"CRYSTAL AND THE SPHERE," RIRIE-WOODBURY DANCE COMPANY, Wednesday, Capitol Theatre, additional performance tonight and Saturday (355-2787)

Alwin Nikolais' "Crystal and the Sphere" is visually stunning, sonically captivating and fun.

When the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performed the work for area elementary school children Wednesday, there were a lot of gasps, laughter and "oohs and ahhs."

So, when the company performs for the public tonight and Saturday, there's a good chance the audiences will be wowed as well.

The work was originally created in 1988 for the Kennedy Center's Imagina-

tion Celebration.

And what a work of imagination it is.

A 12-foot sphere and a 13-foot conical pyramid are focal stage points where images and abstract designs are projected.

The lighting is mostly comprised of black lights, giving the Day-Glo costumes a vibrant and electrical feel.

Backed by ambient musical doodles and orchestrations, the dancers weave and gyrate across the stage with magic show-like flair.

While the dancers create abstracts with their bodies, it's easy to interpret the figures as Martians, chess pieces, insects and bolts of lightning.

As for the not-so-abstract characters, the stage is graced with a mermaid, a snapping-jawed shark, toy soldiers and two dancing and funky chickens.

Finding the rhythm of the score proves to be a challenge in any Nikolais work, because of the ambience, but the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company members find their grooves and even patterned dances emerge from the constant movement coming from the stage.

The dancers, who worked with Alberto "Tito" del Saz, Nikolais foundation artistic and repertory director, to bring this 50-minute, delightful work to RWDC. Through his staging and the dancers' dedication, the production finds a new audience in Salt Lake City.

E-mail: scott@desnews.com