Carlson
“Elizabeth, the dance.” COURTESY STUART RUCKMAN

Peak Performances presents choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company’s “Elizabeth, the dance,” from Thursday, March 28, through  Sunday, March 31. Peak Performances writes, “With movement both formal and physically awkward, deliciously surprising and joyfully restrained, Carlson and the Ririe-Woodbury company members—Yebel Gallegos, Megan McCarthy, Brian Nelson, Breaanne Saxton, Bashaun Williams, and Melissa Younker—have created a tribute to modern dance and to the joy of being human.”

Inspired in part by a section of her own “White” series (1992-1996), Carlson developed “Elizabeth, the dance” as a concert dance that traces history and desire through the body of the dancer. The work — on which Woodbury (now 92) closely consulted — also emerged from a desire to acknowledge the inspiration Carlson (now 62) had gained from her formative years under Woodbury’s mentorship.

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The idea then expanded to reference other choreographers whose work has become an indelible part of Carlson, as well as to reflect the artists who’ve influenced each participating Ririe-Woodbury company member. Choreographic quotations in “Elizabeth, the dance” include “Hexentanz” by Mary Wigman; “The Revolutionary” by Isadora Duncan; “There Is a Time” by José Limón; “Trio A” by Yvonne Rainer; “Spanish Dance” by Trisha Brown; “Bear Dance, Ute Tribe,” suggested and demonstrated by Forrest Cuch; and “Water Study” by Doris Humphrey.

The title, Peak Performances writes,  “itself illuminates the complex nature of influence, referencing Elizabeth Streb, one of Carlson’s inspirations, as well as a teacher of the same name who once noted a homoerotic quality in Carlson’s work — before Carlson herself even realized it was present, and well before she came out — and told her ‘not to make a dance like that again.’”

In a release, Carlson says, “One of the great things about a repertory company is it’s like walking into a museum—there’s a permanent collection in each dancer. They have a history of the form in their bodies, particularly within Ririe-Woodbury, because they do a lot of recreations, working on a modern dance to contemporary dance timeline. So here I’ll say to the dancers, ‘I want you to improvise with all of the works you know.’ At any given time they can perform 10 or 20 pieces—remembering, in real time, on the stage. Simultaneously, these moments of improvisation in this piece bring a present-ness that happens to fly in the face of repertory standard.”

Performances will take place at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, 1 Normal Ave. For tickets and more information, visit peakperfs.org.