Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company History

Fifty Years in the Making

Ririe-Woodbury (Ri-re Wood-bûr-e) Dance Company was founded in 1964 by two Utah women, Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe, who were both professors of dance at the University of Utah. Their passion for dance not only included performance, choreography, and pedagogy - it was accompanied by a deep commitment to dance as a valuable art form and its necessity in the education of youth. Over the years, the Company has grown from its beginning as a local entity, into an internationally renowned contemporary dance company, having performed in every state in the United States, as well as throughout Europe, South Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the British Isles.

Artistic Excellence

The Company founders were active in the earliest programs in dance created by the National Endowment for the Arts. In that fertile atmosphere, the Company grew in stature and recognition. From 1999-2001 Company Alumna Emmy Thomson further advanced the vision of the Company as Associate Artistic Director. Then, in 2002, Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen was appointed Artistic Director and contributed to the Company’s evolution with her own unique perspective. The Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance (under the artistic direction of Alberto del Saz) partnered with the Company in 2003 to present the works of Alwin Nikolais. In tandem with its commitment to an ever expanding repertory of contemporary works, the Company is dedicated to keeping the Nikolais legacy alive – touring both bodies of work worldwide. In June 2013, the Company welcomed its current Artistic Director, New York dance-artist Daniel Charon. His vision builds upon this rich foundation, while incorporating his own distinctive viewpoint. Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Ririe-Woodbury produces three unique productions annually which include new works created by the Company Artistic Director in addition to new commissions from avant-garde choreographers throughout the world.

Dance Education

In 1972, the Company was selected as one of only 20 dance companies to participate in two prestigious national initiatives: the Dance Touring Program and the Artists in the Schools Program. This opportunity led to the creation of the Company’s education program, which became the national model for dance education in the schools—a model that still stands today.


Currently, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is celebrating its 52nd Season (2015-2016) and boldly continues to engage an exciting future. Executive Director Jena Woodbury, Artistic Director Daniel Charon, and Education Director Ai Fujii Nelson are committed to the continuation of the Company mission: to make dance a viable part of everyone’s lives, whether it be as observers, critics, performers, or creators. Ririe-Woodbury’s performances and educational undertakings are a reflection of the Company’s philosophy that “Dance is for Everybody.” With the strength of its history, the vision of its founders, and the extraordinary ability of its current management, staff, dancers, and board, Ririe Woodbury Dance Company continues to be a major force for innovation in contemporary dance throughout the world.