"VOICES," RIRIE-WOODBURY DANCE COMPANY, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Thursday, additional performance tonight (355-2787).

A live band and three world premieres kick off the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company's 2005-06 season. Under the umbrella title, "Voices," the RWDC takes on the blues, trains . . . and life.

First out of the gate is "Degrees of Separation," by associate artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen. The work, backed by the minimalist and repetitive string score by Steve Reich, has the dancers — Jo Blake, Juan Carlos Claudio, Ai Fujii, Caine Keenan, Melissa McDonald and Jill Patterson — begin with subtle arm movements.

As the piece continues, the movements become bigger, eventually blossoming into Boye-Christensen's trademark angled-arm jabs and mechanical rotations.

From dramatic poses that feed on the music's energy, to strong, seemingly effortless lifts, "Degrees of Separation" is a nice start for an eventful evening.

Next in the production is Alicia Sanchez's "If My Right Hand Would Say What My Left Hand Thought." Sanchez, artistic director for Mexico City's Teatro de Moveimento, visited RWDC for its annual summer workshop and created this work for the company.

Using an array of Southwestern-inspired noire music, it's a burst of energy from beginning to end. Live spoken dialogue from dancers who are microphoned into the sound system brings the audience into the contagiously energetic work.

Sanchez wants to share culture through performance. And "If My Right Hand . . . " reflects her goal. The physicality and seemingly sporadic movements are mapped out to look improvised. However random the movements may appear, however, the dances are precise and well-timed.

The evening's finale starts off with the blues mouthharp of Harry Lee & the Back Alley Blues Band. The group, a staple in the Salt Lake club scene, rises from the Rose Wagner orchestra pit and cranks out a medley of original blues tunes for co-artistic director Joan Woodbury's "Spare Change."

Bassist Michael Ricks, drummer Mark Chaney, guitarist Eric Sopanen and vocalist Kait Kingston join vocalist/harpist Lee in the jams as the dancers keep time with old tin cans.

The work is filled with bits of theatrical percussion, a la "Stomp," and a bit of "Will Rogers Follies" added for good measure. And the use of cans and wooden benches allows the dancers to do a little real improvisation.

The jazzy moves and lonely blues imagery contained in Woodbury's zesty choreographed kisses, make this a perfect ending for the lively season-opener.

After a performance like this, one can only wonder what the rest of the season has in store.


E-mail: scott@desnews.com