The show was in the black box theater and we sat on the front row. That means our seats were basically on stage, and we regularly felt the impact of the dancers as they hit the floors with impact that rattled our chairs.
Choreography is only as good as the dancers who perform it and I'm sure Boye-Christensen is proud of her dancers. I've seen several of these works before. And they just seem to get better. Take Interiors (2008), which features video art from local Utah artist Trent Call. The first time I saw this work it was just OK. But the most recent performance was riveting. Part of it may be due to editing by the choreographer which she talked about after the performance. But I also think it's a result of the dancers having the opportunity to live with the choreography.
I've also seen Turf (2009) before. I liked it then. And I liked it even more now. I have to give a shout out to one of the newest dancers in the company. Prentice Whitlow absolutely shines in this work. Yes, you can tell he's new to the company. He certainly doesn't have the effortless precision of veterans like Erin Lehua Brown and Caine Keenan, both of whom are stunning. But it's been a long time since I've seen drama and power on a Utah dance stage like that brought by Prentice. You can't take your eyes off him. I can hardly wait to see what he brings in the future.
I should probably focus on the centerpiece of the evening, the world premiere of Charlotte Boye-Christensen's Gravity performed with live music provided by the Danish new music group Figura. This is a work I hope to see again. Because there was a lot to watch. And when you're in the tight confines of the Rose Wagner black box theatre, it's hard to take it all in. Figura demands attention, particularly the percussionist who is almost a dancer in his own right. I loved the use of the plastic office water bottle as instrument. But watching the musicians means you frequently forget the dancers. However, they regularly remind you of their presence as gravity forces their bodies to crash into the stage with extreme force. Gravity felt frenetic. But that might be the point. Hopefully, I'll see this work again, possibly on a bigger stage, so I can offer a more informed opinion.
One last note on Figura. The group also performed two works without dancers. The first, Hit Upon by composer Steingrimur Rohloff was performed by Jesper Egelund. I didn't like this piece. Oh go ahead, tell me I just don't get new, academic music. But let me remind you that I spent much of my college career performing the newest of music. I've performed works for vacuum cleaner and microphone feedback. What I didn't like about this work is that it was so processed. I'm pretty sure there were a bunch of Intel processors working at least as hard as the musician. Contrast that with Thracian Sketches by composer Derek Bermel and performed by Anna Klett. This work drew "a connection between Bulgarian fold music and a cosmopolitan, modern sensibility." It was spectacular. And Klett gave a clarinet performance that absolutely dazzled.
All in all, Ririe-Woodbury, under the creative direction of Charlotte Boye-Christensen continues to bring a fresh, challenging viewpoint to contemporary dance in Salt Lake City. And as long as they do that, I plan to be there supporting and watching some of the best art in town.