"Three" will be the last full evening of works by choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen in her role as artistic director of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. The program will serve as a retrospective focusing on the last five years of her work, while tracing the scope and progression of her prolific career since joining the company in 2002.
The performance is an opportunity to revisit "Siesta," the first work she set on company dancers as a guest choreographer in 1999. It also offers a chance to consider themes she has explored over the past decade in 2007's "Lost," 2008's "Interiors," 2011's "But Seriously...," and 2012's "The Finish Line." These pieces "represent different phases of my life with the company that were creatively productive," she said.
The five dance works illustrate the choreographer's obsessions in technique and subject matter. Boye-Christensen describes her signature themes this way: "relationships, collaboration with other artists in other fields, the idea of place, cultural identification versus separation, the potential of the body to express an emotional landscape, and the vulnerability of performance."
If there's an idea that Boye-Christensen consistently returns to, it's the exploration of relationships even that of her relationships with dancers during the choreographic process. "I want our audiences to understand how beyond physical and intuitively expressive this group of dancers are," she said. "This is a show that really pushes the physical envelope to the extreme it has moving moments, poignant moments and also humor."
Boye-Christensen said her breakthrough moments in dance making have come as she recognized how to pare movement down to its basic intention, aiming to allow the emotional subtext to resonate with viewers. She describes the process this way: "Being conscious of making movement choices that seem inherently right for the theme that I am working on but letting my intuition guide the journey and also allowing the physical dialogue with the dancers direct and shape the work."
After a decade as artistic director, Boye-Christensen announced in August that she would step down at the end of the season. Her impact at the company has extended beyond her own work. Through her connections, she brought in sought-after choreographers such as John Jasperse, Karole Armitage, and Wayne McGregor.
Nationally, she's known as a consummate professional and a stellar choreographer, according to Karen Dearborn, director of dance at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College, where Boye-Christensen has worked numerous times as a guest choreographer. "Each dance she makes is a crystalized gem, and her movement vocabulary is always luscious, organic and fresh. Students adore her. They find the work challenging, but not overwhelming. Her rehearsal process is humane and she gets wonderful performances from the students."
Former Ririe-Woodbury dancer Caine Keenan, who left the company in 2011, described Boye-Christensen's artistic direction as inclusive and demanding. "Charlotte has a vocabulary of movement that a dancer craves to experience," he said. "And this movement comes with an innate musicality allowing her musical selections to flood your body, deepening the qualitative experience of her movement. I loved learning, rehearsing, and performing her choreography; I felt alive as a performer inside of her work, as an integral part of her process and a member of a strong community on stage."
Leaving the company was a difficult choice, Boye-Christensen said, due to her attachment to the dancers. She said she appreciates how the position has given her the "opportunity to practice my craft and do it over and over again," she said. "I know how to get there quicker because I'm trusting the choices and understanding what works."
She plans to work in Salt Lake City on a project-by-project basis and continue as a freelance choreographer internationally. "Contemporary dance still has a bad reputation of being interpretive and unskilled," she said. " It is our responsibility to be looking forward, take chances and make changes. It is so frustrating for me to see people creating new work that have so many references back."
She believes that audiences are expecting more from live performances, and as she moves on, she hopes to continue pushing the envelope of dance into new territory. But as they attend "Three," she invites audience members to "ask more questions and not necessarily expect instant answers, but feel comfortable asking."
Ririe-Woodbury turns 'Three'
The dance company presents a concert of five works by artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen, who will leave her position in 2013.
When •Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 13-15, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Black Box theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $30; $15 students/seniors at arttix.org or 801-355-2787
Info • ririewoodbury.com