Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

June 20, 2006

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre in
Les Noces
Photo by Basil Childers, courtesy Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre

Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre
Joyce Theater, NYC

June 20–25, 2006

Reviewed by Emily Macel


Like fine fusion cuisine, If By Chance, Pascal Rioult’s jazzy new piece, is familiar in appearance yet full of surprising and tantalizing flavors.

Inspired by Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, Rioult and a fellow Frenchman, composer Jacques Loussier, allowed subtle jazz tones to surface and play a leading role in the piece. The reorchestrated Mozart was surprising—yet surprisingly natural, giving the score new life and an airy, improvisational feel. The overall look of the dance, with its eye-pleasing costumes, was as refreshing as the music. The women’s red, yellow, and orange plaid skirts and bare-midriff tops made them look as if they were ready to picnic in the park, and the bare-chested men wore similarly hued tights.

The playfulness of the music and costumes complemented the dancing. Former Graham dancer Rioult showed his roots with the beautiful intensity he brought to the stage. By blending styles, Rioult allowed his alternately sensual and delightful choreography to play within the wide frame of modern dance, often switching between extremes in single phrases. Dancers smoothly shifted from graceful, high balletic leaps to low, syncopated jazzy strides. The six dancers, an equal mix of men and women, created a sensual energy, with mixed- and same-gender partnering. Typical of Rioult, this untraditional coupling adds refreshing spice to the blend.

Also on the program were three pieces that dually exemplify Rioult’s interest in how music can act as a character and portray cultural or societal turmoil. Les Noces is a clever, sexual interpretation of Bronislava Nijinska’s peasant wedding dance, to Stravinsky’s score, in which underwear-clad dancers clothe themselves in wedding attire while dancing with their chairs—a purer version of Chicago’s “Cellblock Tango.” In Wien, dancers dressed in 1930s clothing move frenetically in circles, creating a violent scene of impending doom. And Rioult’s take on Maurice Ravel’s famous Bolero moves like a well-oiled machine, full of purposely simple, mechanical, and repetitious movements; each phrase progresses forward but with subtlety and control. See