Great music lends Pascal Rioult’s dances their backbone, their spirit and some of their nerve. But it is the choreographer who builds the sinew and flesh into the dances. And what a body he creates. It is vibrant, soulful and painterly.
That how it all looked on Friday night at The Egg where Rioult (pronounced re-you) returned. While not all of the three pieces shown were masterpieces, as was the music by Bach, Stravinsky and Ravel, the music and dance served each other well. So well, that it will be difficult to hear these compositions without conjuring up Rioult’s imaginative dances.
The program began with Rioult’s ode to nature: flora, fauna and human. To Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue,” “Views of the Fleeting World” captured the ephemeral beauty of our world, much of which we often fail to notice. Enhanced by projection designs by Brian Clifford Beasley and artwork by Henry Feiner, “Views of a Fleeting World” brought to life trees, rain, horses, lovers and more.
The piece opened with “Orchard,” in which eight dancers slowly and softly extend their limbs while planted in one place. The work moved onto “Gathering Storm” where the dancers don red skirts. They kick up their legs, fanning their long pleaded skirts, expressing glorious turmoil.
Of the nine sections, “Moonlight,” with Penelope Gonzalez and Brian Flynn, was the most enchanting. Dancing without standing until the very end, the two exuded a seductive longing that was about to be fulfilled. It was disappointing that Gonzalez only appeared in this short, but memorable duet. She is Rioult’s muse. She inspires her audience too as her artistry is gigantic.
Even with only a small dose of Gonzalez, Rioult is able to shape how the audience heard Bach — in this case meditatively. This meant the piece did not have a lot of high points, shrouding it a sustained monotone. It was like a peaceful stroll in a well-groomed park.
Better still was the second half of the evening with Rioult’s takes on Stravinsky’s “Les Noces” and Ravel’s “Bolero.” Both pieces of music have been choreographed to death. Yet, it is certain that Rioult’s experimentation with the music stands as some of the best.
Rioult kept the original marriage concept of “Les Noces,” choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. But he updated the ritualistic choreography so it has caught up to Stravinsky’s anti-music.
The piece, about sexual awakening, was an orderly orgy, with bride, groom and attendants clearly anticipating and acting upon their fantasies. Most surprising was how this chaste structure could be a platform to unleash hot passions.
“Bolero,” a favorite to close a Rioult show, reveals the choreographer’s mastery of Ravel and how simplicity can illuminate a piece of music brilliantly. Dressed in silver unitards, the dancers appear futuristic as they begin their march with semaphoric arms sharply hitting their shapes. Dancers fall away from the crowd to balance on one leg, only be lured back in by the whirlwind of music and dancers. In the end they leapt in unison — exhausted, but gratified.