I'm always looking for a good excuse to go to New York. And what better reason than to see Utah's very own Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company perform as part of the Alwin Nikolais Centennial. The performance at the Joyce Theater was well worth the trip. I've seen everything on this program before but these are works that I'm happy to see again and again. And maybe it's just because I was in NEW YORK CITY and at the JOYCE THEATER, but I don't think I've ever seen the Ririe-Woodbury dancers perform any better. It was obvious that they were well prepared for these performances. I'm not sure the State of Utah has ever been better represented than it was by the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and this performance.
The evening opened with a short video package that was used during the Kennedy Center Honors. This was a great reminder that Nikolais' work is less about using dance to express emotion and more about creating an environment where the motion itself becomes the star.
Maybe that philosophy is why my least favorite work on the program is Tower (1965). This work seems more about political statements than about pure dance theater. Or maybe it's just because the dancers talk and anyone who regularly reads my blog knows how I feel about talking and dancing.
For a perfect example of Nikolais' brilliance, consider Tensile Involvement (1955) with it's stretchy bands, mid-century modernist music, and vibrant colors. I still don't know how the dancers do this without creating a huge, tangled mess. Please tell me the early rehearsals were a laughing disaster of knotted dancers. During this performance the dancers' precision was nearly perfect, particularly as they surrounded themselves with rectangles of stretchy bands that tilted and swayed perfectly.
My favorite piece on the program was Crucible which is just good, old-fashioned modern dance fun. These are the types of works that create modern dance fans. I can almost guarantee that anyone who says they don't like modern dance, will like this. I know this uses a theatrical device that is little more than mirrors, but it sure makes for a big spectacle, with shapes and movements that at one moment mimic strange alien creatures and the next moment create lyrical wave-like shapes. And how can you not love choreography that asks all ten dancers to moon the audience.
If you didn't make it to New York for the performances, there's no need to despair. Because the Alwin Nikolais Centennial will be the last presentation on Ririe-Woodbury's 2010-11 season. So there are no excuses. See this show. Season tickets are on sale now.