After a brief intermission, the evening continued with another premier performance, Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s Those In The Desert. This piece seemed to be a meditation and commentary on Bill T. Jones’s Duet. Boye-Christensen seemed to pick up the detached formalism of the earlier piece and transpose it from the register of the formal sovereignty into that of the “cool,” as Miles Davis did when first combining jazz and classical music. The result in this piece is a hypnotic series of tight groupings, in which most interaction demurs direct contact in favor of salutations and signs, though these are frequently punctuated by sudden fluttering dispersions. The dance, like the score by Ibrahim Maalouf, seems anchored in terms of strict cadences as it does structured around a point of central disequilibrium, so that the dance unwinds in the form of an ongoing syncope.
The final piece of the night was a debut performance of Keith Johnson’s Secret Dark World. Whereas the earlier pieces by Jones and Boye-Christensen either eschewed all narrative and character, or employed it with great discretion, Johnson’s piece did just the opposite, relinquishing such restraint and crossing over into the domain of the theatrical. The dancers, dressed in calico dresses and flannel trousers evocative of the early 20th-century, performed a series of vignettes which figured as an extended meditation of childhood sexuality and aggressiveness. From the opening scene, which showed an individual’s first attempts at assume upright posture, through subsequent representations of schoolhouse cruelty, to later transpositions of these actions into the register of adult sexual pathologies, the entire piece relied heavily on story and character and begged for symbolic and psychological interpretation. In this respect, Dark Secret World, despite certain unexpected moments reminiscent of shock films such as Harmony Korine’s Gummo or Trash Humpers, felt not entirely different from traditional literature as most people imagine it to be presented and studied in junior colleges. The piece’s most aesthetically satisfying moments were, in fact, those which did not rely on “literary” content for their interest but instead boldly staged and restaged the primordial struggle of the body to stand erect, making the givenness of upright posture suddenly strange and troubling, a standing question rather than a pat answer. One can only hope for more of such phenomenological investigations in Johnson’s future choreography.
Lastly, it is perhaps worth mentioning the amount of cheering, whistling, whooping and shouting which proceded from the crowd, the sort of live-audience antics witnessed on American Idol. Perhaps it is not incorrect to consider such boisterousness to be pre-applause, a foretaste of the clamorous burst which inevitably surged forth at the end of each piece. While the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, which was in especially good form, fully deserved recognition for their superb abilities and many fine achievements, knee-jerk ovations might not be the highest or most appropriate form of praise. But enough.
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performed Iridescence from the 26 through the 28 of April. The 2012/2013 season begins this coming September, but the company can be seen before then at the Utah Arts Festival, on June 22 at 6:30 p.m.