Momentum, the annual showcase of choreography by alumni of Ririe-Woodbury, took place this past weekend. For the first time, it was partially funded by the dance company and included on the season schedule for their fiftieth anniversary. So inclusive was this convocation, that the four performances were split into two programs. It was almost a miniature festival of fifteen dances—a smorgasbord standing in strong contrast to the thematic evenings we’re used to from this group. Much of the work looked rather collegiate, some in the sense of being immature, some simply in that they bore the mark of having been made at colleges and universities.

One of the most affable pieces was Stevan Novakovich’s “Urban Awakening.” Picture a metrosexual Daniel Nagrin, pretending to smoke a cigarette, drinking some bottled water, then trying to hail an imaginary cab. If you can imagine that, then you have a fair idea of what Novakovich was doing on stage Thursday night. Here was a prissy urbanite, the guy at Starbucks who orders twelve drinks and then immediately takes a phone call. He’s a joy to watch rendered in dance because he’s a character we love to hate.

Jillian Harris’ “In Crisi” was similarly silly but fun. Hierarchically, it’s worth noting that hers was one of four pieces set on the current company, commissioned last year by Charlotte Boye-Christensen before her departure. The piece made use of music, espresso demitasse and flamboyant gestures to evoke tired clichés of Italian-American gusto and bombast. I’m not sure why all of that was necessary, because it was a million times less interesting than watching the company engage in the complex, lush partnering that made the work worth seeing. The company looks better than ever.

“still no words” by Stephanie Nugent was a somewhat underdeveloped, but promising study of company dancers Yebel Gallegos and Alex Bradshaw. Engaging in a similar exploration of relationship and complementary performance textures was Chia-Chi Chiang’s “III”, a trio comprised of Scotty Hardwig, Florian Alberge and Yasin Fairley. Just that night I had been complaining to my companion about the pitfalls of dances with all-male casts. “III” suffered from none of the gratuitous posturing or misplaced theatricality I’d been whinging about. There was nothing obviously ingenious about this rather understated work, but it brought something out of Hardwig and Alberge that I’d never seen before–– a deep quiet, a sense of internal listening. (It was also a pleasure to be introduced to Fairley, I hope to see more of his work soon.)

The one truly ambitious work was Keith Johnson’s “The Green is the Unraveling”. As another strong male cast tenderly explored each others spheres of physical intimacy, a green rectangle slowly expanded to fill the cyc. John Allen, Juan Carlos Claudio, Efren Corado Garcia and Bashaun Williams are a quartet I’d love to watch together again. The work was an ode to four other Ririe-Woodbury men–– Paul Callihan, Robert Martinez, Lynn Walter Topovski and Dennis Wright–– who the world lost to the AIDS crisis.

Sam is a regular contributor to loveDANCEmore and SLUG mag in addition to making his own creative work. His review is posted in collaboration with 15 BYTES.