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Gavin's Underground

Ririe-Woodbury: Flabbergast

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2014-01-31 -
As we shift into the second half of the '13-'14 performing arts season, a lot of companies are looking to make a big impression out of the gate and hope you'll come check out more to come. One of the more interesting shows taking place comes from Ririe-Woodbury, who tonight will present Flabbersast, an all-ages showcase featuring the works of Tandy Beal. The high-performance choregraphy of the show comes from Beal's experience in the Moscow Circus, reflected into the select performances these local dancers will dazzle you with over the weekend.

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Today we chat with our friend Daniel Charon, Ririe-Woodbury's Artistic Director, about the season so far and the current show happening tonight. (All pictures courtesy of Ririe-Woodbury.)

Daniel Charon
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Gavin: Hey Daniel, first off, how have you been since we last chatted?

Daniel: Things have been great. I'm continually impressed with Ririe-Woodbury and feel very fortunate that they have welcomed me so generously into the organization. What a wonderful dance company Salt Lake City has. I've also been taking advantage of the many arts activities and performances around town and meeting some really wonderful people.

Gavin: How's the season been going for you so far and what did you think of the reception for The Start of Something Big and Momentum?

Daniel: The season has been going great. I think that approaching it from the standpoint of a celebration has contextualized the meaning behind everything we are doing. From paying homage to Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe in The Start of Something Big to honoring our alumni in Momentum, everything has been right on in terms of intention. It was also nice for me to get my first new work out into the community as it can be quite a vulnerable moment. I felt good about it and look forward to continually investigating my own art making with a terrific group of dancers, a supportive staff, and a welcoming community.

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Gavin: Getting right to it, when did you first learn about the performances from Tandy Beal that would make up Flabbergast?

Daniel: I got his job last spring and immediately was made aware of Tandy and Flabbergast. We began to speak via email and then phone starting this summer. It's a huge undertaking and so I learned very quickly that communication between Tandy and all of us here at Ririe-Woodbury was integral in making this project come to life. Tandy is a dreamer and has imagined an amazing world to journey us through. I've grown quite fond of her and have enjoyed being her teammate on this adventure.

Gavin: What was it about those performances that made you want to bring them to Ririe-Woodbury?

Daniel: We knew we wanted something new to present as part of our 50th Anniversary season and Tandy's work completely fit the bill. Her history as a circus performer and director gives her a unique theatrical voice which she brings to this production. It's very new and different for Ririe-Woodbury.

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Gavin: How was it been for you and the dancers to put the show together?

Daniel: It's been a whirlwind of an adventure but we do a good job of staying optimistic and energized. It's a lot of work being a professional dancer and on this project, the dancers have been pushed to their limits. That has to do with learning a completely different vocabulary. There are a lot of acrobatics in this show and the dancers had to be specifically trained for certain tricks and to generate certain skills. We even brought a acrobatics coach in last October to get a head start. Both Tandy and myself have been astonished at the exponential learning curve of our dancers. They really have stepped it up and now have a whole new set of skills in their bag of tricks.

Gavin: What would say has been the biggest challenge in putting these works together?

Daniel: The development of a new vocabulary has been a huge challenge. It's also been a challenge of immense organization. Aside from our six dancers, we are joined by Emmy Thompson, babies, mothers, fathers, and a bunch of kids who are all performing in this show. Cliff Wallgren, the company's technical director and lighting designer, has fashioned a multitude of props and set pieces that are used throughout the production. As well, he has designed all of the lights. Eugene Tachinni has worked tirelessly to organize and envision the many costumes which are pulled form stock, borrowed from different organizations, and built from scratch. Not to mention the thousands of school kids that will see the performance which means organizing buses and reserving space for the different schools. Our staff is also working on everything they typically work on in terms of marketing and ticket sales but it is a all hands on deck situation. People are sewing, filming, and doing what needs to get done, even if it's outside their normal job duties.

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Gavin: Of all the performances going into this show, which is your personal favorite and why?

Daniel: My strategic answer is to not pick favorites. I stand behind everything and try to see it in an objective way. If I had to pick though I might say something about adults dressed up like babies and sliding on and off a table, running into each other and having a fantastic time. I guess you will need to come see the show to understand what I am talking about!

Gavin: What are your thoughts of the show headed into opening night?

Daniel: Let's do it! It's been a great ride and it's always so fun to finally get into the theater and put the final touches on realizing a vision. I'm excited to watch the kids watch the show and to see the honesty of their reactions. I'm also excited to see the dancers step up and do their thing. It makes me proud.

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Gavin: What can we expect from you and RW over the rest of the year?

Daniel: Our last big concert of the season is in April and is called Accelerate which I think is a very appropriate title. It's three brand new works of choreography, all world premieres. This truly highlights our mission of supporting the creation of contemporary dance work from artists all over the world. There will be a piece by Miguel Azcue who is from Cuba, but has a company in Sweden, a piece by world renowned New York choreographer Doug Varone in collaboration with video artist Ellen Bromberg, and a new piece by me in collaboration with composer Michael Wall who is also new to the Salt Lake City area. All of the piece will involve some form of video design and I think the use of technology to compliment the dances is a great symbol of accelerating Ririe-Woodbury into the future. We are also having an amazing Gala fundraiser event in celebration of our 50th anniversary at the Museum of Natural History on March 29. You can find information on all of our upcoming events on our website.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Daniel: As I think I said in our last interview, I promote dance as a valuable art form because it can bring pleasure and thought to our lives. It offers moments of reflection and in the case of Flabbergast, can remind us to maintain wonder and youthful perspective in all things we do.


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