some thoughts on some spaces

This writing is one of many “non-reviews” that I’ve tended to post on this blog. It’s not a critical look at the craft of dance-making; instead, it’s a focused exploration of the ways in which dance can be experienced here, in Salt Lake City, and the kinds of connections that makes me consider.

Tonight, April 14th, I felt lucky to see Ririe-Woodbury perform some excerpts at the Cathedral of the Madeline, a clearly beautiful space which has housed a lot of dancing over the years, mostly that by children.

I enjoyed myself not only because the space and the performers are always beautiful, but also because it challenged my expectations of Charlotte Boye-Christensen’s choreography and helped me to explain my feelings about works by Johannes Wieland, and others.

It’s not a huge secret that I’ve personally come to find Charlotte’s work repetitive over the years she has served as Artistic Director of the company. The lull I find in that repetition has prevented me from seeing what many friends and peers respect as a strong physicality and an unyielding determination in complex collaborations. Watching her work tonight in the Cathedral was a departure because, for the first time, I experienced the intimacy that others claimed to always see in her partnering. Without the farce of a cyc or bright gels I saw the performers as grounded in a real space, in a real time and with one another. Their glorious shadows illuminating the walls were just the icing.

Each work was distilled to the smallest excerpts and accompanied by interludes on the guitar by Jon Yerby which helped me to find easiness as an audience member. The situation helped me to see the dances not as the “masterful” work that the marketing always claims but instead as honest and reflective work.

There were times I laughed of course because the imagery so frequently resembled a crucifixion and while I wouldn’t think twice in a theater it was curious how and why certain images come to be in certain spaces and how we can never predict the associations made when our circumstances shift. There were times that shifting circumstance also caused be great discomfort, particular in a preview of a new piece by Johannes Wieland.

Stylized domestic violence is a brand of modern dance that I started to think that only I was seeing. I had begun to wonder whether the persistent, aggressive, heterosexual partnering which so often features the flung female body is only troubling to me. When I watched it enacted in the Cathedral, as part of this work the changing context revealed to me that I wasn’t making it up, that so much dance really does center on the premise of replicating physically the trouble we find in our personal relationships, no matter what larger projections it means about the bodies of the women and men involved.

Thankfully I didn’t leave with only that feeling of expectations confirmed, I also got to be surprised which was worth it.

Ashley Anderson directs loveDANCEmore programs as part of "ashley anderson dances."