Saturday June 18, 2011 matinee - The second programme of RIOULT's season at The Joyce featured works by Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Kernis and Maurice Ravel. In the top rehearsal photo by Kokyat, the men of RIOULT in the new work ON DISTANT SHORES set to a Kernis score.
The afternoon began with BLACK DIAMOND. It is always interesting to see a dancework set to a score that another choreographer has already used with enduring result: Igor Stravinsky's DUO CONCERTANT was famously crafted by George Balanchine into a double onstage duet: two dancers and two musicians. Rioult had live music from the pit today (violinist Min-Young Kim and pianist Evelyne Luest, both exellent); onstage are two black-clad female dancers who commence the work atop high platforms in shafts of light.
Jane Sato and Marianna Tsartolia, strong and intriguing dancers, sometimes dance in sync or trade phrases off one another. They jump down from their perches and dance together, returning to the heights for the finale where the lighting suddenly casts them as silhouettes. As comparisons go, I almost think I'd give Rioult the palm here: Balanchine's ballet sometimes seems just a shade pretentious and he wastes one entire movement by having the dancers stand still next to the piano. Also Balanchine's sudden switch to sentimentality for the last section can be a bit cloying. Rioult gets his girls in motion right from the start and his response to the score is every bit as musical as Mr. B's.
Above, Kokyat's rehearsal of Charis Haines as Helen of Troy in the new Rioult creation set to a score by Aaron Kernis: ON DISTANT SHORES. The music was played 'live' by a fine ensemble of strings, oboe and piano conducted by the composer. In this work, Pascal Rioult takes up the notion that Helen of Troy has not been fairly treated in the history books. At curtain rise we see Ms. Haines as Helen wandering along the seashore; stylized waves shimmer in a projection (lighting: David Finley) as a narrator gives voice to Helen's tale: she was brought to Troy against her will. Slumbering on the sands are four god-like young warriors clad in black briefs. They awaken to partner Ms. Haines in fleeting duets and to dance together. At the end, Helen continues to walk in a path of light as the heroes fade into a dream.
The chiaroscuro colourings of the Kernis score give a timless feeling to this work; the handsome Rioult men bask in the sunlight and Charis Haines in her tunic/shift looks like a young goddess briefly descended among mortals. Freed from literal constraints, ON DISTANT SHORES evokes ancient myths while feeling thoroughly contemporary.
Above: Rioult dancer Jane Sato, photo by Kokyat. When a choreographer tackles a thrice-familiar score like Ravel's BOLERO, he has to have something unique to say. Pascal Rioult sets his eight dancers, all clad in shining white, against a fanciful panorama of stylized aquaducts painted in browns and greys by Harry Feiner. Each dancer has a solo in a spot-lit space as the others continue in place moving with mechanical gestures. As the music sails forward with its inexorable crescendo the dancers split into teams, leaping and marching across the space in endless patterns propelled by the relentless Ravel pacing. Dance and music meld into one unstoppable machine; the backdrop is sudddenly illuminated in blood-red light as it grinds to a halt. Rioult's BOLERO is superb.