The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (RWDC), another Rose Exposed participant, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Like other world-renowned performing companies in Utah, the RWDC was started by passionate Utah women. Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe were professors of dance at the University of Utah who started the RWDC because of their fervent belief that dance is a necessity for everybody and that it is particularly influential to the development of youth. In the fifty years since its creation, the RWDC has grown from a local jewel to an international success, all while maintaining their exclusive number of 6 dancers.
Managing director Jena Woodbury reflects upon influential moments in the company’s history, noting that besides having toured every state in our nation, the RWDC has performed throughout Europe, South Africa, South East Asia, the Caribbean, and the British isles, becoming the “first American modern dance company to perform on mainland China, the first American modern dance company to perform in East Berlin Germany in over 40 years, the first American dance company to perform behind the Berlin Wall, and [the first ethnically mixed dance company to perform] in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg, South Africa.” Indeed, diversity is a quality long-valued by the company whose mission is to create works by internationally renowned contemporary choreographers. The diversity of the productions are seen in the RWDC’s dance history, where performances range from works choreographed entirely by women (such as their 2001 inaugural concert at the Rose, “Spoken from the Inside”) to their performances of famed choreographer Alwin Nikolais’s work, which they are the only designated professional dance company to perform.
Woodbury notes that over the past fifty years of the RWDC history, the Salt Lake City audience has always looking for excellence, which pushes the company “professionally and creatively.” In return for their high expectation and inspiration, the RWDC has maintained its commitment to community education, yearly providing 500-600 instructional hours to youth in over 150 traditional and charter schools, many of them Title 1 and rural schools in Utah. In addition, more than 8,000 students attend RWDC concerts at the Capitol Theatre every year free of charge and an additional 1,200 middle school and high school students are invited to free performances throughout the year. The RWDC is able to provide these exceptionally opportunities to Utah’s youth because in their fifty year history the management staff has been able to maintain funding while blossoming artistically and creatively.
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company will be showcasing their work at the Rose Exposed event August 30th and 31st, with a preview this season’s upcoming production choreographed by new artistic director Daniel Charon at the variety show on Friday, and a parent-child workshop on Saturday during which the company dancers will assist the participants in creatively and joyfully solving a problem through movement and dance.