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Rioult - Views of the Fleeting World, Prelude to Night, Bolero

by Robert Abrams
September 25, 2008
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU
566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Sq South)
New York, NY 10012
212-279-4200
www.prdance.org
I made a point of seeing Rioult's performance at the NYU Skirball Center in June. I had seen Rioult's predecessor company (The Pascal Rioult Dance Company) before, and had liked much of what they presented. Especially Bolero, which I thought was as perfect an example of a tight, mathematical modern dance work as it is humanly possible to create. I managed to fit Rioult in to my schedule, which included preparing for the then imminent Dance Critics Association conference, a trip to California immediately afterwards to meet with a team at UC-Irvine offering a new kind of speech therapy, and taking care of my pregnant wife. My life was crazy busy and then got even more so, but the Rioult show was worth seeing, so, three months late, here are some thoughts on the June 7, 2008 show.

The program consisted of Views of The Fleeting World, Prelude to Night and Bolero.

What strikes me most about the evening's presentation is the range of works that were presented, all worth watching. Views of The Fleeting World was abstract verging on post-modern. Prelude to Night was still abstract, but had a theme that verged on a story.

Views of The Fleeting World was also important because it revealed an insight into post-modern dance. Views of The Fleeting World, like many post-modern dance works, did not have much expression on the dancers' faces. Ordinarily, I find lack of expression to be off putting. Here, however, there were two differences. First, there was just enough expression just often enough, with a subtle build of emotion towards the later sections. Second, I felt expression in the extension of the dancers' whole bodies. Between the two, it was enough to make the dance work.

Views of The Fleeting World was minimalist in other respects too. The costumes were grayish skin tight leotards that left the legs and arms exposed against an abstract projection. I found Views of The Fleeting World to be oddly appealing. It was minimalism that works. At first glance it seems to have not much there, but as it goes on, the choreography reveals hidden complexities. But more than this, I think what carried the work was the movement quality of the dancers. The dancers carried themselves with the modern dance equivalent of a good frame: not loose, not rigid, in control, ready to respond at any moment.

I did think that sometimes the dancers were looking down a tad too much for my tastes, but that is probably just my Ballroom background coming through, and regardless, it was a minor issue.

The nine sections of the work had variety. Some showcased partnering while some did not. Some sections were more rhythmically marked than others. The dancers performed admirable stillness when it was called for. Elements of the work often meshed to amplify what was presented. For instance, in a solo, the fluidity of the movement matched the fluidity of the dancer's wide sleeved shirt.

There were also some specific moments I especially liked. An unexpected shoulder bump at the end of one section. A woman's slow fall into a man's arms; you would miss it if you blinked – a small part of the dance, but one that showed great control. At the end, dancers on their knees, arms spread wide to the sky.

Prelude to Night seemed to be about a dream state. The dancers wore white sleeping gowns. A woman, Penelope Gonzalez, prepares for sleep. She interacts with the denizens of the dream world, including, at one point, what appeared to be a herd of elephant pigs. The work was, as I said above, fundamentally abstract, but it did have a distinct theme that was almost a story. I think that Mr. Rioult should create a children's story book based on this dance. By creating such a story book (the proposed book would have a story, but the dance would remain as is), Mr. Rioult might be able to create a route into abstraction, which would be a valuable service of audience development for the field of dance.

Prelude to Night is not a children's ballet in the usual sense, but some of the movement was a little silly (in a good way), which is partly why I think this work could serve as a stepping stone between a Nutcracker or Cinderella on the one hand, and purely abstract dance on the other. Prelude to Night takes an idea and has fun with it. Mr. Rioult was willing to be bold, and it paid off. The work ended with a triumphal lift, straight up.

Bolero was great as always. I decided not to take notes on Bolero this time so I could enjoy it like everyone else in the full house.

The whole evening was brilliant with potential to spare. I would happily see any of these dances again.



Views of the Fleeting World
Choreography - Pascal Rioult
Music - J.S. Bach, The Art of Fugue, arr. Graeser, 1927, for chamber orchestra
Set and projections - Harry Feiner
Lighting - David Finley
Costumes - Karen Young
Projection Supervisor - Brian Beasley
Dancers - The company and Jane Sato, Anastasia Soroczynski, Marianna Tsartolia, Michael Spencer Phillips, Charis Haines, Patrick Leahy, Penelope Gonzalez, Brian Flynn

Prelude to Night
Choreography - Pascal Rioult
Lighting - David Finley
Costumes - Russ Vogler
Set - Harry Feiner
Music - Maurice Ravel, Prélude à la nuit from Rapsodie Espagnole, Alborada del Gracioso, Feria from Rapsodie Espagnole
Dancers - Penelope Gonzalez, Seiji Gammage, Patrick Leahy, Michael Spencer Philips, Robert Robinson, Charis Haines, Jane Sato, Anastasia Soroczynski, Marianna Tsartolia

Bolero
Choreography - Pascal Rioult
Music - Maurice Ravel, Bolero
Lighting - David Finley
Costumes - Russ Vogler
Set - Harry Feiner
Dancers - Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Patrick Leahy, Michael Spencer Philips, Robert Robinson, Jane Sato, Anastasia Soroczynski, Marianna Tsartolia
Rioult Dance Company Prelude to Night

Rioult Dance Company
Prelude to Night

Photo © & courtesy of Basil Childers


Rioult Dance Company Prelude to Night

Rioult Dance Company
Prelude to Night

Photo © & courtesy of Basil Childers


Rioult Dance Company Bolero

Rioult Dance Company
Bolero

Photo © & courtesy of Basil Childers

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