dannce presents

The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is a Utah-based contemporary dance company. 

When plans to build the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center were announced, professor Suzanne Ostersmith realized that for the first time ever, Gonzaga University would have the ability to present professional dance companies. She found a donor, championed an endowment fund and began the Dance Presents program. Six years later, the GU dance department is bringing its fourth professional company to campus — on Saturday, GU will host the nationally renowned Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

 The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is a Utah-based institution for contemporary dance. The company employs six dancers who perform year round, primarily in Salt Lake City, Utah, but also on tours like the one coming to GU. 

 “One of our mottos is that dance is for everybody, and we want to show as many people as possible that dance is accessible and approachable,” said Severin Sargent-Catterton, the company’s events manager. “It’s not elitist, it’s not unintelligible. It’s understandable. We go on tour to reach as many people as possible and show them the infinite possibilities of movement celebration.”

The company will be performing three pieces at GU ­­— "Everything That Changes," "Bodystorm" and "I See Myself".

This year’s program will also include the Gonzaga Repertory Dance Company (GURDC). GURDC is an audition-only dance company that has been working on the piece they will perform, "A Strange Familiarity," since September. Ostersmith said this is a special opportunity for GURDC, as most collegiate dancers never get the opportunity to share the stage with a professional company. 

 “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before and a whole different caliber of professional experience,” said Gillian Wittstock, a member of GURDC. “As someone who hopes to continue dancing in the future, this is a great opportunity for me to see what that looks like firsthand.”

 Ostersmith said when they are not performing, members of Ririe-Woodbury will be teaching and visiting other dance classes. One such class is GU's Dance for Parkinson’s program. Every Saturday, Spokane community members with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers come to the GU studios to participate in a dance class led by faculty and students. 

The Ririe-Woodbury Company has taught classes like this one in the past, and their piece "Bodystorm" was created in collaboration with people with Parkinson’s.

“We developed this piece in collaboration with people with Parkinson’s disease because dance has shown, in many studies, to be something that helps with dexterity and cognitive ability for people who have neurodegenerative conditions,” Sargent-Catterton said.

Ririe-Woodbury visited the class on Zoom and collected movement and stories inspired by the class to use in their Saturday performance. Both groups are especially proud of the collaboration.

On Saturday, the show will last about an hour and 550 seats are available.

Ostersmith said she hopes all students will consider attending.

“I’m amazed at how many students can get to be a junior or senior and have never set foot in that gorgeous performing arts center,” Ostersmith said. “Every single student sets foot in The Kennel, and that’s awesome, and they should, but they should also go see shows in that performing arts center. It’s state of the art, and to see a professional dance company in that kind of setting is huge.”

Tickets are available on the GU dance department’s page on the GU website.

“I don’t think I can overstate how much I think students should take advantage of this,” Ostersmith said. “The fact that they can see this kind of show without having to drive to San Francisco, Portland or Seattle – it’s right here on our campus.”

Bailey White is a staff writer.

Staff Writer

Bailey is a senior studying business with a concentration in consumer economics and a minor in political science.