Ririe Woodbury's Momentum

Showcases can be difficult for artists and audiences; they come with potentially clunky transitions, disparate aesthetic concerns and scheduling conflicts between casts. Ririe Woodbury’s 2015 iteration of “Momentum” dispelled these difficulties for a successful two evening run of works by current company members and alumni in the Rose Wagner Blackbox. Each piece, however different, fulfilled its own concept, broadly representing the choreographic range of Ririe-Woodbury dancers.  

Some of the works presented were imagistic, beginning with Lehua Estrada’s “Cedar, Ash and Apple.” Three ballgown clad women appeared in a landscape of empty branches and shredded paper with the sound and appearance of leaves. The dancers took a surreal romp in which it was easy to marvel at the precision of the cast, particularly Kylie Rae Lloyd. It’s unclear how these women appeared in this world but nice be swept away in enjoyment of their moment.

“… So a path I walk”  by Chia-Chi Chiang relied equally on imagery (and interestingly, paper) to ground the material. A duet for Yebel Gallegos and Chiang’s young son, Jaden Tu, the dance centered on vignettes with rolls of butcher paper (making a pathway, drawing hopscotch, tracing a hand). Concluding with the magical appearance of paper airplanes. The work could be read in a number of ways: a meditation on aging, a reflection on parenting, an exploration of mortality.

Momentum co-creators, Jill Voorhees Edwards and Juan Carlos Claudio each presented dances utilizing abstract and virtuosic movement structures. The former was compelling in its gentleness and the second in its urgency. Both artists work full-time as university educators and the night was a way for them to the broaden the reach of their ideas. This was particularly true in the case of Claudio whose cast was comprised of students. Some, like Natalie Barnes Jones, are soon-to-be-graduates looking to make their way in a complicated field. For Jones, who is extraordinarily easeful, it’s an important way to remain visible as she departs academia.

A dance film choreographed by Jillian Harris was another extension of an academic project. “Red Earth Calling,” was supported in part by Temple University, where Harris teaches. When the credits began with a woman in Arches National Park, I cringed at the suspicion that aggressive improvisation would unfold. Surprisingly the concept was novel, equal parts love story and murder mystery. While it didn’t settle into either identity fully, it was refreshing in its degree of difference from common tropes in the form.

Bradley Beakes was the only current company member featured in Momentum, rounding out the show with “His Red Letter Day.” The solo was a lesson in the importance of continuing to workshop choreography in new spaces with new audiences. Recently presented at Mudson works-in-progress, 12 Minutes Max and the Greater Salt Lake Fringe Festival, the dance reached new clarity in lighting design and staging in this iteration. If his voice signals what’s to come for the company I, for one, am thrilled.

Ashley Anderson directs loveDANCEmore programs as part of her non-profit, "ashley anderson dances." The reviews here are shared with 15 BYTES, where she serves as dance editor.  See more at ashleyandersondances.com

This review was edited to reflect that Natalie Jones is a senior; the piece originally stated that she was a previous graduate.