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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 20, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011

About the Author:

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

246 West 38th Street
NY, NY 10018

Pascal Rioult, Artistic Director and Choreographer
Joyce Herring, Associate Artistic Director
Karen M. Stupic, Executive Director
David Finley, Lighting Design
Pilar Limosner and Russ Vogler, Costume Designs
Harry Feiner, Set Design
Michael K. Stewart, Production Manager

Publicity: Ellen Jacobs Associates

Presented at the Joyce Theater

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 20, 2003

Pascal Rioult, Artistic Director, from Normandy, France, was a Principal with the Martha Graham Dance Company. (See Martha Graham Reviews and Photos). In fact, Miss Graham created special roles for Mr. Rioult, such as the Death Figure in Eyes of the Goddess. Mr. Rioult began to choreograph his own works, while still a member of the Graham Company and produced concerts in the early 1990's. Ms. Herring also danced as a Principal with the Graham Company from 1981 to 1994 and as a guest artist until 1999. Ms. Herring was Director of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and stages and coaches the works of both Graham and Rioult. Mr. Rioult has created this Company to fulfill his vision and purpose, which include mounting works that are lyrical and powerful. The Company has a Repertoire of more than 20 dances and will debut at the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, in June. DanceREACH, Mr. Rioult's educational outreach program, involves students in NYC and beyond to experience modern dance. (Company Notes).

Harvest (1992): Choreography by Pascal Rioult, Music by Dougie MacLean and Altan, Lighting by David Finley, Costumes by Russ Vogler, Performed by Marianna Tsartolia, Francisco Graciano, Brian Flynn, Royce K. Zackery, Penelope Gonzalez, Michael Spencer Phillips, and Anastasia Soroczynski. Harvest is an homage to Jean-François Millet, the Pre-Impressionist painter. (See Bio). One of my favorite Pre-impressionist painters is Millet (See Les Glaneueses, 1857, photo in Millet's Bio.) You can imagine how Rioult must have been influenced, as a native of France, by the simple peasants who harvest vegetables and fruits in the fall. You can also imagine how Rioult has been influenced by his mentor, Martha Graham (See Graham Reviews and Photos), as was Paul Taylor (See Taylor Reviews). I immediately saw the signature arm waving, the head bobbing, the angular limbs and contracted torsos. Yet, I also saw something new, very much a part of Mr. Rioult's invented technique, which was inherently more modern and less tragic than Ms. Graham's works, as well as more historical and figurative than Mr. Taylor's works.

In Harvest, the Irish Melodies and Country Dances lend a simplicity and earthiness that may not have been possible with more esoteric music. There were sexually implicit dances, kisses by all sexes, violent male behavior, domestic and rugged female gardening and frolicking, and women's heads bobbing, just like antique folk dolls. With bare feet and earth brown and white costumes, with autumn colored backdrops and figurative shadow play, with passages of soulful tunes, with flashing lights on still vignettes of dancers, and with passages of silence in which dancers keep moving, this very small Company (eight dancers, plus Ms. Herring and Mr. Rioult in guest appearances on other days) presented an intriguing and beguiling work, with genuine emotions and stark reality, a true homage to Millet.

Veneziana - A Postcard for Amy (World Premiere): Choreography by Pascal Rioult, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Pulcinella Suite, Lighting by David Finley, Costumes by Pilar Limosner, Set by Harry Feiner, Performed by Marianna Tsartolia, Francisco Graciano, Lorena B. Egan, Brian Flynn, Penelope Gonzalez, Michael Spencer Phillips, Anastasia Soroczynski, and Royce K. Zackery. Veneziana was commissioned by Richard Korn in memory of Amy Korn. The exquisitely designed silkscreen and side stage sets, by Harry Feiner remind me of the art of Raoul Dufy (See Posters).

With courtly and uncharacteristically, melodic music by Stravinsky, the Company, in flowing and brightly contrasting costumes for the women and dark unitards for the men, creates very unusual patterns, with the signature Graham arm elongations, elegant leaps, and extended lifts. The patterns are lyrical and buoyant. However, this new work could use a bit more energy. Perhaps, as this was a matinee, sandwiched between a five-concert weekend for a small Company of eight, the dancers may have been tired or saving themselves for tonight. Yet, it seemed to be the highly structured music and choreography that could be amended or extended, somewhat, to capture the enthusiasm of the audience a bit more.

Black Diamond (World Premiere): Choreography by Pascal Rioult, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Duo Concertant, Lighting by David Finley, Set and Costumes by Pascal Rioult, performed by Lorena B. Egan and Penelope Gonzalez. At this point in the program, the energy picked up dramatically. Two female dancers, dressed in transparent black leotards, on a smoky black stage, reminiscent of the Broadway show, Chicago, swiveled and posed provocatively, with taut tension and extreme severity of hair, facial gestures, and muscular motion. This Stravinsky score left nothing to be desired. The recorded violin and piano duo were outstanding, and the dissonance and darkness created an extreme mood, one that begs for seriousness and attention.

Ms. Egan and Ms. Gonzalez were splendid in the counterpoint rhythms, as they danced independently, as well as in relation to each other's space. The lighting by Mr. Finley was superb. Spotlights onto the dancers, on a stark, black stage and multi-levels of black squares (reminiscent of old, German Expressionist films), made these women radiate from within. They were always in character, with every muscle and limb in powerful angst and perfect tension.

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre in "Black Diamond"
in photo: Penelope Gonzalez and Lorena B. Eagan
Photo courtesy of Richard Termine

Bolero (2002): Choreography by Pascal Rioult, Music by Maurice Ravel, Bolero, Lighting by David Finley, Costumes by Russ Vogler, Set by Harry Feiner, Performed by Lorena B. Egan, Brian Flynn, Penelope Gonzalez, Francisco Graciano, Michael Spencer Phillips, Anastasia Soroczynski, Marianna Tsartolia, and Royce K. Zackery. If Black Diamond released the energy of the audience, Bolero released the energy of the Company. To a very familiar score, the Company, in silver unitards and silhouetted against a severe backdrop, used the theme of shifting weights and balance, as did Erica Dankmeyer (See Review, See Interview), another protégé of Martha Graham. As the music and momentum swelled, the Company performed with dynamic virtuosity and kinetic excitement.

At times they danced within single, diagonal lines, and at other times they danced in duets and trios, with intensity and uninhibited strength. It was hard to imagine that they had to perform this work again, early tonight. It is no wonder that the Executive Director of Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, Karen Stupic, said, in the lobby, that the dancers would be in physiotherapy between performances. This particular work requires the use of every internal and external organ and muscle to be focused and contracted or released, reminiscent of Miss Graham's signature technique. It also requires a determined effort to increasingly change the tempo and rhythm of the movement to align with the ever-swelling tones of Bolero, by Ravel. The audience went wild as the curtain fell in a cacophony of percussion and pivoting spins.

Kudos to Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, as well as to this talented Company, for a very enjoyable Easter concert. Kudos to Mr. Rioult for his brilliant choreography and direction. And, kudos, once again, to Martha Graham, for her inspiration and influence on the world of Modern Dance.

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre in "Bolero"
Photo courtesy of Aimee Koch

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