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Bonnie Rosenstock
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RIOULT Dance NY Fuses Technique and Technology in Programs at The Joyce

by Bonnie Rosenstock
July 6, 2016
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
RIOULT Dance NY presented two different programs at The Joyce Theater, from June 21-26. Program A was entitled “Women on the Edge—Unsung Heroines of the Trojan War,” based on Euripedes’ plays, with a special appearance by Kathleen Turner as narrator for two of the three pieces. As much as I love a good Greek tragedy, I opted for Program B because I wanted to see how Pascal Rioult (pronounced Ree-oooh), the company’s artistic director and choreographer, interpreted Ravel’s “Bolero.” One of my most memorable dance experiences was the sensual version of the Ravel masterpiece by French-born Maurice Béjart (as is Rioult), which I saw multiple times. (By the way, the camera work on YouTube does a hatchet job on Béjart’s exquisite choreography.)

Rioult’s earlier “Bolero” (2002) and “Duets Sacred & Profane,” four duets excerpted from his extensive repertory, were masterly created and performed without the distraction or enhancement of technology (depending on your point of view), while his more recent two works, “Dream Suite” (2014) and especially “Polymorphous” (2015), were weighty with cleverly crafted lighting, projection and scenic design.

“Dream Suite” created a classical romantic mood via Tchaikovsky’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in C Major,” juxtaposed with contemporary concepts delivered by the dozen superb Rioult dancers. In two groups of six, on either side of the stage, the barefoot dancers sometimes mimicked one group’s hop-like, twisty, strong movements, sometimes they did them at the same time, and sometimes they crossed over and intermingled. When the lights darkened, you assumed the lovely piece was over, but then the spotlight beamed in on a sleepy soloist, Charis Haines, lying on the floor. She is having a dream, or nightmare, in which all kinds of strange, surreal-like people and creatures parade past. It was a Dali-Magritte-Picasso fest of odd poses, lifts and masks. One dancer carried another high above his head across the stage, she in a perfectly horizontal position. Another was moved across upside down vertically, held by her ankles. A pair in a black cloth appeared to be eerily of only one head. Two dancers in large bizarre bird heads and one in a horned bull mask head danced with the lithe Haines in a very companionable matter-of-fact way despite their strange appearance. The back wall lighting changed colors, as did the day glow lighting on the dancers’ clothing, which enhanced the dreamlike mood.

“Polymorphous,” making its NYC premiere, set to selections from J.S. Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” explored perception through integrated movement and technology. The dancers were dressed in leotards, white in the front and black in the back, which gave a fine effect when they were facing each other side to side or dancing around one another. The multiple screen images projected the dancers’ silhouettes in black, while higher up on the screen their images melted milky white with complementary but disparate movements. The screen changed often, with kaleidoscope effects, earth tone wallpaper-like patterns, all the while the live dancers deftly performing. But like any three-ring circus, it was sometimes difficult to hone in on the onstage action as the images could overwhelm it.

“Duets Sacred & Profane” highlighted the deep well of talent in the Rioult stable. “Kansas City Orfeo” (1996) is the endgame of the Orpheus and Eurydice tale in which Orpheus (Sabatino A. Verlezza) dances with Eurydice’s lifeless body garbed in a blood-stained white dress. The wonderfully suffering Verlezza had to do all the “heavy lifting” while Catherine Cooch played dead quite well. “The Great Mass” (2009) featured Corinna Lee Nicholson and Sara Elizabeth Seger dressed in fluffy pink for Mozart, a fine classical pairing. Jere Hunt and Michael Spencer Phillips were extraordinary in “Te Deum” (1995). Phillips in long pants, white shirt and black jacket seemed to be in charge of Hunt, bare-chested in black shorts. The choreography included many powerfully held lifts. The last featured a delightful Haines and fine Holt Walborn in “Summer Wind” from “Views of the Fleeting World” (2008), accompanied by Bach’s upbeat “The Art of the Fugue.”

Rioult took Ravel’s repetitive, hypnotic “Bolero” to create a machine-like dance that accentuated the constant, driving rhythm. With tireless energy, focus and flawless precision, the Rioult ensemble was perpetual motion with ever-changing patterns and directions. Each dancer in turn was spotlighted for a solo with more flowy, softer movements and held balance poses and then returned to the machine pool in less than a heartbeat. As the crescendo built to a climax, more dynamic movements followed suit. It was choreographed to perfection with an electrifying ensemble performance. The living machine provided all the technology that was necessary.
RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's 'Bolero.'

RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's "Bolero."

Photo © & courtesy of Basil Childers

RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's 'Dream Suite.'

RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's "Dream Suite."

Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode

RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's 'Polymorphous.'

RIOULT Dance NY in Pascal Rioult's "Polymorphous."

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Kirk Smith

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