With "Video Visions," its first show of the 1990-91 season, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company returns to a format already proven highly entertaining and stimulating in an earlier incarnation. Concerts will be in the Capitol Theater at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27.
But don't expect the exact same thing, said Joan Woodbury, co-artistic director, speaking of an art form unique to the company, combining dance, video, music and lighting.What happens is that as the dancers dance, two cameramen photograph them from different angles. (You'll see them working onstage.) Their images appear on television monitors in the pit, where editor Arthur Pembleton selects the images he prefers, enhances them with special effects through a machine known as the Wizard Digitizer, and projects them onto the on-stage screens in altered, sometimes fantastic forms.
"It's fun to see the three aspects going on at once," said Woodbury. "First there's the technique of the cameramen shooting the dance, moving from front to back, or along the sides. Then there's the dance itself, and the video interpretation of the dance.
"This program gives the audience a new look at movement, sometimes up very close. Only two of our six dancers have ever done the piece before, and they must be so precise. There are instances where we have the floor marked, and they must hit the mark exactly every time, so they will be in focus.
"We first did `Video Visions' in 1987, and we thought we could never get it together again, it involves so much equipment. But we have had great help from the Panasonic people in Seattle and Denver. They have loaned two wonderful cameras and two rear-screen projectors, which add immensely to our arsenal of effects." Ririe-Woodbury also acknowledges partial sponsorship of this program by the WordPerfect Corp. and assistance from TV Specialists of Salt Lake City.
"Video Visions" is a full-evening show, with 14 dance episodes. "Shirley (Ririe) and I went through the dances we used before and eliminated two, then I made two new dances, Shirley made one, and a company member, Keith Johnson, made one," said Woodbury. "We realized when we went back through them that these dances are made for the camera. The dancers can do much less complicated things than usual, and still look so interesting on screen."
Though Pembleton has a great deal of control over selection and what will appear, the dances are not improvisations, Woodbury stressed. "We start with some simple video techniques, as each dancer introduces himself or herself to the audience and the video camera. But mostly the routines are set, and they become more complicated as the evening progresses."
Some effects the audience will enjoy are freeze frame, in which the camera stops the action; mosaics, often seen in sports ads, which break the body up into geometric forms; overlay of one picture over another, or several pictures overlaid; posterizing or solarizing, which involves changing color and blurring the edges of images. Dancers' bodies may look bigger or smaller, or only part of a body may be shown on screen.
The program lists such descriptive titles as "Posturized Postures," "Circular Panning," "Plastic Solarization," "Quad and Quin Split," and "Digitized Hallway and Fresh Frozen Leaps."
"For one of my dances, each dancer will do an improvisation utilizing a theme I choreographed, but the timing is up to them," said Woodbury. "They will have a free hand in center stage. Then I will call that dancer off, and another dancer will come in and take his place."
A certain amount of serendipity is involved in a good outcome, she explained. "Arthur has some control in the pit, choosing whichever image he wishes to show up on the screen, but it's hectic for him, he is not just the director, but is running his own machine. And there is vulnerability to error - an electric plug can be pulled, a camera can go wacky or get knocked, and the cameraman might have to repair it right there on stage.
"But what I like about this work is that it extends the medium of television, which usually contents itself with photographing from the front or side," said Woodbury. "It brings in a vision of dance that audiences would ordinarily never see - from the back, from overhead, really close in, bigger or smaller, or in double images."
Woodbury foresees a future for this kind of art. "Dance and video combined could be an up-and-coming art form, which when extended to the stage, could combine the best of both worlds," she said. "That's if the machines needed became more plentiful; it's daunting to think of gathering all this equipment together."
The company will take "Video Visions" on tour to Cleveland in January and February.
Tickets to this show at $12, $15 and $25 are now on sale at the Capitol Theater box office, 524-8383.