After a season of counting down to their 50th Anniversary year and anticipating the departures of both Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen and veteran dancer Jo Blake, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company premiered ONE Thursday evening.
ONE is, in a sense, one of the most diverse and international shows the company has performed, featuring the works of choreographers from Mexico, Denmark and Germany. In another sense, it is one of the most cohesive, with ritual playing a part in all three pieces, whether it’s the ritual of meeting someone on the street, the daily patterns of manual labor, the rites of courtship, or the way you walk, fight or twirl a strand of hair.
The show opens with a tasteful tribute to Boye-Christensen using photos from the many works she has created on the company.
This is followed by Alicia Sanchez’s “If My Right Hand Would Say What My Left Hand Thought” (2005), a beautiful and evocative piece that explores not only the title, but the role of coincidence in our lives. Sanchez interviewed the original dancers, used a word-mapping process to help create the choreography, and integrates excerpts from the interviews into the performance. The dance offers a nearly perfect balance of ensemble work, duets, and solos, most notably by Bashaun Williams, Mary Lyn Graves and Tara McArthur.
Next is Boye-Christensen’s “Bridge” (also 2005). Set to John Adams’s “Shaker Loops” it explores the daily rituals of Shaker life as well as what happens when the Shakers’ traditional gender segregation is bridged. The results are dangerous, chaotic, synergistic and ultimately creative, while the ending draws no clear conclusions. The company, which has always been strongly egalitarian, performs it flawlessly and Blake, who considers this one of his favorite pieces, shines. Boye-Christensen says she chose this piece as symbolic of “the crossing from a place that was to a place that will be.”
After a brief intermission, the world premiere of Johannes Wieland’s “one hundred thousand” begins with a sound machine, a microphone stand, and a blond wig briefly anchoring the set before dancer Brad Beakes explodes across the stage as if possessed by demons, closely followed by McArthur strutting in purple heels and a blond wig. What follows is a high energy, extremely challenging physical romp through the rituals of celebrity and popular culture, striving and exhaustion, incorporating props, spoken word, apparent insanity, lip synching, and some of the most creatively mad costumes ever. Will Alex (Alexandra Bradshaw) recover from her tiredness? Will the dancers reach “one hundred thousand”? You’ll have to see it to find out.
And if the ritual of bidding farewell to two artists who have contributed so much to dance in Salt Lake City has any appeal, don’t miss your chance.
Ririe-Woodbury’s ONE will be performed Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 pm at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City.
Sarah Thompson is a retired physician and psychiatrist, as well as a writer and a fan of the arts. Her writing has been published in a variety of magazines and textbooks and she is currently working on a short story and a novel.