The 2008-09 Utah Arts season marks the astounding 45th year of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. When Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury first created the repertory company, performances were restricted regionally. Over the next few years though, the company had grown nationally and into Canada. While Ririe and Woodbury had eventually taken the company overseas as well, the company today is "a more competitive international company," according to the current Associate Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen.
Boye-Christensen, a native of Denmark, started dancing at 9 years old, but had stopped for a time during high school. She returned to dance at the age of 17, received formal training in London and completed a MFA Degree from New York University.
She joined RWDC in 2002 with a vision of making the company more internationally renowned. "I never look at it in a purely Utah context, I look at it from a different place, a more international context," she says. Over those six years she has created 20 new works and brought in several international choreographers including Alicia Sanchez and John Utahns. Though her focus is international, she has also helped create residencies at Tisch School of The Arts in New York, in Sun Valley, Idaho, at Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College.
"The works I’m doing nowadays are perhaps much more personal," she says. She adds that there’s a more stylistic approach to her works, as well as a more formulaic approach (as she has a background in gymnastics). "The five, six years I’ve worked with the [RWDC] dancers, they know my approach much clearer now."
But when it comes to restaging past works, which is quite common in dance, Boye-Christensen says hopefully they’re richer than the times before. "There are different dancers there than before, so it’s very different because they bring their own personalities to the piece," she says. "It never looks the same. That’s the wonderful thing about dance, it’s not like a machine."
RWDC’s 45th season opens this September with a commissioned 1965 work, "Tower," by modern dance innovator Alwin Nikolais. In 2003, the company was selected to house his works and company, Nikolais Dance Theatre.
"He [Nikolais] is a multimedia man," says Boye-Christensen. "Tower is one of his lighter pieces. It’s provocative, very fast, very funny."
Then in December the company celebrates the work of Boye-Christensen with "Interiors." The performance includes a new collaboration with local graffiti artist Trent Call. "It’s a statement of how, in today’s society, we deal with each other," she says. It also includes a revival of last season’s highly-acclaimed premiere, "Lost," and a work she created in 2000 called "Bridge."
Following in January is the return of "The Crystal and the Sphere," another work by Alwin Nikolais that "involves an array of strange and humorous characters woven into a colorful Space Fantasy." "It’s a children’s show," says Boye-Christensen. "It’s quite magical."
Closing the season in April is "Surfaces," which includes a restaging of a 1994 "humorous and incredibly musical" work by choreographer Doug Varone, a piece by Wayne McGregor, who’s the new resident choreographer for the Royal Ballet in London and a new commission by New York choreographer Susan Marshall called "Cloudless."
"We are finishing off the season with what I think is an extraordinary production," says Boye-Christensen. She also adds, "We’re thinking about bringing some of the [RWDC] alumni back for a festive, improvised final concert of the year."
For the future of RWDC, Boye-Christensen says they must continually push the envelope artistically and aesthetically. "It’s a balancing act of showing work that is provocative and very contemporary and kind of a voice of what’s happening in society today," she says. "And at the same time create work that’s accessible, we don’t want to scare people away."
Along with the important task of finding new resources to keep dance meaningful and fresh, RWDC plays an equally important role in educating youth about the artform. The statewide project is called Step Lively and is aimed at assisting elementary and junior high classroom teachers in what Boye-Christensen says is "understanding our artistry." "We hope they get just a little bit of appreciation of what we do," she adds. "And it adds quality and creativity and culture to children’s lives."
There’s nothing literal about dance and therefore, RWDC believes education is crucial.
For season or individual tickets, and to learn more about Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, visit ririewoodbury.com.