Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, dance company member

Jena Woodbury, Managing Director
Salt Lake City, UT

A deep commitment to dance’s value and the importance of its inclusion in childhood education led to the formation of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (pronounced R?´-r?   Wo?d´-bûr-?) in 1964 by professors of Dance Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe. To this day under Managing Director Jena Woodbury and current Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen, the Company is dedicated to innovative and emerging choreography, dance education, and merging dance with multi-media.

1.    Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives. Please explain the adjectives you selected.

Engaging:  Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is committed to commissioning and facilitating the creation of works from a variety of choreographic voices that connect with, challenge, and entertain audiences. The company also endeavors to enrich the dance experience of participants throughout the world by providing educational activities that involve individuals of all ages.

Authentic: As we perform new works, it is important to us that the choreographer’s work be genuine.  We are invested in presenting work that reflects the unique artistry, perspective, and voice of artists who are capable of generating original and unpretentious ideas.

Relevant: The longevity of Ririe-Woodbury, now almost a half-century old, is a testimony to the importance of staying open and responsive to change.  A dance company that wants to stay contemporary must constantly embrace the new, maintain its position on contemporary, and bring its audience along with it.  However, commitment to the new doesn’t necessarily mean discarding what has come before.  There are modern and post-modern dance works that still have a contemporary voice – such as the masterpieces of Alwin Nikolais which we perform as a compliment to our current contemporary repertory.

2.    What inspires the work of your organization and why?

Artistically, Ririe-Woodbury draws inspiration from presenting works that balance strong conceptual ideas with highly physical and technically demanding execution.   Striking this balance between the intellectually complex and the physically beautiful allows the Company to engage our audiences both on a cerebral and visceral level.  We are highly motivated to create new works by exceptional artists that inspire young people to become involved with us and see the personal and cultural value of dance – thereby building future audiences.

3.    What accomplishment from the past year is your organization most proud of and eager to share with Dance/USA’s membership and the field at large?

On the eve of our 50th Anniversary Season (July 2013 – June 2014), we find ourselves looking back over our past with uncharacteristic nostalgia.  Last season marked the tenth, and sadly penultimate, for our Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen who is leaving at the end of this season to pursue new choreographic adventures.  Charlotte’s ten years (2002-07 as Associate Artistic Director and as Artistic Director since 2008) with the Company have been remarkable, both in artistic quality and in time-span.  She has been dedicated to setting a high technical standard for our dancers and creating a diverse repertory—the very components that make our Company stand out in the dance world.  We are also currently in the process of looking forward; engaging in the tremendously exciting process of finding the new Artistic Director who will guide the Company’s creative endeavors into the future!  Change is the very nature of this field, which we embrace.

In looking back we can say that our commitment to our mission, our persistence in finding skilled and talented dancers, and most interesting choreographers, and our dedication to our education goals have made the past 50 years possible.  Thanks to consistent and sound management practices and faithful community support, we have successfully transitioned from a founder-driven organization to an institution that is well established and poised for survival.   We will continue advancing contemporary dance as an accessible and valued art form for years to come.

4.    Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?

We see dance as an evolving art form that will continue to present audiences with new, exciting, and challenging ideas.  This compels the company to move forward and to provide an environment where choreographers and artists can experiment with new ideas and innovative modes of creation. 

Dance is finding a place in popular culture, as evidenced by the popularity of television programming such as ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance on FOX.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for audience development in all facets of dance – especially dance education for young people.   We feel a responsibility to foster and train our company dancers as artists/teachers to insure that dance has a future in the lives of youth.  Our Dance Education Professional Outreach Program to Schools is held up and an exemplary model, both regionally and nationally.

5.    As an organization, what do you hope your dance legacy to be?

We hope that Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company will be seen as an influential contemporary dance company with a broad reach and an engaging approach; a company where the holistic combination of stellar performance, brilliant choreography, and commitment to education helped to make dance accessible to everybody.  We hope to continue for another 50 years.