Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 12:00 PM
In Ravel's Bolero a small body of musical material is repeated over and over again with growing intensity until it reaches a shattering climax. Widely considered the outstanding example of musical crescendo, Bolero as musical background to dance can render the most mundane choreographic process gripping; the challenge to the choreographer is to find dance metaphors that bear multiple repetitions and match Bolero's growing intensity without overtaxing the dancers.
One week more › ago Saturday we went to see the modern dance company of Pascal Rioult (pronounced rhee YOU). We had seen several Rioult pieces performed via the Case dance program – Rioult's Bolero, nicely staged on Case dance program students in 2003, and in 2007 Case students performed Wien, another of Rioult's pieces. Both works were on the Saturday program. As a result, we felt that we had a good idea of what to expect.
If our previous experience of Rioult showed him embracing the challenge of musical repetition but finding engaging choreographic possibilities, another piece on Saturday's program saw him going further down that same path with more mixed success.
Saturday's concert opened with Rioult's Views of the Fleeting World (2008), a work for eight dancers set in nine sections to J. S. Bach's Art of the Fugue (as arranged for chamber orchestra by Wolfgang Graeser in 1927). In addition to Art of the Fugue - which we nominate as Bach's least danceable piece - each of the nine sections was accompanied by sounds from nature and beautiful projections. Wind sounds preceding section 2 suggested the section's title, "Gathering Storm;" the sound of peepers suggested a rural wetland at "Dusk;" rain sounds suggested a "Sudden Rain."
These programmatic clues notwithstanding, Views made for heavy going (don't take our word for it; go to RioultVideo and see for yourself.) For us, it was not until the fifth section, "Sudden Rain," that dancer Jane Sato brought the stage to life. She convincingly "slipped and fell on the rain-washed ground," then alternated quick aerial movements with supple lunges in a solo that kept us watching.
In the seventh section, "Summer Wind," cicada sounds and warm, bright colors on the backdrop suggested a summer day. Dancers Charis Haines and Jere Hunt created considerable erotic heat using dynamic reclining versions of the same movement vocabulary we'd been yawning through in earlier sections. Penelope Gonzalez and Brian Flynn achieved much the same effect in "Moonlight."
If we felt Views presented many attractive elements that were often dragged down by their music, the second piece on Saturday's program, Wien (1995), provided an electrifying demonstration of Rioult's ability to illuminate a musical score.
Wien is set to Ravel's La valse, a piece which Vic's younger self had mistakenly dismissed after a few listenings. "Why those ominous undertones? Why does the composer refuse to delight us in this piece?" But, as Rioult's program notes point out, La valse comes with a potent back-story.
To wit: Ravel began work on La valse, originally titled "Wien" or "Vienna," in 1906 as a tribute to Johann Strauss Jr., seeing the Viennese waltz as a metaphor for "the fantastic whirl of destiny." But by the time the piece was finished in 1920, the post-WWI connotations of "destiny" had taken on a decidedly bitter tone, particularly in Vienna, where famine and epidemic reigned.
Accordingly, in the completed version of La valse, Ravel achieved what program notes for Chicago Symphony Orchestra describe as "a masterful evocation of the evasions and collisions between a brilliant surface and dangerous undercurrents." Intentionally or not, the composer had created in La valse a perfect musical metaphor for the socio-political situation in Vienna in 1920, and that is, in an abstracted way, the subject of Rioult's Wien.
Like Ravel, Rioult introduced a few core phrases, a rather small body of movement material, and reworked it throughout the ballet. As in a traditional waltz, the dancers periodically circled the floor, but the smooth progress of the circle was punctuated by dancers falling and body smacking into the ground. The dancers periodically held each other in a traditional ballroom embrace, but the embrace was interrupted by vicious assaults - head-butting and strangle holds. Grandiose poses with the arms held high were punctuated by ugly grappling. Late in Wien, a congruence of bright music and lighting was quickly undercut by starkly front-lit figures casting shadows on the cyclorama, as if a momentary euphoria were followed by crushing disillusion.
Thus, in Wien we see, as Rioult says in a program note, "The Viennese waltz, the very image of social refinement, becomes the symbol of a disintegrating society taken into a whirlpool of violence and humiliation." Or, as Jack Anderson said in a 1/19/95 review (ReView) that segued into high praise, "Wien showed a whole urban class system falling apart; this was choreography on a grand scale, yet he used only six dancers."
Strong stuff. Wien ended to loud, whooping applause, as though the collective audience were all saying "that's more like it."
Rioult's Bolero (2002) is not as strong as Wien, but it inevitably appeared last in Saturday's program. Here, as in Wien, the choreographer's plan closely resembled that of the composer, taking a small body of choreographic material and finding interesting ways to repeat it. Many of the movements and movement patterns we'd seen in Views and Wien occurred again in Bolero, but with a totally different effect.
Bolero began with seven of the eight dancers engaged in quick, mechanical arm movements while the 8th dancer typically engaged in flowing, sustained extensions of the legs and trunk. The dancers periodically circled the stage, often dancing around one or two dancers in the center.
