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RIOULT Dance New York 2016

Pascal Rioult displays his range and musicality in four ballets.

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RIOULT Dance New York in a scene from Pascal Rioult's “Polymorphous” (Photo credit: Eric Bandiero)

RIOULT Dance New York in a scene from Pascal Rioult’s “Polymorphous” (Photo credit: Eric Bandiero)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]Pascal Rioult’s RIOULT Dance New York just finished an ambitious season at the Joyce Theater.  I attended Program B, four works that displayed his range and musicality beginning with “Dream Suite” to Tchaikovsky’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2,” a lush, flowing work to which Rioult choreographed, literally, a dream.

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.

Catherine Cooch and Sabatino A. Verelezza in a scene from Pascal Rioult’s “Kansas City Orfeo” (Photo credit: Eric Bandiero)

Catherine Cooch and Sabatino A. Verelezza in a scene from Pascal Rioult’s “Kansas City Orfeo” (Photo credit: Eric Bandiero)

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

For more information, visit

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (564 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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