April 6,7, 2017 Cal Performances UC Berkeley
Dancers: 10, Projections 8, Choreography ?
Pascal Rioult claims his dance heritage from Martha Graham. That is visible in the flexed feet, the contracted falls to the floor, the use of shoulders and hips and the many leg extensions … as well as the bare chests displayed on the men dancers. All were Graham characteristics.
What Rioult has lost of Graham’s work is the drama and the dynamic.
All four of the works on “Bach Dances” program are very similar in staging. The dancers face downstage, move slowly and almost always ‘on the beat’ of the music. There is endless use of isolation activity of shoulders, hips, feet and legs. The dancers can execute all these with great skill, but it is endlessly boring to watch them, since they don’t “add up.” Dance is essentially about dance-movement, but in Rioult’s work, the projections and videos on the back screen tell more than the dances themselves.
One piece, “City” for four dancers appeared to reflect city dynamics. There outfits were appropriate to city life; they danced before endless moving projections of New York City buildings. In one duet, a couple accomplished (with many convoluted twists and holds) the endless task of rising from the floor. As in the other works, the spotlight moved from dancer to dancer, from duet to duet, reflecting city tensions. The four company members are: Cathrine Cooch, Corinna Lee Nicholson, Michael Spencer Phillips and Sabatino A. Verlezza. “City” was danced to Bach’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 6 in G Major,” recorded as was all the music works.
ieSometimes the music is interspersed with nature sounds, as in “Views of the Fleeting World” where we hear summer insects, rushing wind and a gurgling stream. Would Bach, the composer of the “Art of the Fugue” approve this intrusion? Another quarter. “Polymorphous” to “The Well Tempered Clavier,” danced by Brian Flynn, Charis Haines, Jere Hunt and Sara Elizabeth Seger, displayed the similar split stage arrangement, as in “City.” The couples echoed each other with similar lifts, falls and balances.
“ Celestral Tides” closed the program with the full company to “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat Major”. The opening section, Allegro, found the dances shadowed by the figured projection. For the next movements they emerged in what appeared as bathing trunks and suits giving us a lively, but already viewed vocabulary of downstage activities. At the very last, they performed some welcome locomotion, leaps and runs to liven the action. The dancers earned great applause that they deserve.
Rioult might give them more varied activities and us more dynamics. He seems, in this program, to offer the same movements over and over (swishing hips, one arm lifting triumphantly over the head, overuse of cannons, movement constantly facing the audience), accompanied by the dizzying projections, left this reviewer less than enchanted, pleased with Bach, amazed at the dancers’ skills, irritated by the projections and disappointed with the choreography of Pascal Rioult.
Production credits: Harry Feiner, Scenic design; David Finley, Lighting design; Brian Clifford Beasley, Projection animation; Karen Young, costumes.
Rouilt Dance Company: ”View of the Fleeting World”
Joanna G Harris, PhD
2714 woolsey st berkeley, ca 94705
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