Sunday, March 2, 2003

Salt Lake City group stages eclectic pieces

Dance review

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Salt Lake City's globetrotting modern dance group, performed in the Tristate this weekend as part of Contemporary Dance Theater's 30th anniversary season. The group was here a couple years ago and the reason for the return engagement has to be the company's eager young dancers and its eclectic repertory.

I can't remember seeing a Laura Dean piece performed locally before, so it was exciting to see her 1994 "Tenmile" on the program. For those new to the ins and outs of modern dance, Dean specializes in dance that spins and has been making a living at it since at least the 1970s. "Tenmile" spins, but not as much as some of her earlier works.

Dean insinuates the vastness of Utah's canyon landscape with wide-reaching movement, spins and brief moments of explosive leaps set to a majestic score by Californian John Zeretzke. This company is good, but they're not spinners and they lack the oomph that's needed in the jumps. They did, however, look stunning in Katherine Nugent's scintillating red costumes.

New works by newly named associate artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen played more to the dancers' strengths. Boye-Christensen, who trained in Denmark, shows in her works an infectious vitality and a rare gift for inventive moves.

Ririe-Woodbury was formed by Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury in 1964. As the two founders begin to pull away from the day-to-day business of the company, they've found someone completely capable of not only running this very busy company (they work about 40 weeks a year - a rarity for dance groups) but also in creating new works for it.

Her works showed that the six dancers could fill a stage with playful, delicious moves, as in "The Visit" (with Beatles music in rare interpretations; think "Ticket to Ride" done operatically) and minimalist, ultra-modern repetitions ("Stirrings" set to a John Adams score). The dancers' collective style can best be described as controlled attack. They held nothing back, but they were never sloppy.

With four pieces on the program, the most puzzling was Keith Johnson's "Running/Still/Life." To a mish-mash of musical selections, this piece was boring one minute and full of youthful abandon the next. A best guess for the interpretation for the entire piece is that it represents a slice of life. What was very clear was that the performers handled it with an endearing conviction.

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