Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dance Review: Disappointment at The Joyce

RIOULT "Bolero,"  Photography by Basil Childers
This is the second time I am seeing Pascal Rioult’s company,
Rioult perform at The Joyce Theater, and I must say that I am somewhat disappointed this time around.  Based on my experience from last year, I had been anticipating beautiful long-legged dancers who create pretty lines with the attractive but somewhat standard choreography they are given.  This time around at The Joyce I am left feeling detached and unfulfilled by the performance.  Although the dancers are still long-legged and beautiful, the combination of musical and choreographic choices  are uninspired and unoriginal.       

Are you a DANCER?  Join iDANZ Today!The first piece of the evening, Harvest pays homage to the pre-impressionist painter Jean Francois Millet and to people who tend the land.  Although the theme is powerful, it feels as if Mr. Rioult has taken choreography from several different pieces, in particular Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring, and does not change it too much for the piece.  Although it’s true that all choreographers get inspiration from past choreographers, there still needs to be an element that differs from everyone else; otherwise, what is the point in creating a dance that has already been done before?  The other problem that I makes me feel detached from the piece is the music.  Don’t get me wrong-  Dougie MacLean’s music from “Fiddle” and Altan’sFlower of Magherally” from The Red Crow are both poignant and beautiful, but the songs sound similar.  Because of their likeness, there is no variation in the music throughout the entire piece.  Despite the fact that the dancers move passionately in several parts of the piece, including a touching duet between Marianne Tsartolia and Michael Phillips, the passion gets lost because of the music.  This problem could have been solved if there had been changes in the music.  Despite the problems with the piece, Anastasia Soroczynski commands a powerful presence.  Her striking movements are clear and right on point.  The major highlight of the piece is the lighting created by David Finley.   Mr. Finley is able to capture the essence of a laborer in the fields with his beautiful backgrounds of pastel colors.

After intermission is the world premiere of Shadow Box. Unfortunately, Shadow Box possesses  the same problem with the music as Harvest does.  The music is from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.”  In general,  the entire piece sounds the same, with little variation.  Despite the fact that the dancers are doing diverse choreography, it doesn’t feel like the piece goes anywhere.  The projections on the wall depict the dancers’ shadows doing choreography.  The dancers dance in front of and behind the shadows, either repeating the same movements that the projected shadows are doing or slightly changing the choreography.  The dancers wear lycra shorttards (leotards with shorts attached), with white fronts and black backs.  Marianna Tsartolia really stands out in this piece.  With her lithe body and expressiveness, she is able to bring life to the abstract piece.  The most interesting part in the piece is when the dancers move directly in front of their shadow so it looks like the dancer and the shadow are melting into one entity.  My biggest complaint of the piece, once again, is the musical choices. Although the live pianist, Hsiang Tu, is a wonderful musician, Bach’s music does not add anything to enhance the meaning or the quality of the piece and may have even lessened the effect. 

City is the second world premiere of the evening with music set to Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Piano #6 in G major.  The overhead projector provides the backdrop for the piece which depicts images of New York City.  Brian Clifford Beasley’s beautiful images capture the essence of a city, with views of the skyline, the streets and the people.  Despite the lack of musical or choreographic variation, the dancers are able to make the best out of the situation.  Each dancer possesses a certain sense of confidence, but not in an arrogant way.  Their personalities are different in a unique way, adding to the urban feel that Mr. Rioult is striving for.  Although there is a certain amount of drama, the passion is swallowed up by the unchanging music. 

The final piece of the performance, Bolero, saves the night!  Maurice Ravel’s Bolero helps to carry this piece to a higher level than the rest.  Similar to the repetitions which are found in the music, Mr. Rioult chooses to repeat the same steps throughout the entire piece, but despite this repetition, or maybe because of it, the piece is a mesmerizing masterpiece.  The four men and four women in the piece dance as a company, but then break off into solos as the spotlight changes from dancer to dancer.  The dancers’ movements are sharp and militaristic, but break off into sensual curves as the piece progresses.  The performance ends on a strong note because Bolero manages to save the night. 

All in all, Rioult has the potential to be a great dance company.   The eight company members are strong dancers, in particular the women.  They are technically strong dancers who have a lot to offer.  Mr. Rioult also has the potential to be a great choreographer.  He has the knowledge and experience to create interesting dances.  My advice to him would be to trust himself more and rely on other choreographers less.  If he stays true to himself,  he will be better off in the long run.  I am definitely not a fan of the music choices he made for the performance, but this is a preference that others may not share with me.  I enjoy mixing music to create a diverse soundtrack of sounds and textures.  For Rioult, his inclination to introduce only one song or sound into the music is the deal breaker for me. 

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Official Dance Review by
Amanda Keller
Performance:  Rioult Venue: The Joyce Theater
Choreographer: Pascal Rioult 
Show Date: January 19, 2010



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