Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, in a run which lasted from December 8th through 10th, presented Prism, a showcase of the choreography of Charlotte Boye-Christensen. Since 2002, Boye-Christensen has brought state-of-the-art dance to Salt Lake City, and Prism continued to do nothing less. True, the first two pieces of the evening had been performed previously by the company. Push, the first number of the evening, was taken from this September’s performance of Polychromatic. Touching Fire, which followed, was debuted as the finale of last December’s Cipher. Neither piece, however, felt a mere reiteration. Set in a different context – the first within the smaller Leona Wagner Black Box Theater, and both within a different suite of dances – each took on a leaner feel and a greater sense of self-awareness.
Push is remarkable amongst Boye-Christensen’s ouvre, because the piece, unlike so much of her work, makes no obvious reference to film or video projection. Here, so extensively are all references to cameras and projectors eschewed, one can only read this absence as deliberate and significant. That this claim is borne out by the rest of the show, I hope this review will demonstrate. The use of bare, black-box staging made the dance feel situated in a studio or rehearsal space. The simplicity of the music of Black Angels and Sigur Rós contributed to this effect. Push began with the dancers seated and breathing on the floor, as if attending their yoga class. Over the course of the piece, the dancers rose to their feet and struck more dramatic poses, including some impressive examples of partnering. Especially powerful were the moments in which three members of the company pressed their heads together, as if locking horns, and created a human tripod, without any use of arms. The feat creates not so much a sense of physical danger as of intense physical pressure, a given in dance which this gesture suddenly and provocatively brought to awareness through an unexpected meeting of heads.
The same gesture was repeated later in the dance, though this time with only a male and female dancer, the latter of which exits the mock showdown – whether in victory of defeat, it is hard to say – by precipitously plunging forward, face-first, directly toward the stage. Though her rival is there to catch her, there is no missing the daring and trust involved in such movements. Again, though such is almost always the case in modern dance, it may too often be taken for granted in the work of other choreographers. But, unlike other choreographers, Boye-Christensen’s goal seems to make dancing appear to be the opposite of easy. Neither the body or anything else can be taken for granted in her work. As if she had immersed herself so deeply in cinema and video that virtual realities had traded places with actual reality, Boye-Christensen, in Push, seems now to look back at the unphotographed body, still dense and weighty, not with a sense of nostalgia so much as a renewed curiosity. What is this strange object that dance used to find so compelling, all on its own? Push seems to inquire, with genuine sincerity. What exactly can a body be, it asks, and what can it do?