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Shirley Blackburn
Performance Reviews
Clayton Center for the Arts
United States
Maryville, TN

Rioult Dance NY Takes Rural Tennessee By Storm

by Shirley Blackburn
October 11, 2014
Clayton Center for the Arts
502 East Lamar Alexander Parkway
Maryville, TN 37804-5907
Rioult Dance NY played to a sparse but wildly appreciative audience on Saturday, October 11, at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the campus of Maryville College in East Tennessee.

Artistic director Pascal Rioult, who choreographed all of the evening's musically diverse, intellectually stimulating dances, has groomed a small company of strong, cohesive performers whose technical proficiency and artistry engaged the audience from start to finish. Their energetic, polished presentation was simply smashing.

Set to music by Bach, Celestial Tides opened the performance with a compelling blend of classically modern and East Indian movement that showcased the dancers' versatility. The recurrent use of canon form added intriguing visual interest to this piece, particularly in a section in which each of three couples began the same movement phrase at different intervals in the music alongside the featured pas de deux. Of note were Jane Sato whose riveting charisma persisted throughout the night and Michael Spencer Phillips who sustained a solid grand plié while supporting Jere Hunt parallel to the floor on outstretched arms.

Wien, danced to Ravel's "La Valse," offered a macabre spin on the Viennese waltz. Six drably clad dancers who emerged from a cloud of fog scuttled hunch-backed about the stage in a clump interjecting random thrusting limb movements to depict the decadence that can follow an era of artificial mores. Occasionally dancers would splinter away from the pack to portray acts of brutality, sexual depravity and violence. In the final scoot around the stage, the dancers frantically popped up and down like pistons in an engine before collapsing en masse to end the piece. The distastefully thought provoking subject matter rendered top notch dancing. The audience loved it.

A black and white film of cityscapes proved an apt backdrop for superb performances by Charis Haines, Phillips, Sato and Holt Walborn in City, danced to music by Bach. Their precise, emotional execution of contemporary movement infused with grapevines, marches and going-no-place steps done in slow motion effectively conveyed modern life's frenetic futility, isolation and random couplings.

Bolero, set to Ravel's composition of the same name, highlighted the company's adaptability. Individual classical solos punctuated the ensemble's crisp geometric arm and leg patterns as they moved across the stage with military precision — -a glorious, uplifting finish to an evening of spectacular dance.

By sandwiching dances with challenging social concepts between those with extremely interesting movement, Rioult designed a masterful program that engaged the audience, gave them issues to ponder, and sent them home raving about the experience. His effective use of simple costumes, exquisite backdrops, and dramatic lighting enhanced rather than overwhelmed the dances. Performance just doesn't get any better than that.
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