Performing Arts: Dance
June 27, 2016
In their tenth season at the Joyce Theater, RIOULT Dance NY returned with a dramatic interpretation of Euripides’ iconic Greek tragedies in WOMEN ON THE EDGE...Unsung Heroines of the Trojan War. Like much of Rioult’s work, this program was a total theater experience, complete with stunning sets, dramatic lighting, multimedia projections, live music and narration (by renowned film and stage actress, Kathleen Turner) and of course, powerful execution of his Graham-inspired choreography. For those who are fans of this classic modern aesthetic, this work is sure to please: Rioult showcases his dancers’ agility and athleticism in choreography that emphasises precision, attack and a preference for bold shapes and lines above all else. For those who appreciate a more subtle, nuanced performance, however, Rioult’s liberal use of anguish-ridden-contractions and chests-clasped-in-despair may seem slightly melodramatic.

While the first two pieces, Iphigenia and ON DISTANT SHORES...A Redemption Fantasy were both well-received, perhaps the most anticipated moment of the evening was the unveiling of the world premiere of Cassandra’s Curse. Of the three works, this was the most engaging as it was the only piece to feature live music (in addition to live narration and dynamic projections,) which had the effect of evoking more expressivity and finesse among the dancers. Suddenly, the movement and bodies appeared less rigid, more alert, and more supple-spined.

Cassandra’s Curse was also especially poignant because it was the most adept at conveying the timelessness of Euripides’ message about the futility of war: by projecting images of modern-day combat, Rioult draws a direct parallel to current conflicts across the globe. I did, however, question the overwhelming portrayal of brown women and children in headscarves, especially projected against an all-white cast. In a country that is currently engaged in three of its own wars (yet enjoys the privilege of remaining relatively unaffected on a day-to-day basis,) this skewed depiction of war-torn communities as ‘other’ was rather unsettling.

Nevertheless, this collection of dance dramas was entertaining to watch, thanks in large part to a powerful message delivered by a solid cast. Through them, Rioult was able to explore and celebrate the oft forgotten role of women during wartime, drawing attention to their grace and resilience in the face of social calamity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Karina Ikezoe

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