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April Thibeault
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Ariel Rivka Dance to premiere "Book of Esther" and present Trainor Dance and Pittsburgh's Texture Contemporary Ballet

by April Thibeault
January 15, 2014
Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
New York, NY - Ariel Rivka Dance (ARD), a New York City-based contemporary ballet ensemble, presents an ambitious program Feb. 27- Mar. 1 at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater featuring three emerging dance companies. First and foremost, ARD premieres "The Book of Esther" – a two-part work based on Jewish mythology choreographed by Ariel Grossman with original, live music by composer/pianist David Homan. It'll be supplemented by performances by Trainor Dance founded by Caitlin Trainor as well as Pittsburgh's Texture Contemporary Ballet led by one of Dance Magazine's "Top 25 To Watch" choreographers, Alan Obuzor. (Program details are below.)
The principal piece, "Book of Esther", is a continuation of last year's successful premiere of "Vashti", an emotional interpretation of the virtuous wife of King Ahasuerus. ARD returns to complete the Biblical tale with an abstract exploration of another heroine of Purim fame, Esther, the King's subsequent wife.

With modern choreography that springs from a balletic core, the Book of Esther lyrically depicts the Biblical story of Purim, as seen through the lens of feminism, women's empowerment and two brave, strong female characters. "Though this work is a Jewish work, the story has many interpretations and could fully be taken literally. Instead, I'm concentrating on the inner struggles of the characters and the choices they made," explains Grossman. "Moments of sadness, anger, fear and hope run through both Vashti and Esther, creating a thoughtful and engaging work."

"The Book of Esther" begins with Vashti – an homage to Vashti, the Queen of Shushan, (wife of King Ahasuerus, the ruler of Persia) who has been identified as many as the world's first heroine. For many and for Grossman (a student of Women's Studies at Skidmore College), Vashti is seen as a courageous fore-runner of feminism, and as a woman who chooses to value her dignity above all else.

Set to elegantly melodic music scored by David Homan for violin, cello, guitar and piano, Vashti features five women – four handmaidens and the Queen – in solidarity of sisterhood, beauty and poetry. This piece premiered in 2013 at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre to much acclaim. According to BroadwayWorld.com, "Grossman's lovely, fluid choreography was refreshing."

ARD continues the narrative by portraying the story of Esther. In what resulted as the basis for the holiday of Purim, Esther jeopardized her life when she informed the King that she was Jewish. "There are a myriad of emotions to be explored in the story of a woman who risks her own life by revealing her Jewish identity, ultimately empowering her people to save themselves from extinction," says Grossman. Similar to Vashti, this work is set to new music by Homan and explores acts of honor and nobility through music and dance.

Ariel Rivka Dance(ARD) presents Trainor Dance and Texture Contemporary Ballet
February 27 - March 1, 2014
Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
Tickets: $15 Student/Senior/Artist; $25 General; $50 VIP Thurs and Sat Evening with Afterparty


Ariel Rivka Dance (ARD) was founded in 2008 by Artistic Director Ariel Grossman. She has studied and performed works by Robert Battle, Alexandre Proia (NYC Ballet), Denise Warner Limoli (ABT), Debra Fernandez, and Mary Harney (Martha Graham). ARD was also recently presented at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, Saratoga ArtsFest and Greenspace Blooms Festival and was the recipient of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) grant. In September 2013 ARD was awarded a residency at MANA Contemporary through Armitage Gone! Dance and was invited to participate in the 2013 Legros Cultural Art's Women in Dance Series.


Founded in 2011 with a focus on interdisciplinary work, Trainor Dance has performed on both sides of the Atlantic in conjunction with visual art, poetry, music and film. The company is known for its physicality and intelligence, and for addressing wide-ranging topics with curiosity, humor, and verve. Trainor Dance aims to expand the notion of what dance can be and engages both traditional and non-traditional dance audiences. Recent highlights of Trainor Dance include appearing at TEDx Columbia Engineering, the World Science Festival, and Platform Northeast (Newcastle, England). The company has also performed at Skidmore College for Saratoga Springs Summer Arts Fest, Joyce Soho for the NYFA Bootstrap Festival, the Center for New Media (CT), BAAD (Bronx, NY), the Greenspace (Queens, NY) and at SUNY Purchase (Westchester, New York) for the Steffi Nossen Dance in Education Fund annual concert. Trainor's choreography has been performed by student dancers at Nacre Dance Company (Albany, NY), Northumbria University (Newcastle, England), Providence College (RI), Murray State University (KY) and Kennesaw State University (GA).


Texture Contemporary Ballet is based in Pittsburgh PA, and was founded in 2011 by Artistic Director Alan Obuzor. Texture is comprised of classically trained professional ballet dancers who have danced and trained at some of the top ballet companies and schools in America. Dancers are brought together on a project basis to create and present predominantly contemporary and neo-classical work.

Texture strives to inspire dancers, teachers, directors, choreographers, audience members, and artists of every kind, by presenting ballet in an innovative way. We believe it is important to break through preconceived notions that people may hold while witnessing ballet for the first time. Yet simultaneously, Texture fulfills the expectations of frequent theatergoers and those who are deeply submerged in the dance world. Therefore, Texture is both unique and inviting, while still upholding standards of technique and presentation.


(subject to change)

"The Book of Esther" (world premiere)

Company: Ariel Rivka Dance

Choreographer: Ariel Grossman

Dancers: Rachel Bier, Claire Cholak, Hana Ginsburg Tirosh, Kristen Licata, Anastassia Perfilieva, Kyleigh Sackandy and Danita Shaheen

Composer: David Homan

Musicians: Moran Katz (clarinet), Mario Gotoh (violin), Nadav Lev (guitar), Elad Kabilio (cello), and Ben Laude (piano)

Costume Designer: Thomas Baird

"KaitlynCaitlin" (2013)

Company: Trainor Dance

Choreographer: Caitlin Trainor

Dancer: Kaitlyn Gilliland

Composer: Major Scurlock

Costume Designer: Christian Siriano

Program Note: This is a dance conversation between the choreographer, Caitlin Trainor, barefoot, and guest artist Kaitlyn Gilliland, en pointe. By turns geometric, fiery, dream-like, the work begins with unison movement and is deconstructed as the work progresses.

"The Air Turned White" (2012)

Company: Trainor Dance

Choreographer: Caitlin Trainor

Dancer: Caitlin Trainor

Sound/Film Designer: Mario Niro

Program Note: An electrifying multimedia work marked by tension between the live solo performer and projected image. The dancer and her digital counterpart press upon the boundaries of their respective spaces; folding, twisting, and collapsing with unrelenting repetition.

"Take… Taken… Taking" (world premiere)

Company: Texture Contemporary Ballet

Choreographer: Alan Obuzor

Dancer: Kelsey Bartman, Jennifer Grahnquist, Alan Obuzor, Alexandra Tiso and Brynn Vogel Composer: Philip Glass

Program Note: This is a dynamic work created for five dancers which establishes each of the dancers as individuals while also showing their connectedness and interactions in an evolving process.
Credit: Jason Simon

Credit: Jason Simon

Photo © & courtesy of April Thibeault

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