It is perhaps inevitable for Cleveland audiences to compare any danced version of Bolero with Heinz Poll's Bolero. Many of us old timers remember Ohio Ballet dancing that, while more recently it has been performed by Verb Ballets. We have a great affection for Poll's mesmerizing choreographic economy, and cannot help but compare the two versions, though that is as if comparing apples to oranges.
Our impression is that Rioult stays closer to Ravel's original mechanical inspiration, but that Poll's imaginative costuming and choreographic choices take the viewer on a more fascinating journey. Movement in Poll's Bolero is limited and controlled while Rioult's movement choices are freer while retaining rhythmic precision.
The backdrop for Rioult's Bolero, credited to Harry Feiner, depicted repetitive architectural forms. During the crescendo, the brown and black wash was suddenly highlighted in red.
The company's website, http://Rioult.org, lists 13 other pieces by Rioult. We hope to see more of that work, performed either by the Rioult dancers or restaged at Case.
Victor Lucas and Elsa Johnson
RELATED COMPANY: RIOULT
Monday, April 4th, 2011 12:00 PM
From the moment the music begins its ominous rumble and six dancers move in fits and starts, "Wien" signals that Rioult is a choreographer with an eye for striking imagery. Virtually everything about this creation is unsettling, from the Kafka-esque aura, vividly transformed by lighting designer David Finley, to the spasmodic intermingling of bodies in a whirlpool of desolation.
The dancers are dressed in Russ Vogler's middle-class European attire, placing them more › in the nexus of world conflagration. They're clearly on the edge of sanity as they move in circular chains, cling to one another or collapse to the floor in momentary anguish.
As they're swept along Ravel's tidal wave of waltzing menace, the cast reveals the limber and urgent strength that is a hallmark of the company. "Wien" packs an emotional wallop partly because the dancers have such command both of technical resources and expressive power.
The program continued after a pause with "Bolero," Ravel's most famous and hypnotic score, with its haunting theme that does nothing but increase in volume and orchestral texture. Rioult illuminates the music using eight dancers, dressed in sleek white, who execute robotic gestures in canonic patterns.
As the instruments in Ravel's score bring distinctive personality to the theme, each dancer has a solo moment of unfolding balances and elegant sensuality. Rioult builds an intriguing mosaic – set before Harry Feiner's Cubist backdrop – that never falls into the trap of physical monotony.
The cast, including many of the dancers who had thrust themselves into the pained world of "Wien," gave "Bolero" a performance of mesmerizing and concentrated vibrancy. In solo, duo and ensemble episodes, they were alert to every crisp or elastic choreographic demand.
Another side of Rioult was on display in the program's opening work, "Views of the Fleet World," set to selections from Bach's "The Art of the Fugue" (arranged for string orchestra). In nine sections, the piece suggests varied states of nature, employing abstract painted projections (by Feiner) and sounds of thunder, wind and rain to underline the basic themes.
But the dance is the thing. Even without the effects, which add little, Riout's responses to Bach are keenly sensitive to phrasing and structure. The creative inspiration is buoyant, shapely and often intricate in design, reflecting Bach's contrapuntal mastery.
One movement stands out. In "Moonlight," two dancers lie on the stage reaching upward and toward one another in romantic reverie. Like their colleagues throughout the night, Penelope Gonzalez and Brian Flynn were luminous champions of their artistic director's discerning vision.
RELATED COMPANY: RIOULT
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 12:00 PM
DANCECleveland, the region's only organization whose sole focus is to present national and international dance companies, is seeking a full-time or part-time Development Director. The Development Director will be responsible for the coordination and execution of the organization's Foundation, Corporate and Government fundraising efforts, Annual Fund campaigns and Major Gifts fund raising.
This includes, but is not limited to:
+ Current Foundation and Government funders: creating and submitting grant more › packages and grants management including all reporting, correspondence and acknowledgement letters (currently includes approximately 25 Foundation grants and 10 Government grants per year), identifying potential new foundation and government grant opportunities and creating and implementing a process to approach these potential funders
+Support the corporate grant and sponsorship efforts, led by the Executive Director
+ Create and implement the Annual Fund campaigns (currently 2 per year)
+ Help create and launch a major gifts campaign
+ Maintaining a grants calendar and all grant related addendum materials
+ Maintaining the records for DANCECleveland with the Ohio Cultural Database.
This position is deadline driven and the ebb and flow of work will vary throughout the year with the heaviest period being between February and April and the reporting period in July. The desired candidate will be results-oriented, highly organized, goal oriented with superior writing and communication skills. Candidates should have a Bachelor's Degree with a minimum of three years of experience in the grant writing and development fields.
We offer a generous compensation package based on experience. Serious candidates should send a cover letter with salary requirements, resume and a grant writing sample, to email@example.com by April 12, 2011. No phone calls, please.
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 12:00 PM
Sandusky has a lot going for it, including spectacles known as Cedar Point and Lake Erie. But the city isn't usually associated with professional dance.
