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Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

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I just had the chance to see 4 dances -- all set to music by Ravel and presented under the umbrella title, the "Ravel Project". (They are doing 4 performances here in West Palm.) The performance -- by a company completely new to me. This work, and the performance, was a revelation.

When I first saw Balanchine in the late 50s, I was literally bowled over, and converted to a Balanchine worshipper for life, by the quality of his responses to the music, the apparently infinite variety of his steps, and the way even abstract ballets conveyed situations (and allowed one to construct "stories") round human relationships and emotions. I knew I was in the presence of the real thing: a artist (and, of course, a craftsman) working at the farthest limits of a serious art form.

I felt a parallel set of responses during Rioult's program lat night. I lack the words to express it ... so here's a mime review of the dances and the marvellous dancers. :jawdrop::):P

Rioult was a Graham principal dancer, and his works start from the Graham technique. But elements of ballet and other contemporary work are also woven seamlessly into the fabric.

Three of the pieces were to music that has already been choreographed by Balanchine. (Rioult, in the post-performance discussion, said that was not familiar Balanchine's work at the time, and did not see B's La Valse until after he had conceived and set his own. Rioult admits to being increasingly (and fairly recently) captivated by Balanchine's work. They share interests in composers, too, namely Ravel and Stravinsky.)

Here's the program:

Home Front. Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. 3 men, 4 women. An evocation of men in the trenches, their women at home, their fantasies about their women, and what happens when they return home.

Wien. Ravel's La Valse. 3 men, 3 women. This dance responded to the dark, fragmented, volatile, fragmented aspects of the score, and was my own favorite of the evening. The ancers shuffle, fall, become suddenly violent, dance courtly dances, form partnerships and drop them: and the music supports it all. I would love to see this on a double bill with La Valse. Both, in their own distinct ways, reveal so much about the music and about the dancers.

Prelude to Night. Female principal, 3 men, 3 women. A woman (Penelope Gonsalez), who appears to be in a mental hospita, l suffers treatment and degregation from those around her ("Prelude a la nuit" from Rapsodie Espagnole), descends into terror and madness ("Alborada del Gracioso"), and achieves something like spiritual acceptance and bliss. ("Feria"from Rapsodie Espagnole). In the last, stunning section, Gonsalez is carried and moved above the heads of the three men. They support her and manipulate her, but become almost invisible as the eye focuses on what appears to be effortless gliding and soaring.

Bolero. Ravel. 4 men, 4 women. The dancers, wearing shiny silver leotards, perform sharp, thrusting, synchronized movements. A single dancer -- followed by another single dancer, one at a time . -- breaks the pattern, performing lovely developee arabesques or other balances, assume graceful curved shapes reminiscient of Indian dance, etc.) Movement and travelling around the stage become more and more complex, but always keeping the pattern in which one or two individuals revealing that there is more to the score than the unrelenting rhythm and every louder dynamics.

Does anyone else have impressions of Rioult's work, his company, and his dancers?

Edited to add I just came across Estelle's 2002 review of the same program, in a French performance. Note that Estelle saw the original version of Prelude, in which the final section is set to "Pavane for a Dead Princess." During the Q and A, I asked Rioult about this change in music (and, presumably, choreography). He said he was never satisfied with working with the overly familiar Pavane. He replaced it with music he could "work against" instead of just with or alongside.

Here's the original thread: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...=3832&hl=rioult

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His company will perform at the Joyce in NYC from June 12-17. The program will include the world premiere of his ballet to Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, as well as If by Chance, Black Diamond and Prelude to the Night. The company is based in mid-town Manhattan.

From an interview in 2002:

"I was teaching physical education after being a track and field athlete; hurdles was my speciality, it hadn't occurred to me to become a dancer.... I had to move rapidly and learn fast as I was almost twenty-five, very late to start dance, particularly in France. The only place for me was America, so I went to Merce Cunningham in New York with a six-month scholarship from the French Government ."

... although Cunningham was easy for him physically and intellectually, it was, he told me, "a total void emotionally," and he felt he was still chasing rainbows until he found his way to Martha Graham whose intensely dramatic choreography and way of being suited him ideally; he went to her school, and then stayed in the company for ten years interpreting many main roles.

"I loved the freedom of expression she gave me " he said. "Her choreography was so emotionally charged, and felt so right. I was immediately at home with her psychologically, and then, she liked me too."


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