RIRIE-WOODBURY DANCE COMPANY, "Hot Guests in Salt Lake City." Capitol Theatre, April 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.
Ririe-Woodbury provocative "Hot Guests" program brought to town three choreographers not seen here before, whose roots are traceable to the Nikolais-Louis tradition, but each of whom has developed a highly individual voice.The programmed works had an inter-related feeling, a sense of compatibility, and the dancers, some of whom were new last fall, have developed the Ririe-Woodbury look - a style and manner of moving that is distinctively what Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe insist upon from their dancers. Yet they remain individually distinctive, and their technique is formidable.
From Phyllis Lamhut came "Mirage blanc," a tart, vital, inventive workup of waltzes with a bittersweet quality, which involved much changing of relationships, interacting, lightning changes of pace and instant command of details.
The dancers backed onstage in a clump, like lost souls, fugitive from the urban sounds of traffic and a noisy cocktail party. Then they broke out into a series of waltzes, sometimes just snatches of a waltz, dissolving and re-forming their relationships, to music as episodic and impermanent as the dance it underpinned.
Often the awkwardness of reality seemed to be superimposed on the ideal; everything was transient as the five dancers spun from one to another partner, sometimes in threes, sometimes women or men alone. Often there was a suggestion of that odd combination of sophistication and sentimentality that reigned during the '20s.
Sometimes the movement was very lovely, like handcrafted lace - a filigree of subtle, tremulous, stylized movements, pretty, smooth and elegant. Then again it was funny. Or it might be a satire, as in the steamy sex sequence, where Paul Callihan and Janice Haws didn't quite connect in the many cliches of sensuous dance. Or they whirled about like mechanical dolls.
"To Have and to Hold" by Shapiro and Smith is a strong piece, unusually constructed with its combination of bodies and benches, which finally left a haunting, quiet sense of inevitability.
Why benches? Do they represent the levels of existence on which we live? Sometimes they seemed to be church pews, forming the background for gospel fervor; or they might represent the hardness, the inflexibility of life, which will not adapt to human desires, but bends humanity to fit its own contours. In macabre moments they might be slabs in a morgue; or again, just solid props to launch the dancers into vital athletic movement.
The dancers wove up, over and under the benches, or slid along them, turning somersaults off the ends; they suffered the pangs of pain and loss, they left the security of the benches to peer off into the unknown, as their comrades pulled them back. Finally nothing could be done to save them; the men laid down on top of the benches, the women reached poignant hands to save them, as all settled into a cold, blue sleep.
Contributing to a nicely constructed effect were the unisex coverall white costumes, the evocative electronic score by Scott Killian, and atmosopheric lighting design of Roma Flowers.
"Physalia" has been with the company for 14 years - longer than any of the dancers who danced it. But like a well-made house, this first-rate choreography is so inviting that new tenants immediately settle into it comfortably. Choreographed by Alison Chase and Moses Pendleton, founders of Pilobolus, this piece has a lot of that seminal company's look of plastic, flowing athleticism.
The title means "Portuguese man-of-war," and the first tableau made that creature apparent in huddling, vibrating bodies, with darting heads and appendages that shot out in striking imitation of a seaborn creature, against luminous, blue-green lighting.
The triple duo was especially striking and difficult, as the bodies flowed through ever-changing planes and contours, and related to each other with fascinating elasticity in an endless progression of developing shapes. The girls leaned out from the wings like regal figureheads, the men like fishermen, then went into some fascinating stances - sometimes of dreamlike grace, again of whimsical charm. The combination of lofty dignity triumphing over absurd postures was laughable. Finally they formed into humpy little critters without heads, who used their hands to create faces.
Keith Terry, body musician, used his body in dozens of inventive ways to create an entertaining act, slapping, tapping, whacking and wheeling his way through a variety of numbers that kept his audience laughing. Though he doesn't sing he's something like Bobby McFerrin, with impeccable timing. In "Toys" he enlisted some props - those crying baby voice boxes from dolls, squeaky animals, and a music-box carousel, for a funny routine, followed by a tongue-in-cheek, even raucous rendition of "The Glory of Love.' His routine with juggling and whacking sticks was less interesting.