and points of view at weekly dance workshops in Port of Spain, Trinidad. With the evolution of these weekly workshops came the birth of the Repertory Dance Theatre.
As the name suggests, the company works in consistently repertory style, thereby protecting and conserving dance works that can be developed and matured into treasured works of artistic expression. The company has also enabled dancers to work with various choreographers and in varying styles, thus broadening their vocabulary and scope. Astor also saw the importance of having good teachers and year-round classes so as to maintain a high standard of performance and consequently give aspiring dancers a goal towards which to work.
Under Astor's leadership as artistic director and resident choreographer, the Repertory Dance Theatre evolved into a company which embraces a series of statements, expressions and themes which reflects the Caribbean personality and problems peculiar to the region. From "Graveyard to the Living" a study on human isolation, to "Kyo", which reflects the rhythms of the universe, to "Fusion" Astor's signature piece which superimposes contemporary and jazz movement onto traditional African steps, the company emphasizes that universal themes can be successfully dealt with via the essence of our ethnic dance traditions, the inventive and conventional movements arising out of the modern dance point of view and, of course, those important rhythmic vibrations found only in this part of the world.
In addition to local performances, the Repertory Dance Theatre has had the pleasure of sharing its work with others in different parts of the world. The company has toured Guyana, Haiti, Dominica, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Canada, Martinique, French Guiana, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Despite Astor's death in 1985, the objectives of the company remain the same - to continue research into our folkloric traditions, to expose our work nationally and internationally, and above all, to cement ourselves as a people through the medium of dance, our most natural form of self-expression.
Click here for a list of "REP" AFFILIATES THROUGHOUT THE YEARS (1972-2006)