Interiors. Photo: Fred Hayes
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company continued its countdown to the departure of Artistic Director Charlotte-Boye-Christensen, by presenting Three. The show ran from Dec. 13 – 15, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Three took the form of a retrospect of Boye-Christensen’s work, featuring pieces dating back as far as 1995 or as recently as earlier this season. The show gave a broad overview of the choreographer’s work, displaying not only her exploration of technologies and media, but also an unusually broad expressive range.
The first piece of the evening was Lost (2007). A meditation on the art of migratory and undocumented populations, this dance is a highly energetic and mobile composition, which doesn’t directly enact so much as abstractly express the dangers and thrills of struggling for survival in a foreign culture and hostile environment. The dancers’ movements evoke the tension arising between the quest for individual expression and the need for the safety offered by community. A prominent feature of the dance was the energetic and edgy music of The Doors and Nick Cave. However, this performance of Lost eschewed earlier performances’ evocation of Jerome Robbin’s choreography for West Side Story.
Next came The Finish Line (2012), my favorite piece of the evening. This dance features a duo that spends the majority of the performance running laps about the stage, accompanied by the music of Radiohead. The movement was continuous, energetic and celebratory. What prevents the dance from appearing a mere foot race, however, is the clearly supportive role the two dancers play for one another. Indeed, one of the dancers spent the greater portion of the dance running and tumbling in reverse, a feat which would have been impossible without the assistance of a partner.
But Seriously . . . (2011), combines the talents of Boye-Christensen and standup comic Ethan Philips. Projecting a larger-than-life profile head-shot of Philips above and behind the company, Boye-Christensen seems choreographically to trope the famous question posed by Frank Zappa: Does humor belong in serious modern dance? This piece foregrounds the power of media’s absorption of the human mind. For, here, despite the best intentions to remain focused on the company, it is all but impossible not to allow one’s attention to drift away from the beautiful and athletic gesturing onstage and toward a grainy video image of a balding and disheveled neurotic. The effect of the juxtaposition is at once hilarious and alarming.
Siesta (1995) is a very early piece of Boye-Christensen’s. Set to the music of Bizet’s Carmen, the dance explores the phenomenon of the human body, seen as a mere Gestalt, the minimal form which consciousness must grasp in order to orient itself in relationship to other persons and an external world.
The final piece of the evening was as stripped-back version of Interiors (2008). While earlier performances of this dance combined elements of Berlin cabaret decadence, this presentation was far more subdued and elegant. While it retained the use of projected video static as a field against which, or rather within which, the dancers appeared, Boye-Christensen, here, shows a keen aware of the fact that virtual reality has, in recent years, become everyday (one is tempted to say actual) reality. Whatever possibilities of human action remain available to us that Interiors seems to announce, now seem entirely mediated by technologies of recording our surveillance.
Though the entire program offered very little that was entirely new, what Three reveals, with great candor and daring, is the intense and ongoing effort of self-evaluation and self-editing, which is as much a part of the total artistic process as any other component—though it receives far less recognition. In this regard, Boye-Christensen continues her overall project of reorienting and reversing the fundamental oppositions (such as art/life, performer/audience, originality/repetition, etc.), which structure contemporary dance, revealing them for the malleable conventions they are.
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company will conclude its 2012-2013 season with One in April at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.