The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company has had an eventful year.
It started with the "Alwin Nikolais: A Celebration Tour" that premiered in Salt Lake City in September 2003. This program, composed of the late choreographer's works, gained critical acclaim and led to the dance company touring Europe — France, Italy and Spain.
Then, in the last week of September, Ririe-Woodbury found itself onstage in Scotland at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival, along with Ballet West. During that performance, the company repeated the Nikolais production.
Now, thanks to contacts made on the tour, Ririe-Woodbury will once more embark on a European tour beginning Monday. "We are going to be gone from Monday until Dec. 17," said Jenna Woodbury Thompson, the company's booking and tour manager. "We are very excited to be going on this tour."
Thompson, who is the daughter of co-artistic director Joan Woodbury, said family ties aside, she is proud of her mother and co-artistic director Shirley Ririe. "These two ladies have accomplished so much. They have been around so long, and to be able to do this, now, in this time, is an incredible feat."
This tour is a direct result of last year's tour, Thompson said. "The dancers performed to audiences who knew Nik's work. Especially in France. He was so popular there during his final days. And the audiences really caught on to our dancers' interpretations of the pieces. They welcomed them with open arms."
Joan Woodbury was delighted to have her company invited back to Europe. "We had an idea that we were onto something when we were creating this program," said Woodbury. "It was time. While I have loved every incarnation of our company from the beginning, the dancers we have are perfect for this tour."
Woodbury knew anything was possible working with former Nikolais dancers Murray Louis and Alberto Del Saz to bring this program to life. The works chosen were "Noumenon Mobilus" (1953); "Tensile Involvement" (1955); "Lythic," from a larger work, "Prism" (1956); "Mechanical Organ" (1980); "Crucible" (1985); "Blank on Blank" (1987); and the finale from "Liturgies" (1960).
Each, said Woodbury, showed Nikolais' innovation. "He designed everything from the movement to the lighting to the costumes. He was a genius. And the program is very intense."
The other intense aspect of this tour was making sure everyone had the right visas and the right equipment before embarking on this trip. "We have four dancers who are not American citizens," said Thompson. "And getting them working visas and other official documents has been a challenge."
But thanks to Thompson's experience touring with Marcel Marceau, and the help of Sen. Orrin Hatch's office, the visas and other arrangements arrived in a timely manner. There is also the fact that the company is working with three different agents in each of the three different countries.
"There is a tremendous amount of pressure getting a tour like this together," said Thompson. "And some of our issues are different than other dance companies. But it is incredible to see the company as it is now.
"These two ladies have always thought outside the box. They had the foresight to ask (associate artistic director) Charlotte Boye-Christensen to help direct the company, and that is one example of how they think outside the box."