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Alumni of dance company return for 'Momentum'

Performance lets ex-members show they've still got it

For three years, various alumni of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company come together for a special performance. This year, former RDWC members Jill Voorhees Edwards and Juan Carlos Claudio, are producing the show.

Edwards, along with current RWDC member Caine Keenan, who choreographed two pieces for the show, spoke with the Deseret News at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center about the upcoming performance.

"This is our third year that we've done it," Edwards said. "The alumni involved have really enjoyed the experience, and because of that we've had so many alumni say, 'Let's do next year and the year after.' So as long as people want to do it."

The program is important for the dancers who are returning and for the dancers who are presently in the company, Keenan said.

"It's great for someone who is still in the company to see what all the alumni has gone off and done and how they are using what they learned here to still create," he said.

Plus it's nice to interact with dancers they've only seen on photos or in video tapes

"A lot of times we only see people on video because we are learning their roles," he said. "But to see them come back and to see whether they're still dancing and creating or gone off to do other stuff and dancing is a side hobby is a good thing for me."

Also, Keenan said, seeing former company members is a comforting experience.

"It's interesting to see how the alumni are still keeping dance in their lives. It's not like your dance career ends because you've left the company,"

Keenan referred to Edwards who is a stay-at-home mom, but still dances when she can.

"She still has that dancer's body although she drives a minivan," he said with a laugh.

Edwards said it's a logistical challenge gathering all the dancers together for the performance.

"It's easy to get people who want to do it," she said. "It's a little bit tough because the people we're bringing in have their own jobs. They're professors. And they're performers. So, to nail down a performer six months in advance is a little bit tricky."

While a majority of this production's alumni were in the company from 1996-1998 (Edwards, Jillian Harris and Patrick Damon Rago), other alumni include Doris Trujillo (throughout the 1970s) and Claudio (1996-2006).

Edwards said when the alumni are confirmed, she and Claudio give them free rein to create works for the production.

"Sometimes we'll give them a time limit," she said.

While Trujillo, artistic director of the Contemporary dance Ensemble at Utah Valley University, won't be dancing, dancers will present her work "Resiliere," which was performed at the 51st American Dance Guild Performance Festival in New York in 2007, Edwards said.

Harris, who now is an assistant professor at Temple University in Pennsylvania, will present a solo by guest choreographer and non-RWDC alumni John Beasant III called "NoExit" and a duet with Edwards called "Shed."

Rago, who hasn't been back to Salt Lake City since 1998, is an associate professor at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, will bring some dancers from his school for a group work called "La Bella Bel." He will also perform a solo called "Dancing Larry."

Keenan's works include a solo called "Elre" and a group work that will be danced by a company of high school dancers whom he works with as director of RWDC's "Step Up" program.

Edwards will not only dance "Shed" with Harris, but also dance in a trio called "Les Filles."

"This rejuvenates you as an artist," Keenan said. "It enlivens you and invigorates you."

"You perform differently you choreograph differently," Edwards said.

If you go

What: "Momentum Elevated 2009," Ririe-Woodbury Dance alumni and friends

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Art Center, 130 W. 300 South

When: Aug. 27-29, 8 p.m.

How much: $10-$15

Phone: 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787