Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company "Here Today" performance preview | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company "Here Today" performance preview 

An intersection between the necessities of two different years.

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  • Marissa Mooney

In 2020 and 2021, many performing arts companies dealt with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting their presentation model to include recorded components. In 2023, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is showing how those times have changed—and changed the approaches of creative artists.

Included among the three performances that make up RWDC's 90-minute Here Today program are two pieces with a lineage that includes dance films created to address health and safety concerns during the height of the pandemic. Rites: Come As You Are by choreographer Charles O. Anderson premiered as a dance film for Ririe-Woodbury in 2021, and is now being re-imagined for a stage presentation. Long View, by choreographer Molly Heller, is inspired by the 2020 multimedia work Full View, the filmed version of which will serve as the "prologue" before Here Today performances.

According to RWDC artistic director Daniel Charon, "When we were making work for the screen, it was a way to think of creative ways to move forward. Moving back to the stage, for me as a choreographer, it's a sense of relief and coming home. It is a positive re-discovering of a process."

For Heller, the choreographer of Long View and Full View, there's a bit of bringing the piece full circle involved. When she was originally commissioned to create the work that became Full View, it was before COVID, and not originally conceived as a recorded project, involving dancers from Ririe-Woodbury and from The Heartland Collective. "Over the course of nine months, it adapted and adapted until it became a film," Heller says. "What you see in the film is 11 solos ... so that was very much a by-product of isolation; all I could do was film solos. Two people couldn't even be in the same room."

Still, when Charon invited Heller back to re-stage Full View as a live performance piece, she had a different idea in mind than simply taking Full View and putting it on a stage. "When I thought about it, I really loved a lot of the visual elements [from Full View], but I didn't want to repeat what it represented, which was peering into isolation," Heller says. "It didn't really feel reflective, two years later, of where we are. ... I didn't feel drawn to re-creating solos, when that was something that was needed at that time. Daniel was open to me making a new work that had an inspiration from Full View."

The result is Long View, which is not so much a re-staging as what Heller thinks of as a "chapter two" or the "sister" of Full View. Indeed, Heller notes that Long View doesn't even really represent any more the live-performance ideas she originally had, when Full View was originally conceived pre-COVID. "What I might have dreamed then isn't showing up now," she says.

In part, the need to re-think Full View was a function not just of a different time, but of different creative partners involved. Of the six Ririe-Woodbury dancers participating for Long View, only two participated in Full View, making the work fundamentally different. "So in a sense, it could never be the same," Heller says. "I'm very much about who I'm working with in the room. I didn't want to think about re-creating something. There were so many collaborators [for Full View], and I wanted to honor that."

Heller also acknowledges that being forced to create a virtual work resulted in a positive appreciation for the work of collaborators, in flexing some new creative muscles, and in being forced to think consciously about what presentation is best for any given idea. "I learned a ton about my ways of working, and I want to carry that forward," she says. "Now, I think, 'What does the work require? What does it need from me?' Sometimes it benefits from a multimedia presentation, and maybe it doesn't. So I get at the core of what it means to me, and decide what that means."

For Long View, what that means is employing a wider range of the theater space available to her—including locations like the loading dock. These kinds of experimentation are part of what Charon sees as the excitement of creators coming back to live performance spaces after a time away, and appreciating the unique opportunities those spaces afford them.

"Molly is really utilizing the theater space in a unique way, accessing spaces ... that wouldn't typically be used," Charon says. "Raja [Feather Kelly, whose Scenes for an Ending fills out the program] has fluorescent lighting on the floor. So I see this excitement in returning to these theatrical elements. Our shows are either really complicated technically, or they feel complicated, because we're getting our feet back under us."

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About The Author

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw has been a City Weekly staff member since 1999, including assuming the role of primary film critic in 2001 and Arts & Entertainment Editor in 2003. Scott has covered the Sundance Film Festival for 25 years, and provided coverage of local arts including theater, pop-culture conventions, comedy, literature,... more

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