That will change this week, at least temporarily, when River North Chicago Dance Company makes a stop to hold workshops in local schools and perform Friday for 700 students and on Saturday for other curious citizens at the Sandusky State Theatre.
The troupe's residency is more › part of Dance Across America's Heartland Project, a collaboration among the presenting organizations DanceCleveland, Dance Affiliates (Philadelphia) and Dance St. Louis.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which is based in New York, provided a $120,000 grant to help the presenters take River North to nearby communities. In addition to Sandusky, the company is appearing in York, Pa., and Rolla, Mo.
Each of the presenters raised considerable funds for the project, which has a total cost of $327,000. The Sandusky State Theatre received $30,000 from the Duke foundation and $5,000 from the New England Foundation for the Arts, which also gave River North $40,000 to support the residencies.
"It's a fantastic opportunity," said Thomas Kazmierczak, executive director of the Sandusky State Theatre. "It will expand our horizons, expand the audience base and bring new works of art to our theater."
Aside from River North, dance only takes to the stage of the 1,500-seat Sandusky theater -- which opened in 1928 as a movie and vaudeville house -- when local dance studios present recitals and the touring Moscow Ballet performs "The Nutcracker."
Pamela Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, said the project came about as a result of the three presenting organizations "bemoaning the fact that so few presenters include dance on their series."
"They told us they felt dance was too hard to present -- and too expensive," said Young. "Taking dance to places is really important. It builds audiences for dance on a regional level and builds tour opportunities for dance companies."
Those companies must apply for the project, be willing to travel to the sites supported by the presenters and agree to work with local schools.
The project includes what Young calls a "tool box," an online resource for dance presenters that should be accessible by fall on the website of Dance/USA (danceusa.org).
For the Sandusky piece of the dance pie, the theater is providing space, staff, hospitality and marketing. Kazmierczak said the theater has worked with Arts Midwest, a Minneapolis-based organization that books international performing artists throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
In recent seasons, the Sandusky theater teamed with Arts Midwest to present musical ensembles from Japan, Israel, China and Quebec. The theater is occupied the rest of the year with theater events, concerts, movies and art shows, for a total of up to 60 shows. Ticket sales account for about 40 percent of the annual budget.
Kazmierczak said his theater's participation in the dance project was born during a New York conference for presenting theaters at which he met a representative from River North. She told him the project aimed to take dance into theaters that don't normally offer it.
"That's us," said Kazmierczak.
Sunday, January 30th, 2011 12:00 PM
A lot of things go wrong during a performance by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. But they happen at just the right moments.
With the impeccable timing, madcap sensibility and disciplined elegance that long have been their hallmarks, the male dancers known as the Trocks are frolicsome guides to the quirks that inhabit classical ballet and modern dance. They don't make fun of these genres. They have fun with more › them while maintaining loyalty to the source.
The Trocks brought tutus and tights to Cleveland for the first time in several decades Saturday at the Ohio Theatre under the auspices of Cuyahoga Community College and DanceCleveland. From the time an announcer with a theek Russian accent introduced the program to the final whimsical curtain call (Celtic dance a la Russe), the Trocks were masters of terpsichorean mirth.
At Saturday's performance, they shared distinctive spoofs of classic works and legendary choreographers, mixing matters of gender with assured dancing that must be the envy of more than a few "serious" ballet companies.
The corps de ballet in Act II of "Swan Lake," for instance, looked buoyant and even giddy en pointe, even if one member was so enthusiastic that she/he often fell out of step (or simply crashed to the floor). As Odette, Olga Supphozova (female nom de plume for the terrific Robert Carter) was a radiant, ornery presence – at turns graceful and earthbound, her technical feats precise and delightfully self-serving.
In "Patterns of Space," a work paying tribute to the late Merce Cunningham, three dancers dressed in brightly colored unitards engage in abstract configurations that have nothing to do with the music. And it is the bizarre and hilarious music that rules here, especially as played on kitchen utensils, paper bags, kazoos and other paraphernalia by the oh-so-avante-garde Lariska Dumbchenko (Raffaele Mora) and Yuri Smirnov (the versatile Carter).
Four legendary ballerinas are celebrated in "Le Grand Pas de Quatre," which the Trocks treat as a competition of fluttering eyelashes, logistical miscalculations and demented pratfalls. In their solos and ensemble duties, the dancers portraying Lucille Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Marie Taglioni showed keen command of romantic style even as they contributed addled gestures that suggested their need to see the nearest shrink.
One of the Trocks' most enduring pieces is "The Dying Swan," which was performed on this occasion by Katerina Bychkova (Joshua Grant) with a blend of Amazonian poise and goofball vulnerability. This swan has a big problem, aside from imminent demise: her tutu is molting with alarming speed. Bychkova managed to fend off feathery disaster until she slid (literally) to the ground and waved a fond farewell.
For sheer, fanciful pageantry, there was "Raymonda's Wedding," a divertissement based on choreography by Marius Petipa, which found the Trocks cavorting with vivacious splendor. Carter's impressive whiplash turns were but delectable morsels in this banquet of winsome and macho dance drollery.
RELATED COMPANY: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo