Accelerating into the future with Ririe-Woodbury
The young artistic director sat at the front of the dance studio with his chin cupped in one hand and raked his fingers through his thick, tousled hair with the other.
It was the end of a long, late afternoon rehearsal for the Ririe-Woodbury dancers and the beginning of Daniel Charon's chance to direct the company he was hired to lead a year ago.
Programming for the dance company's 2013-14 season was set and dancer contracts signed well ahead of Charon's hiring last spring, and a less patient man would have found this to be a very long year.
But Charon is a "glass-half-full" kind of guy. He is ready to get "Accelerate" onstage and sees nothing but potential in the company, the dancers and the city he now calls home.
What sets "Accelerate" apart is that all three works on the program are premieres an ambitious undertaking further complicated by the audition Charon held days earlier to fill the position of departing dancer, and audience favorite, Tara McArthur. "Accelerate" will be her last performance.
The hurdle-clearing logistics of "Accelerate" are heightened by its theme of technology, which runs throughout the concert.
"We're using technology metaphorically to ask how we perceive reality," said Charon, who left the hustle and bustle of New York to move to Utah.
"I've been in a long-distance relationship for a long time and technology has been vital to sustain it to stay connected. But I wanted to use that as a metaphorical statement in a dance work; not replacing dance but to shift perspective, to understand dance better and therefore understand ourselves better."
An interesting twist of fate for Charon is that Doug Varone, the man whose company Charon danced with for 10 seasons, also is creating a work for "Accelerate." Varone, who was commissioned before Charon was hired, is collaborating with Ellen Bromberg, a University of Utah modern-dance professor and founder of the International Screendance Festival.
"I've known Ellen for many years," Varone said, "as a choreographer, as a filmmaker and now in this wonderful experience as a collaborator."
The Varone-Bromberg piece is a joint project between Ririe-Woodbury and his New York company, Doug Varone and Dancers.
"One of the reasons we set this project up in this particular way is that it is always deeply unsatisfying for me to create a work and then leave," Varone said. "I'm enjoying having the time to create on my own company bring it to R-W, who breathes life into it from their own bodies, and going back to share that with my dancers. I love that part of the art form: The work that we create can live in different ways on different bodies."
Sandwiched between Varone's and Charon's pieces is Ririe-Woodbury alum Miguel Azcue's dance-theater piece. Azcue's company, Memory Wax, is based in Sweden. Charon said he likes that Aczue uses technology to "mess with our perceptions of things we think we understand through a world of illusion."
As Charon looks to the future of Ririe-Woodbury, he sees a place for dance to become more casual and inclusive, a place to invite audiences in the experience more fully.
"Accelerate" probably will not begin with audience members rushing to their seats when the five-minute bell rings.
"I'm really interested in changing how people perceive dance and empowering people to understand dance in a different way," he said.
"Dance organizations need to change to stay relevant. Maybe even through the use of technology we're working on it."
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company ends its 50th-anniversary season with a show that integrates media and performance by New York-based choreographer Doug Varone and University of Utah professor Ellen Bromberg.
When • Thursday through Saturday, April 24-26, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $35; arttix.org
Capsule review • "States Rendered," a collaboration between Doug Varone and Ellen Bromberg, is a perfect integration of music, movement and media. Varone's movement vocabulary is clear and refreshingly specific; using not just weight but also mass to take the viewer someplace startling new. Bromberg's sophisticated visual counterpoint proves just how powerful the edition of video can be. Lighting by Cliff Wallgreen redirected focus at the right moments, and the soundscore carried unexpected emotional surprises.
The live musical performance by composer Mike Wall contributed an inspirational quality to Daniel Charon's "Construct," with harmonies and chord structures not typical in music for dance.
"You and the Space Between" by Miguel Azcue was whimsical and added another perspective to the redirection of perception that was the overall theme of the evening.
One leaves, another enters
Tara Roszeen McArthur, a member of Ririe-Woodbury since 2010, is leaving the company to pursue project-based work.
She will be replaced by Melissa Younker, who is currently pursuing a bachelor of fine arts in dance at Long Beach State, the same school where McArthur earned her dance degree.
Younker received the 2013-14 Lana Alper Memorial Scholarship at Long Beach State. She previously studied at Orange Coast College, where she was awarded the 2011 and 2012 Karen Shanley Dance Performance and Student Dance Scholarships.