Wednesday June 22nd, 2016 - RIOULT at The Joyce, offering a very pleasing evening of dance from Pascal Rioult's excellent troupe, with exceptional dancing from both established Company members and relative newcomers. The program was well-varied musically, and the evening was enhanced throughout by fine lighting and canny use of visual effects.
Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Suite #2 in C-major is the setting for Dream Suite which opened the program; this coloristic ballet - with gorgeously distinctive lighting by Jim French - is a visual treat. The inimitable Charis Haines is the Dreamer, and her dreams veer from lyrical to witty to mystical.
Against a backdrop which shifts from pumpkin-coloured to vivid red, ten dancers move thru Charis's dreamworld in quirky combinations, sometimes stopping to strike amusingly ironic poses. Masked characters appear: a bull, and ancient reptilian birds. Undercurrents of sexual fantasy are woven in and, as is often the case in dreams, things seem disjointed at times.
The choreography overall is disarmingly simple - when the dancers simply form a circle, the effect is stunning - and Charis Haines excels in her solo passages. Colour - radiant and saturated - is everything. The striking image of a woman stretched out in a flat plank and borne aloft by her partner across the upstage space seems to signal a magical end to the ballet, but there's another movement to come; that image, though, remains fixed in the memory.
Selected Preludes and Fugues from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (seemingly the Glenn Gould recordings, as there is much extraneous vocalism along the way) are the basis of Polymorphous, a stylized dancework which opened before a gridwork backdrop against neutral colours, with costumes of the same visual texture. Four dancers - Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt, and Sara Elizabeth Seger - move in sync, almost like automatons. In two duets that follow, the first is accompanied by a ghostly negative-image film of the dancers projected above while during the second, multiple shadow images appear as echoes of the choreography.
Duets, Sacred and Profane opened the evening's second half; here we meet pairs of the RIOULT dancers in more personalized settings. In the first duet, from Kansas City Orfeo (1996), Sabatino A Verlezza as Orfeo attempts to revive his dead wife, Euridice (Catherine Cooch), to the appropriate music from the Gluck opera; this put me very much in mind of David Grenke's powerful duet, Vespers.
One of the Company's newest members, Corinna Nicholson, made a really lovely impression dancing a duet from The Great Mass (2009) with Sara Elizabeth Seger. The girls wear gossamer 'Baroque' dresses, and they bring an air of courtliness to this charming piece.
Two of RIOULT's most vivid dancers, Jere Hunt and Michael Spencer Phillips, were magnificent in a pas de deux from Te Deum (1995). To the music of Arvo Pärt, Michael - in a dark suit and white shirt - partners Jere, clad in black briefs, in an intimate duet. Though devoid of erotic overtones, the dance is both sensual and spiritual. Various imagined scenarios might be applied - two lovers, two brothers, a father and son, a guardian angel and his charge. Jere Hunt's muscular physique speaks powerfully in its own right; a vein of poetic vulnerability which runs thru his work as a dancer gives his performances a deeply personal resonance. Michael's handsomeness and the strength of his movement are captivating to behold: this is a dancer who can express both courage and tenderness. Together, the two men thrilled the audience.
Something special needed to follow this male duet, and we found it the charismatic pairing of Charis Haines and Holt Walborn in a sublime Bach duet from Views of the Fleeting World (2008). Their expressiveness and their sense of the mutual devotion of this couple created a beautiful atmosphere.
For a remarkable finale, Pascal Rioult's unique setting of Ravel's Bolero sparked an eruption of cheers from the mesmerized crowd at its end. Against a backdrop by Harry Feiner - a fanciful rendering of architecture à l'espagnole - eight dancers perform endless repetitions of gestural motifs while periodically moving from one formation to another. Woven into these geometric configurations are illuminated solos which are luxuriantly slow and sometimes self-caressive. The dancers - Mlles. Cooch, Haines, Nicholson, and Seger with Mssrs. Flynn, Hunt, Phillips, and Verlezza - went thru their hypnotic paces with machine-like precision, whilst basking in the more voluptuous solo moments. Brilliant!