Several performing arts companies are throwing their season-ending performances up a little earlier than normal. Whether it be to shake things up or simply try a different change of pace, it doesn't matter, it all seems to be working out for the better as we're now getting several shows over the course of six weeks rather than a dozen slammed together over two weeks. The latest to join the early bunch is Ririe-Woodbury, who will be showcasing Spring Season
on April 9-11 at the Rose Wagner. Today we chat with company dancer and our friend, Alexandra Bradshaw, about the past few years with the company and her thoughts of this show. (All pictures courtesy of Ririe-Woodbury.)
Gavin: Hey Alex, how have things been since we last chatted?
Hi Gavin! Wow, it’s been a few years since our last chat. Things are busy and electric!
Gavin: How have the past couple seasons at Ririe-Woodbury treated you?
Between the 50th Anniversary celebration and our current season, it’s been quite a ride. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in our beloved company tour van “Sheila” making our way through the western states and beyond. Wyoming, New York, Florida, California, Kanab. You name it we’ve probably been there. Bashaun and I were incredibly honored to travel to Zimbabwe this past August to teach and perform alongside the Tumbuka Dance Company—now that was an experience of a lifetime, to say the least. Choreographically, we have investigated a wide expanse of repertory ranging from Joan and Shirley’s Play It As It Rings
(1970) in the 50th Anniversary retrospective concert last season to brand new contemporary works by the likes of Doug Varone and Jonah Bokaer. I have now been a part of four premieres by our intrepid Artistic Director Daniel Charon. Working with Daniel and being a part of this prodigious company is nothing short of magic.
Gavin: For you, what's been your favorite performance to date?
Oh gosh. Can I pick a few? I recently performed on a raked stage in an ancient opera house on a mountain top in Virginia City, Nevada (wild horses literally roam the streets of this place). Performing with Bashaun in Zimbabwe is not to be missed on the list. Our Spring Concert 2014 holds significance for me for several reasons: it was my last performance alongside my dear colleague Tara MacArthur, it was my first big performance coming back from a scary nearly career-ending spinal injury, and it was the first time my grandmother had seen me perform since my childhood. And not to mention the honor or performing two phenomenal world premieres by Daniel Charon and Doug Varone.
Gavin: For this season, how was it coming in as a veteran performer as opposed to when you were a rookie?
I feel that the grandest challenge and privilege of a veteran dancer is to remain hungry. The performance adrenaline is no longer as crippling as it once was; old injuries haunt you and distract you from the creative processes; seniority in the company can sometimes be strangely alienating. But the gift of experience is the ability to be completely alive and vulnerable on stage. To be present and grounded and grateful in performance—for me, there is nothing more fulfilling. And every day is a new adventure. In the past few years alone, I have acquired numerous new performer survival skills including but not limited to: How to survive walking off of the front edge of a dark stage into the orchestra pit (in a wedding gown); How to sew an emergency button onto Bashaun’s
costume in 27 seconds or less; How to calmly pry a baby tarantula out my hair. Who knows what the future has in store!
Gavin: What were your impressions of the season and the changing of format before it began?
This season, Daniel has been interested in spending more time developing work in the studio. It is a rare gift in our field to be able to investigate a work over such a long trajectory of creative play and evolution. There are parts of “53 Rooms” that we began developing as early as last summer. These new works lives
deep in the bones of the company dancers and I hope that the audience will feel our profound visceral connection to the work.
Gavin: How was it performing Fall Season and Flabbergast earlier this season?
The works in Fall Season and Flabbergast have each presented wonderful challenges and discoveries for me as a performer. One minute, I’m honing my acrobatic abilities while flinging myself off of a table dressed in a baby suit in Tandy Beal’s fabulous Flabbergast. The next, I am pushing the limits of my stamina and training in the highly demanding and fulfilling dancing of Daniel Charon’s work “Storm.” Ririe-Woodbury’s exceptionally diverse repertory stretches every part of me and I love it.
Gavin: What were your first impressions of Spring Season when you learned about the performances?
Daniel let us know early last summer that we would be collaborating with the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble (SLEE) for the Spring Season concert. Between that and an impending choreographic process with Netta Yerushalmy, our excitement for Spring Season has been building and accelerating since June! I wish that our audience members had the chance to spend some time with us and these incredible musicians and choreographers in the studio. When SLEE comes to rehearse with us, their robust live sound completely transforms our space and our dancing. And watching a petite beautiful fierce Israeli artist drive out a brilliant dance in two short weeks is a remarkable vision to say the least.
Gavin: How has it been working with your fellow dancers to bring this show to life?
I am so grateful to work alongside these extraordinary dancers in the studio. They are each so uniquely gifted and driven in the work. We learn from each other every day. We also basically live and work together like a touring circus and inevitably have hilarious arguments (don’t worry, we always end up hugging it out). Also, Daniel’s “53 Rooms” could not have come together without the thirteen superhuman dancers from the University of Utah. Their camaraderie, professionalism, and fearlessness have moved us and this work to an entirely new dimension. We couldn’t be prouder and thrilled to share the stage with them this weekend.
Gavin: What's been your favorite performance within the show and why?
How do I choose between a gold unitard and stirring live music? But honestly, I would have to say that there is a solo inside of Daniel’s “53 Rooms” which has been a notable journey for me to create and perform. We started developing the material this summer shortly after my father passed away and having to revisit that movement vocabulary over the course of the season has been terrifying, exhausting, and healing. The piece has nothing at all to do with the themes of my grief, but my performance of the work comes from a deeply personal place.
Gavin: What are your thoughts going into opening night?
This show has been in the oven for a long time and it will be delicious! We can not wait to share it with you all!
Gavin: Outside of RW, what other showcases are you looking forward to as the '14-'15 season closes?
I’m looking forward to the next Mudson performance at the Masonic Temple on April 13 featuring a new solo work choreographed and performed by fellow RW dancer, Bradley Beakes. Next up, our friends at Repertory Dance Theater have their spring concert at the Rose Wagner April 23-25. Just after that, you can find our own Yebel Gallegos dancing in Boyhood at Sugar Space on April 31 and May 1.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of 2015?
Fellow RW dancer Bradley Beakes and I are hard at work collaborating on a duet that we will perform on May 18 at Mudson
. Our new piece investigates Bach's momentous Ciaccona (part of Partita for Violin No. 2) which will be performed live by my husband, classical guitarist Jon Paul Yerby. Shortly thereafter, Jon and I will be heading to Germany in June to perform several concerts together. After that, I look forward to getting back into the studio with Ririe-Woodbury to cook up our 2015-2016 season!