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RIOULT Dance NY Honors Piaf's Multi-Colored Life - Street Singer—Celebrating the Life of Edith Piaf

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 14, 2015
42West Nightclub
514 West 42nd Street
(between 10th and 11th Avenues)
in the Out NYC Hotel
New York, NY 10036
212.239.2999
RIOULT Dance NY, 246 West 38th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10018. 212-398-5901. For more information, visit RIOULT.org.

140 character micro-review:
Rioult's Street Singer, a work befitting legendary singer Edith Piaf: talented, graceful, affecting, poignant, funny. ExploreDance.com/4063
Edith Piaf had an all too brief life—she died of liver cancer in 1963 at age 47. But, oh, what a life. She was born in working class Belleville, Paris, rejected by her mother, spent several years in a Normandy bordello with her paternal grandmother and taken care of by the prostitutes, performed in the streets in her father's peripatetic acrobatics act, where she was discovered for her remarkable voice, sang in the nightclubs of bohemian Pigalle and became a megastar on the world stage. From early on, she was aware of the ephemeral nature of life and unabashedly conveyed it in autobiographical song. For three nights, Wednesday, May 13 to Saturday, May 16, RIOULT Dance NY presented the world premiere of "Street Singer—Celebrating the Life of Edith Piaf," and its run, too, was all too brief.

The evening-length work commemorating the centennial of Piaf's birthday featured new choreography by Pascal Rioult, performed by the 12 remarkable dancers of RIOULT Dance NY, and starred Broadway's incandescent Christine Andreas as Piaf. New Jersey-born Andreas (twice Tony-nominated, Theatre World Award, 2012 Mabel Mercer Award) belted out an array of Piaf's best-known iconic songs in French and narrated details of her life in a French-inflected accent. Those throaty French "r's" and guttural Parisian street sounds were a little off the mark, but she nonetheless charmed and channeled the Little Sparrow. The dialogue (and staging) by Drew Scott Harris was funny, ironic and poignant.

The French-born Rioult (pronounced Ree-ooo), artistic director and choreographer of the New York City-based modern dance company (now in its 21st year), grew up listening to Piaf's magical music and was inspired to create a work befitting the legendary singer, who 53 years after her death, is still revered. There was a sexy Apache dance, symbolic of France, "the French version of cheek to cheek," quipped Andreas. The dance, all arms, legs, upside-down positions, hips and pelvis, was performed on a proscenium stage adjacent to the live musicians and in front of the extraordinary wall projections designed by Brian Clifford Beasley. Most of the dances, however, were performed on a runway, which intersected the two sides of the intimate cabaret setting of the 42West Nightclub in the Out NYC Hotel. The runway was barely wide enough to contain the sweeping dance movements, and more than once I held my breath during the lifts as the liftees nearly touched the overhead lighting.

It seems one cannot have a revue about Paris without a Can-Can, which was raucously performed by eight dancers in full regalia. There was also a homage to the infamous Pigalle in the person of Lady B, who strutted fabulously to Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." An acknowledgement of Piaf's famously non-domestic nature was presented in "A Quoi c'a Sert L'Amour" (approximately, "What this has is love"), an amusing dance for five with white dinner plates.

Rioult (a former Martha Graham soloist) danced briefly in several numbers. He was most memorable as the married world-boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, the love of Piaf's life, who died in an airplane crash. Rioult, graceful in movement, mimicked a film projection of a boxing match between Cerdan and his opponent and then poignantly comforted Andreas. It was followed by Andreas' affecting rendition of "L'Hymne a L'Amour" (co-written by Piaf) and performed by one of the company's talented female dancers.

That song and others like "Non Je ne Regrette Rien," "Padam Padam," "Milord" and "La Vie en Rose" (which she co-wrote) were emblematic of Piaf's rollercoaster life of joy and heartbreak and affected everyone who heard them. This audience was no exception.

Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode

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