New York Live Arts

May 21, 2016
, Timestamp #2, Sky Blue, Bolero, Hallelujah Eve, Beatrice’s Rainbow, Wien, Variations on a Box

Cecly Placenti

One of the best ways to understand anything is through exposure, and evolving a dance audience is no different. Exposure to different chorographers and styles is the way to expand audience’s palettes, and Ariel Rivka Dance knows this. Presenting works by Ariel Grossman, Pascal Rioult, Heidi Latsky and Elisa King, the 9th season festival was a powerful evening of contemporary dance.

Ariel Rivka Dance, an all-female company led by married choreographer/composer team Ariel Grossman and David Homan, opens the evening with Ori, a fast paced, athletic yet lyrical piece for seven dancers. One aspect of Grossman’s work that I especially love is her ability to craft very sculptural phrases that are also lightning fast. A credit to her dancers, they execute this dichotomy expertly and beautifully. Ori, with its moments of rest in between bursts of dazzling speed, is a journey through difficult emotional landscapes. There is angst and ecstasy, pleading and listening, turmoil and resolution in a conversation with a higher power. In the end, a peaceful conclusion is reached, with all seven women surrendering, their faces, chests and arms turned to heaven.

Ariel Rivka Dance in "Ori" Photo David Gonsier

Ariel Rivka Dance in “Ori”
Photo David Gonsier

Lullabies that Grossman and Homan sing to their daughter inspire both Hallelujah Eve and Beatrice’s Rainbow. Beatrice’s Rainbow is a playful, happy dance full of lush upper body movements and sprightly steps. Hallelujah Eve, featuring live cellists and two Broadway vocalists, is a quieter, more meditative dance, very much a lullaby in feel and gesture. Musical, balletic, technical and bright, Grossman’s choreography takes a familiar movement vocabulary and adorns it with her own unique flair. Variations on a Box is incredibly athletic, energetic and lyrical all at once. These seemingly disparate juxtapositions in Grossman’s work are what make it so satisfying to watch, along with her use of kaleidoscopic groupings and staging.

Homan is the in house composer and musical arranger for ARD and much of their work is set to his compositions. Live music is a luxury in the world of contemporary dance, but for this evening, 4 cellists were hired to accompany the dancers in performing Homan’s compositions and arrangements of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and Harold Arlen and E. Harburg’s Somewhere (Over the Rainbow). The element of live music brought a deeper and more intimate feeling to the four pieces that ARD presented.

Elisa King in "Sky Blue" Photo David Gonsier

Elisa King in “Sky Blue”
Photo David Gonsier

Timestamp #2, a duet choreographed by Heidi Latsky in collaboration with dancers Ainesh Madan and Jerron Herman, is an excerpt from a larger work set to premiere next summer at the High Line. Each of the three evenings in the 9th Season Festival featured a different excerpt and #2 is a percussive, athletic duet for two men. Timestamp #2 has a steadfast, tribal quality, a driving and intense focus and execution. Moving between fluid and robotic, Madan and Herman, side by side throughout, stay perfectly in sync, an army of 2, fiercely determined to the end.

Elisa King presented Sky Blue, a solo she choreographed and performed to music by Maria Schneider. Ms. King is no stranger to the stage. Dancing professionally since 1972 she has a very impressive resume- a founding member of Zvi Gotheiner’s company where she danced for 25 years; led her own company Elisa King and Dancers; and was a faculty member at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts for 32 years. With her experience comes a grounded wisdom, and she imparts that wisdom from her first moments on stage. An intense, centered and engaging performer, King connects with the audience on a visceral level. Sky Blue is a soulful solo, almost like a prayer, a memory, a parting. After the show, I noticed in the program notes that her performances in this festival were dedicated to the memory of her brother; the sense of watching her remember and say goodbye became more real for me.

RIOULT Dance NY presented two visually arresting, gorgeous pieces choreographed by Pascal Rioult. Bolero, set to Ravel’s familiar music with the same name, is an intricate example of theme and variation, building in complexity as it spiraled back to the chorus. The piece opens on an army of toy soldiers perfectly keeping time with a sort-of marching cadence. As a spotlight highlights a single dancer, he or she breaks out of the staccato march into extended, lush adagios, highlighting balance, control, and flexibility. The spotlight shifts to the next dancer as the former seamlessly returns to the march. Bolero changed ‘scenes’ like a kaleidoscope, shapes forming, morphing and shifting magically. In one moment there is conformity, eight dancers in perfect synchronicity. In the next, a sudden break away as one dancer performs part of his opening adagio just before the shape shifts again and pulls him back into the herd, like a wave washing across the sand leaving a pebble behind and then picking it up again on its way back to sea.

RIOULT Dance NY in "Wien" Photo Eric Bandiero

RIOULT Dance NY in “Wien”
Photo Eric Bandiero

Wien is a darker piece with themes of obsession, violence, compulsion and the desperate attempt to maintain an image of normalcy. The dancers’ impeccable timing and mastery of being able to execute highly complex movements while traveling and maintaining tight geometric shapes that shift prismatically in motion is breathtaking. In both pieces the dancers precision, timing, and sense of each other and themselves in space is marvelous to behold.

The 9th season festival definitely excited and satisfied my dance palette and left me eager to see more of each company.