At the center of this reverie was the dreamer, Charis Haines, whose feverish vision included half human/half animal figures who both menaced and wooed her quite explicitly. An opening movement using two opposing groups of dancers seemed more decorative display than a set up the final three movements which took the dancers—and the audience—into the fervid imagination of his central female figure. The movement palette was breezily acrobatic, including partnering that verged on manhandling, which Ms. Haines’ character seemed to enjoy. The wonderful animal masks were designed by Anne Posluszny and the everyday-looking costumes by Karen Young.
The New York City premiere of “Polymorphous” to Bach was a coolly elegant work that featured ever shifting black and white projections (by Brian Clifford Beasley) matched by the witty leotards by Karen Young which were white in front and black on the back. The video also featured reverse shadow images surreally mirroring the dancers as they plied the light jumps, gentle partnering and beautifully arching steps. The most balletic work on the program, “Polymorphous” used one of Rioult’s frequently used technique of working one pair of dancers in contrast to the other. In this case, the four dancers—Brian Flynn, Ms. Haines, Jere Hunt and Sara Elizabeth Seger—created two different pools of emotions—one quietly amorous, the other darker. “Polymorphous,” with its careful, quiet craftsmanship, was a kind of choreographic palate cleanser between the heated “Dream Suite” and the four “Duets Sacred & Profane” which followed.
The first duet was an excerpt from “Kansas City Orfeo” performed to excerpts of Gluck’s “Orfeo and Euridice” by Catherine Cooch and Sabatino A. Verlezza. Ms. Cooch was clearly playing a dead body, her bosom covered in blood while Mr. Verlezza tried futilely to revivify her by dragging, shaking and flattening himself against her. Somehow the two dancers made it work. Two excerpts from Mozart’s “Great Mass,” Corinna Lee Nicholson and Ms. Seger, in pretty flouncy white dresses, flitted about with skill but with little gravity.
Arvo Pärt’s “Te Deum” accompanied the third duet, performed by Jere Hunt and Michael Spencer Phillips, showed two men supporting each other both physically and emotionally with overtones of affectionate rapport rather than romance despite being dressed only in tight shorts.
The final duet was performed to a selection from Bach’s “Art of the Fugue” by Ms. Haines and Holt Walborn in pale, flesh colored, body-hugging costumes. This was not a happy couple. Hints of happiness were dashed with darkly passionate entwining. They kept falling into each other for support that just wasn’t there. Here Rioult skillfully sketched the ups and downs of a needy pair of adults.
The program ended with Rioult’s brilliant “Bolero” to the ubiquitous Ravel score. Here, Rioult cleverly contrasted a group of dancers performing monotonous, mechanical movement, with sensuous solo turns highlighted by David Finley’s spotlights. The tension between hard and soft, mechanical and sensual held the work together until the final climax.
RIOULT Dance New York (June 21-26, 2016)
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit http://www.Joyce.org
For more information, visit http://www.rioult.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission