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Ariel Rivka Dance’s Ninth Season Festival

A family matinee of fine choreography and great dancing.

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A scene from Ariel Rivka Dance in “Hallelujah Eva” (Photo credit: David Gonsier)

A scene from Ariel Rivka Dance in “Hallelujah Eva” (Photo credit: David Gonsier)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]The family matinee of Ariel Rivka Dance’s Ninth Season Festival was the perfect way to relish the choreography of Ariel Rebecca (Rivka) Grossman and guest artist Pascal Rioult (Rioult Dance NYC) and see just how they construct their choreography.  Watching the dancers of each company perform short movement themes was just enough to whet appetites to see the full ballets.  This wasn’t a lecture-demonstration, though, but a celebration of dance for an audience full of impressionable kids (and their parents).

Ms. Grossman’s three works were all world premieres:  “Hallelujah Eva” to the famous Leonard Cohen song, “Beatrice’s Rainbow” to the Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen classic “Over the Rainbow,” and “Variations on a Box” to music by Ms. Grossman’s husband David Homan (who also did the beautiful arrangements of the first two works).  Each was a study in relationships and community.

“Hallelujah Eva” was performed to a four-cello/two singer arrangement which was a rhapsodic response to the sad Cohen song.  Just before the dance began, cellist Elad Kabilio—who calls his cello Golda!—displayed some of the idiosyncracies of his instrument.

Several themes emerged as the dance unfolded:  the dancers (Caitlyn Casson, Allie Kronick, Casie Marie O’Kane, Jaclyn Rae and Kyleigh Sackandy), in Jaclyn Rea’s single-colored outfits, constantly supported each other in the soft-edged lunges and falls, all the while reaching heavenward and arching over each other’s arms.  The ending, in which a soloist seemed a bit lost dancing in front of the others who were sitting, backs to the audience, had a bittersweet tone.

A scene from Ariel Rivka Dance in “Variations on a Box” (Photo credit: David Gonsier)

A scene from Ariel Rivka Dance in “Variations on a Box” (Photo credit: David Gonsier)

“Variations on a Box,” to an original score by Mr. Homan also utilized the four cellists and was a full company work, the most sophisticated of her offerings.

In three distinct sections, “Box” was yet another portrait of a community of women dependent on each other yet able to occasionally go off on their own.  Dressed in mottled grey tights (designed by Ms. Kronick, Ms. Rea and Ms. Grossman) the women, illuminated with slowly rising and dramatic lights (by Marika Kent), formed constantly realigning little groups that took them back and forth across the stage, illustrating Ms. Grossman’s impeccable sense of flow.  A second movement duet had the dancers pulling off and leaning on each other.  The third movement, to the most agitated music, had a fragmented feel with kicks and sudden rolls on the floor and extended and ever-more-frantic variations on the long movement theme demonstrated just before the work began.  Although exhausting to watch, it was the most emotionally satisfying of her choreographic offerings.

“Beatrice’s Rainbow” placed the dancers (Kristin Licata, Danita Shaheen and Hana Ginsburg Tirosh) on the ground where they sat together bending and twisting with great plastic virtuosity.  When they rose, one would go off only to soon rejoin the group as they again skidded about the floor.  One of Ms. Grossman’s fascinating ideas is to have her dancers move against each other in different tempos giving a dynamic tension to the stage picture.  Mr. Homan’s arrangement gave the mythical song what sounded like a Jamaican lilt, actually making the music seem fresh and new.  The gentle choreography melded nicely with its bouncy rhythms.

Rioult Dance NY rehearsal director Joyce Herring had two dancers demonstrate the four tightly wound, angular movement themes from which “Boléro,” to the famous Ravel score, was constructed.  They included sharp arm gestures, bent-legged walks and staccato shoulder shrugs to which were subsequently added direction changes, turns and jumps. As these themes revealed themselves to the music, the dancers, in Russ Vogler’s dark, form-fitting outfits, formed lines and circles of jabbing, turning and jumping while each dancer in turn was singled out by a spotlight (dramatic lighting by David Finley), to perform legato leg extensions and slow promenades in attitude poses while all the others continued their mechanical movements in the dark.  This focus on soloists softened the otherwise mechanical, robotic feel of the movement palette, also made interesting by the dancers forming lines, boxes and circles.  Mr. Rioult’s exciting manipulations and constantly changing tableaux made it seem as if there were more than eight dancers.

A scene from Rioult Dance in “Bolero” (Photo credit: Basil Childers)

A scene from Rioult Dance NY  in “Bolero” (Photo credit: Basil Childers)

How Mr. Rioult turned a few seconds of movement ideas into a ten-minute work is amazing.  He created tension, tempered with calmness, until the very end in which red lights added the element of sensuality into the mix.

For the record the Rioult Dance NY performers were Catherine Cooch, Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt, Corianna Lee Nicholson, Michael Spencer Phillips, Sara Elizabeth Seger and Sabatino A. Verlezza.

Ariel Rivka Dance Ninth Season Festival (May 19-21, 2016)

New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-924-0077 or visit

For more information, visit

Running time: one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (563 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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