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The Nikolais legacy.

Alwin Nikolais passed away in 1993. His contributions to dance were considerable: the stage works, the school in New York City, and his creative pedagogy and aesthetic philosophy. His archives included television and films, a large collection of photographs and press, all his notes and writings, his sound scores, his innovations in lighting--all his accomplishments had to he preserved. As his heir, and head of the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance, that was my responsibility. To accomplish this I realized that I had to gradually phase out my own career, and when a UPS truck slammed into me in 1998, I found my retirement inevitable. I began to prioritize the process of preserving the legacy.

My first divestment was the closing of the school and disbanding of the company. When Ohio University's Alden Library Archives and Special Collections, under the guidance of Judith Connick, asked if it could house the archives, I was relieved, I decided that my first task, before I forgot everything, was to record the philosophy and pedagogy of the technique. For years I had labored over a manual that would include all of this. Finally, after eight more months, I finished the book that Routledge Press will publish in 2004, Nikolais/Louis Technique: The Unique Gesture.

But concert repertoire is meant to be a living thing. The fact that all Nik's works were filmed and videotaped meant nothing in terms of perpetuating the excitement of a live performance. Watching six-inch-tail figures on a TV screen lends little to the aesthetics and kinetics of a dance. But to present live performances meant having a company and resources. The prospect was daunting. I was willing to form a new company, but the training and fund-raising necessary to do so, as well as finding an administrative staff, a technical crew, a manager, a booking agent, and on and on, was too much. If I undertook all this at my advanced age, would I ever live to see nay next birthday?

I can't remember exactly when the idea of associating with Shirley Ride and Joan Woodbury and their company came to mind. I think it was during one of my 4:00 A.M. talks with myself.

Nik had gone to Salt Lake City for six summers during the 1960s, and bad evolved much of the basis for his aesthetics and vocabulary on Joan and Shirley and their workshops. There he defined a vocabulary that would take dance a step away from the vague, often careless and indulgent, limitations the ego presented and instead relate it to its elements of space, shape, time, and motion. He distinguished dance from general movement by identifying the nature of its interior motion.

Joan and Shirley had broad backgrounds in modern dance, Joan with the University of Wisconsin and Margaret H'Doubler and Elizabeth Hayes, and Shirley with Louis Horst and the Bennington artists of Graham, Humphrey, and Weidman. Their combined exposures were formidable. Besides, I had known them for years and we were great buddies.

When I suggested the plan to involve their company and organization, it was an immediate go. I settled on seven pieces that had never been presented together, a program that would contrast and balance Nik's work. That was something he could never do since constantly presenting premieres always threw the balance of a program into favoring each new piece. The seven are: Noumenon, Mobilus, Tensile Involvement, "Lythic" from Prism, Mechanical Organ, "Finale" from Liturgies, Crucible, and Blank on Blank.

We sought and received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon, Harkness, and (Utah-based) Eckles Foundations, as well as from private sources. Douglas Sonntag of the NEA was particularly encouraging since that organization's dance program held legacy as a high priority and understood this unique need for this method.

The plan is to mount the works with the original sets, costumes, and lighting in Salt Lake City, perform them there September 24 27, and make a U.S. tour (see Calendar, page 53) ending at The Joyce Theater in New York for a week in October. Through Nik's contacts in Europe, we arranged a four-week tour there beginning with Paris in February 2004. All of tiffs is under my direction, with Alberto (Tito) del Saz, and performed by the Ririe-Woodbury Company.

The long-range plan is to restage a new program annually for four weeks, while the Ririe-Woodbury Company continues with its own mission and legacy the rest of the year.

Throughout this preparation, I would normally rely on two stalwart good friends who had worked with Nik and me for many years: Frank Garcia, designer, costumer, archivist, and long-trusted companion, who died suddenly this year, and Tito del Saz, who became co-director of the Nikolais/Louis Foundation this year, and without whom I would never have begun this project. He continues to lend his skill, sensitivity, and dedication to the project.

For more information: Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance, 121 West 20 St. #2C, New York, NY 10011; fax 212.463.8839,; or Judith Connick, Special Collections Librarian, Alden Library, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701;; 740.597.1771.




801.297.4241; FAX 801.297.4235

CO-FOUNDERS/ARTISTIC DIRECTORS: Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe



* Annual budget: $625,000

* 6 dancers, ages 24-32. Heights range from 5' to 5' 11".

* 40-week contract; non-union company

* Auditions are held in the Salt Lake City studio, as openings come up.

* 90 percent of performances are to recorded music, 10 percent are to live accompaniment.

* Venues: the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, and theaters throughout the U.S.

* Touring: Eight to ten weeks each year, all over the world, including China, Singapore, the Philippines, Bali, Europe, South Africa, the Virgin Islands, and throughout the U.S. Tours usually include lecture-demonstrations and may offer open rehearsals, an improvisational jam, parent/child workshop% workshops for teachers, special-topic lectures and workshops, and lighting and stage management classes.

* No official school. Summer workshops for high school/middle school dancers, pre-professionals, and teachers feature modern dance technique and improvisation, choreography, folk, ballet, jazz, repertoire, dance conditioning. African dance, dance for the camera, yoga, and Pilates.

* Scholarships: Available for summer workshops. Applicants should contact the workshop coordinator.

* Outreach: Step Lively: assists classroom teachers in implementing the Utah Dance Core Curriculum. Company dancers visits at-risk schools for one week each year to work with teachers on creative problem-solving through dance. Step Out: Company dancers go into high school classes and create n new dance with the students. Step-Up: Aspiring professional dancers take classes every other weekend during the school year and learn about the opportunities and lifestyles of professional dancers.

The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company was founded in 1964 by Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury, who began dancing together in 1952. Their early collaboration became the foundation for what is now a modern dance company with worldwide recognition.

In addition to touring and school residencies, the troupe participates in arts festivals and other events, including, in 2002, the Olympic Arts Festival.

Works by Shirley Ririe. and Joan Woodbury anchor the repertoire, along with commissioned works From Alwin Nikolais, Murray Louis, Toady Beal, Ann Carlson, Alison Chase and Moses Pendleton, Steven Koester, Laura Dean, Doug Varone, Della Davidson, Joe Goode, Phyllis Lamhut, Douglas Nielsen, Shapiro & Smith, Pascal Rioult, Sean Curran, and Daniel Ezralow, among others.

The company's mission is Io creole new generations of arts enthusiast who agree with the company philosophy: "Dance is For everybody."
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Title Annotation:repertoire to be presented by Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company; Alwin Nikolais, choreograher and dancer
Author:Louis, Murray
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury: pathbreakers.
Next Article:Going to the wall: Indiana Ballet troupe brings Spanish and Arabian themes to China.

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Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance have teamed up to present a summer workshop in Salt Lake City, July 24-Aug. 11.

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