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Pascal Rioult Dance Theater at The Joyce

by Richard Penberthy
June 14, 2007
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
Thursday, June 14, 2007, 8:00 PM

If by Chance, EXP #1 (premiered June 12, 2007), Black Diamond, and Symphony of Psalms (premiered June 12, 2007)

More reviews of Pascal Rioult Dance Theater
The dancers are committed and strong in this four-dance evening, and Mr. Rioult's choreography is interesting. Two of the dances, the first and the last, are similar, with a large cast from the outset and an almost constant folding and refolding of the ranks of coupled dancers. If by Chance has the charm of implied romance. There are four couples of the traditional variety who, dancing to the demanding tempo of Mozart's Piano Concerto #23 as interpreted by Jacques Loussier (techno here, jazzy there), encounter unexpected pairings – men together and women together – as they process the choreography.

They don't shy from the likes-attract anomaly. With eye contact and affectionate gestures – but without particularly strong lifts or dancing (the men are less convincing than the women here) – they partner each other; then, as the saying goes, 'on to the next'. The next is of the opposites-attract variety. The dancers' fixed smiles, fearsome smiles – masklike grins really – are more telling costuming than the actual clothes – shirtless men, three in maroon tights, one in red, with the women in straw yellow bodices and short skirts in yellow, two in red underskirts and two in maroon. One is left wondering if the mask is the message in the metrosexual – okay, metroaffectional – context.

EXP #1 begins with Marcus Jarrell Willis, shirtless, wearing an approximation of blue denim, performing his skillful solo, lithely, smoothly ticking – as in Tics of Tourette – through a break-dance-like isolation of each limb, each joint. He seems to be ruled by a puppeteer, not his own will. Other dancers in black, process slowly one or two at a time across stage rear, blacked-out but with a hand, a lower leg, or forearm occasionally thrust into a bright spot-lighted zone. Penelope Gonzalez, in a red leotard with black diagonal tiger-like stripes, dances a vamp-turn, then is joined and partnered by Mr. Willis. The rest of the cast leaves the dark at the back of the stage and join the dance, echoing the moves of the couple. The dance was long and puzzling though it was a very serviceable showcase for Mr. Willis.

This company performed Black Diamond during its last season at the Joyce. It is rather incantatory. There is a dancer (in black) on each of the two black platforms – quite elevated stages atop the stage. Penelope Gonzalez and Posy Knight dance to Stravinsky's Duo Concertant, as separate entities but with sometimes the same and sometimes different gestures and timing. The extreme separation demands that the audience must choose which to watch move by move (and especially for those in the front orchestra, the head swiveling becomes almost self-hypnotic). Midway, Ms. Gonzalez descends (with some difficulty as she is tiny) from her stage, dances center stage, and then ascends partway up Ms. Knight's stage. They both proceed to dance center stage, and the fugal nature of their dancing is easier to see. They return to their respective stages for the end of the dance. The dance involves frequent tableau-like stillness along with extreme extensions against the odds of gravity and fatigue. Well done and intriguing.

Symphony of Psalms (Stravinsky music of the same title) returns to the full cast, fast moving (even faster moving) style of If by Chance. The costumes are dark shades of stained glass. The different movements – Laudamus Te and Alleluia for instance – seem unrecognized as separate elements. But with higher lifts, faster runs weaving through intersecting diagonal lines of dancers, and skillful execution, this dance was an exhilirating close to the evening's performance.
Lorena Egan (standing) and Penelope Gonazlez in BLACK DIAMOND, The Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

Lorena Egan (standing) and Penelope Gonazlez in BLACK DIAMOND, The Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine


If By Chance, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

If By Chance, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber

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