Zachary Whittaker | October 25, 2021
"Butler 'knows she deserves to sit at the table even when it doesn’t welcome her,' says Jie-Hung Connie Shiau, a classmate from Purchase with whom Butler overlapped at A.I.M and Hubbard Street before they both joined Gibney Company in September 2020. 'She’s explosive, she covers so much ground, she eats up space. And now, she is able to capture nuance and subtlety and tenderness, as well. That’s something I’ve seen develop in her.'"
"Gibney says. 'This expansion, with Rena, was about seeding leadership into the field. Watching her work is phenomenal because you don’t just see a strong, self-possessed, confident woman at work. You see equity in the process.'"
The New York Times
Siobhan Burke | June 15, 2022
"In her ambitious and thoughtfully assembled 'Re/Build/Construct (Part I),' Butler takes cues from Plato’s 'Allegory of the Cave' to explore how external structures shape internal landscapes and social dynamics. Recorded passages of the text, increasingly warped as the piece progresses, bookend and punctuate Darryl J. Hoffman’s tension-building electronic score. Resembling windup dolls in their robotic yet elastic motion, six dancers deftly manipulate the walls of Tsubasa Kamei’s set. These lightweight panels begin in the form of a house but come apart to create other kinds of boundaries and enclosures."
"Jesse Obremski, in an early solo, is especially uncanny in his puppetlike physicality, an eerie hollowness possessing his eyes and limbs. As they rearrange their world, sparring and conspiring with one another, the dancers periodically erupt in garbled, frustrated speech that feels less fully realized and integrated than other aspects of the work. Movement is the more efficient and expressive language here, right up to the dramatic culmination, which finds the powerful Jie-Hung Connie Shiau trapped within the walls of the reconstructed house — safe shelter turned imprisonment — and ultimately breaking through them."
Lauren Warnecke | February 24, 2021
"Rena Butler has been named Gibney Company’s first-ever choreographic associate. Announced Thursday, the full-time three-year position includes liberal time for research and travel, studio space and creative and administrative support. In addition to creating new works for New York City’s Gibney Company, Butler is encouraged to pursue other national and international commissions. She will select a yet-to-be-named mentor and, as part of her tenure, will lead a program that helps foster a new generation of new choreographers from diverse backgrounds."
"'It was apparent to me from my first conversation with Rena that this was not just a hire of a dancer,” Gibney says. “I’ve never felt so strongly about bringing someone into our organization and dreaming about the ways Rena could use our resources and platform to create her own vision. With her creative talent and the momentum she was establishing as a choreographer, the writing was on the wall that we needed to open up her position into something fuller and make that part of her job.'"
See Chicago Dance
Felicia Holman | Oct 23, 2020
I was intrigued not only because the work would be Hubbard Street's first virtual season premiere, but because its narrative core was expressed through the perspective of two fellow native Southsiders: Butler and filmmaker Talia Koylass. Later aptly named "A Tale of Two," Butler's new work shines light on Chicago's "extreme cultural dichotomy," as she describes it, using athletic choreography and cinematography as well as a pulsing original score by composer Darryl Joseph and wistful songs by vocalists Shawnee Dez and Alencia Norris.
The 25-minute, eight-section world premiere is masterfully performed by the full HSDC company including Jessica Tong (their newly appointed associate artistic director), and Jonathan Emanuell Alsberry (HSDC artistic liaison). Shot entirely outdoors at parks across the city, Butler's overall vision for the pandemic-era production was "keeping the social distance and still making work that is about connectivity and community," she said in a pre-show introduction to the film. "A Tale Of Two" is also heavily inspired by the work of the Black/Brown youth-led anti-violence organization GoodKids MadCity. Butler further explained that the film essentially is an ode to all the kids (including herself) who've had to learn to differentiate between the sound of fireworks and gunshots during summers in Chicago.
"Can you tell us a little bit about your choreographic work?
'The primary question I ask myself when creating work is, ‘How can I not only highlight the beauty that’s already there in the dancers but also find what they don’t know about themselves that I see and they don’t?’ If I focus on who they are as people, the message will be clear, and the audience will see themselves in it. I want to make choreography that is accessible, and I’m not interested in a homogenized cast. I want to show audiences what the world could look like if we were all dancing. Inclusivity is a word that gets tossed around a lot, especially in today’s political climate, but inclusivity is my whole life, not just a trend. By taking care of one another in abstract and literal ways through dance, we can make a shift in the right direction, even if it’s really small.'"