By Robin Miller
December 05, 2012
There are six, all of them moving as one in a constant flow.
A duet is rare; a solo even more so, though Charlotte Boye-Christensen has choreographed dances for the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in the past.
“But almost all the dances are choreographed for six dancers,” Christensen said.
That’s the number of dancers in the company, and Christensen is their artistic director. She spoke on her phone from New York on this particular day, but she’ll return to Ririe-Woodbury’s base in Salt Lake City, Utah, before the company travels to Baton Rouge for its Thursday, Oct. 4, performance in the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre is hosting Ririe-Woodbury’s appearance. The performance opens the ballet theater’s 2012-13 season.
“I think this will be our first time in Baton Rouge,” Christensen said.
“If it’s not, then it will be the first time we’ve been there in quite a while, and I’m excited about it. Everyone I’ve talked to has said, ‘Oh, you’re going to Baton Rouge? You will love it there.’”
And it’s Christensen’s hope that Baton Rouge will feel the same about Ririe-Woodbury, a company known for challenging its audiences’ perception of dance.
Since its founding in 1964, Ririe-Woodbury’s mission has been to be at the forefront of contemporary dance with innovative choreography, moving and compelling works.
And those works are almost always developed for the company’s six dancers to perform as one.
“It’s difficult to choreograph for six, actually,” Christensen said.
“I choreograph some pieces, and we bring in choreographers to create pieces. But you’ll almost always see our six dancers together on stage in each dance.”
Now, for those wanting a sneak peek at what Ririe-Woodbury will be bringing to Baton Rouge, they can always visit the company’s website at http://www.ririewoodbury.com. The site offers four videos of dances in the company’s repertoire, including Christensen’s piece, Turf, where dancers move in a continuous flow.
Other videos offer examples of guest choreographers’ use of multi-media on a stage experience.
The stage effects don’t dominate the company’s performance but enhance it. Dancers still remain the focal point.
“And though our company performs together, each of our dancers is different,” Christensen said. “Even when they’re moving in unison, there are variations in style.”
Duke Elllington is probably best known for his work among artists in this atmosphere. Yes, he was a composer, pianist and jazz orchestra leader, but he specialized in bringing out the best in each musician’s style without the band ever becoming a group of individual musicians.
Christensen strives to do the same with the Ririe-Woodbury dancers.
“It’s really quite beautiful,” she said.
“We elevate the dancers, and it triggers new ideas. There’s always a dialogue between me and the dancers. Dancing in unison in a style like the Rockettes where every dancer is doing the same movement doesn’t interest me. Each of our dancers brings something different, and you still want elements of that even when you’re dancing in unison.”
Christensen paused for a moment as a sudden thought occurred.
“Dance remains human in this way,” she said.
And she’s right. Dance is one of the most human of mediums, where the body forms a visual, yet that visual is gone within a split second. It’s like life in that way, where passing time can never be recaptured.
Sure, things can be recorded, but a live performance happens only once. And Ririe-Woodbury seeks to offer something different in these passing moments.
To do this, dancers must be in top-notch shape. Ririe-Woodbury’s choreography requires great muscle control, which audience members automatically will notice, and the company rehearses from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — sometimes 5 p.m. — each day to maintain this high performance level.
“Dance is an athletic art form,” Christensen said. “It requires a certain level of stamina and physicality. Our company is different from a ballet company, because ballet dancers are able to rest during rehearsal while others are rehearsing. All of our dancers are dancing almost constantly, and no one sits out. They have to have strong creativity, but they also have to be good athletes. It’s the kind of art we do, and it’s highly difficult.”
And the company will be sharing its artistry and technique with Baton Rouge area dancers when it hosts two master modern dance classes at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 2-3, at the Dancers’ Workshop, 10745 Linkwood Court.
The classes are open to all intermediate and advanced dancers. The workshop fee is $15.
“The word is that Ririe-Woodbury is doing innovative, highly imaginative works, and the clips they have sent us certainly prove this,” said Molly Buchmann, the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s artistic director. “I am eager for Baton Rouge to see this new choreography that is so much more than steps. It’s something to touch us, move us and make us think. You may see dance totally differently after this.”
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company surely will return to Salt Lake City with great memories of Baton Rouge and with plans to return in the near future.