To say that Alwin Nikolais was before his time would be an understatement. It’s also an understatement to label him strictly a choreographer. Nikolais, who lived in New York City during the latter part of his life, brought creative imagination to costumes, scoring, props and lighting on the stage. He is considered the godfather of inventive, if not idiosyncratic, 20th-century ballet and dance; his pioneering legacy lives on in current theatrical and physically demanding dance groups such as Cirque du Soleil, Pilobolus and Momix. Many times honored, his pedagogy is taught throughout the world.
And only one national repertory company has received permission to perform an evening of his ballets: Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. The Salt Lake City performance—a collaboration between Ririe-Woodbury and the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance (New York City)—marks the second-to-last performance of the Centennial Tour, which began in the fall of 2009.
The evening’s selections will include “Kaleidoscope,” the premiere of which in 1956 signified the beginning of the shift in Nikolais’ use of props, costuming and lighting. “Kaleidoscope,” as well as the mixed-media adventure, “Temple,” will be Salt Lake City premieres.
As one master is feted, another dancer prepares for departure. After seven years with Ririe-Woodbury, dancer Caine Keenan is heading to Las Vegas, giving the exquisite evening a bittersweet twist.