Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company’s associate artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen had another title in mind when the company decided to produce an evening of her work. Boye-Christensen’s essential minimalism and her recent explorations into greater complexity suggested an easy pun: Charlotte’s Web. Instead, Ririe-Woodbury opted for the simpler Tangled Web.
The program marks the first time a performance has been devoted entirely to Boye-Christensen’s choreography. “It was important for me to bring in works that I had originally done a number of years ago and mix them with newer pieces,” says Boye-Christensen. “I think my pieces from back then are a lot different than what I’m doing now, and I’m interested to see how they play together.”
The then-versus-now dynamic boils down to levels of complexity. In the past, a sort of minimalism informed the way she constructed pieces. Today, however, she finds that the structure of her work leans toward the complex—sometimes to a fault, she admits. This contrast could be seen in Ririe-Woodbury’s fall performance, Potente Nova where two Boye-Christensen pieces were staged. One of those pieces, “The Visit,” was a world premier that featured five dancers feeding off a schizophrenic movement foundation. The other work was an older solo she performed herself, which remained rooted in a limited movement vocabulary to avoid the melodramatic nature of the score it was set to.
With Tangled Web, the audience will be treated to both styles. One of the premieres—a piece influenced by the three dancers who perform it—is so fast-paced and intricate that it only takes three minutes for Boye-Christensen to convey the idea she was getting at. “It ended up literally as a race to ‘The Finish Line,’” she says, offering yet another pun. On the other hand, “The Voice That Was Once In Your Mouth” is as long as the title, and conceptually more complicated: a trio of distinctive duets, described by Boye-Christensen as “like three phases of a relationship’s development, or three different relationships.” The last of the three, she confesses, is “quite dramatic in a way that I haven’t actually done before. The music is by Kurt Weill, and almost too dramatic. I’m not necessarily sure I would go in that direction ever again, because it’s very foreign to me.”
Older pieces on the program that perhaps feel more familiar to her are “Stirrings,” an economized look at the strictly regulated Singaporean society; and “Sisters of the Head,” a work that was commissioned by Brolly Arts in 1999. That work was done in collaboration with visual artist Susan Beck and former Repertory Dance Theatre performer Rebecca Keene-Ford. “The piece is also very minimalist in a lot of ways,” says Boye-Christensen. “It lets delicate, intricate movement convey profound expression.”
In fact, Boye-Christensen pushed for the performance to take place in the Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre, a space that allows the audience to fully experience the delicacy and intricacy in much of her work. “The space has an intimacy to it and, to a certain extent, it reveals details much more than the bigger Jeanne-Wagner Theatre,” she notes. “I also like that the audience is so close to the performers; it makes the work more immediate. It also fits much better with what I thought might be a proper title for the evening: Rooms.”
As the audience wanders figuratively from room to room through the history of Boye-Christensen’s choreography, that unused title may begin to make a lot of thematic sense. Her work is complex, true—but perhaps not so sticky and tangled as Charlotte’s Web.