Rioult Dazzles LPAC Audience
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center
February 7, 2009 / Long Island City. Tonight Rioult, an NYC based dance company, performed on the main stage at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. The lower tier of the theater was nearly full, so much so that the upper tier began to fill as well. For about a quarter of the audience, this was their first visit to a performance at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. And they didn’t leave disappointed.
Rioult Dance Company Performance
The performances were intriguing as each told a story. They were choreographed to classical music, which I found both stirring as well as soothing. And the aesthetics of the backdrops, colors and clothing complemented the grand theater stage, which served as a palette of performers, music and motion.
The dancers’ movements were at times slow and deliberate, drawing us in, and other times fast and full, still drawing us in. The multi-dimensional medium of the dancers drew me out of my world and into theirs, as they cut through the air around them, their lithe bodies gliding through their carefully planned journey of space and time.
What follows is some description of what I saw, which will be complemented with photos to help you share in the experience. There were three dances: 1) The Art Of The Fugue, 2) Wien and 3) Bolero.
The Art Of The Fugue - Modern Dance In Queens
The first dance was called, The Art Of The Fugue, which was so named based upon the music to which it was set. Johann Sebastian Bach was the composer and it is believed that he never finished the work. At the time and even by today’s standards, it was a masterpiece of great complexity. In music as in dance, fugues attempt to weave a sort of conversation into the work. A sort of point, counterpoint - making separate statements while sharing in the same ethereal conversation. Rioult’s choreographic undertaking of this work is an example of his confidence to take risks and of his desire to challenge himself, his dancers and the audience.
The dance was set in nine segments, each of which was like an episode in a book. I will give you my interpretation of the dance, which likely is not exactly what the choreographer Rioult had in mind when he created the work, but he or the Rioult company dancers are welcome to comment and I will make changes to this article if needed.
In the first episode, Orchard, all ten dancers start the piece in near nylon tights. The dance starts out with most dancers moving slowly and gracefully in their own space. In the second episode, Gathering Storm, we see the dancers wearing red skirts. The backdrop is a dark blue. Their movements are at times synchronized and at times asynchronous. Like Bach’s fugue, which is composed of many independent but related ‘voices’, Rioult weaves different the movements and presence of the performers, into and out of a mosaic of pure theater.
In the fourth segment, Dusk, Marianna Tsartolia and Michael Spencer Phillips delighted the audience with an intense, emotional, sensual dance. This was followed Several segments later by Charis Haines and Patrick Leahy’s duet, in the Summer Wind espisode, which reminded me of watching Olympian skaters glide along in perfect harmony. And based on the smiles on their faces while they were dancing [see photo], they seemed to be enjoying themselves in their expressionistic art.
I found the eighth segment, Moonlight, featuring Penelope Gonzales and Brian Flynn to be a beautiful, sensuous, almost erotic expression of making love. It made me want to become a modern dancer : ) The performance ended with the company returning in the ninth episode, Flowing River, all dressed in red skirts, dancing in a joyous, mix of movement beneath a greenish starlit sky upon a dark blue stage. Whew. Time for intermission.
I’m skipping a short dance entitled Wien that opened after intermission. It was a commentary on the Viennese Waltz and the decay of society, which honestly, these days we get to see plenty of that on the evening news.
Bolero – A Modern Dance Choreographed By Rioult
The final dance was of Bolero. In this piece, all ten dancers join in performing a small number of the same movements many times in different configurations. Rioult said he challenged himself to make these repetitions interesting by modifying the configuration of them. So I mused, challenging for him as a choreographer, but I hope not challenging for us to watch. The dance began.
The rhythmic motion of the dancers, in finely timed and choreographed movements, had a soothing quality to it. Like water rushing down a falls. They moved round and round in a sort of rhythmic motion lifting and stretching their arms and legs in orchestrated motion and then lithely breaking the perfection of it all, lending the whole performance with a casual sort of grace.
The stage lighting was generally soft, while a spotlight would find and stay with one dancer at a time, moving from one to another like a socialite slipping through a party of friends. This had the effect of drawing my attention to the single dancer, but after a while I found myself withdrawing in order to observe the whole ‘social scene’, seeing the dancer in the spotlight as part of a whole, not separate.
And I enjoyed the golden brown backdrop, with its geometric shapes, set against the dark blue floor, providing a visual sensation … a thing of beauty brought alive by the dancers. It was a sort of sublime performance art.
At the end it was not challenging, but rather quite enjoyable to watch. And I was not alone in appreciating Rioult’s effort, as when it ended, the crowd applauded with great enthusiasm through a couple of curtain closings.
Queens Cultural Institutions Taking Risks
One my way out I heard one woman comment that she was delighted to have come and that this had turned out to be so much better than she’d expected. I think most people with an open mind who attended this with a friend or lover might have come away with the same impression.
It’s been said that Queens art institutions need to start taking more risks in order to be heard. Based on my recent experiences with Queens cultural institutions, I’d say that they are taking risks and that they are succeeding. I think the same statement can be made about Queens residents. That they need to start taking risks by bringing their friends to the events, exhibits and performances being offered by Queens cultural institutions. They might be surprised and pleased at what they find.
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