By Tammy Scileppi
Imagine a mind-blowing musical tableau featuring an unexpected mix of classical music juxtaposed against a canvas of expressionistic dance moves. What would that look and sound like? You can bet the end result will be nothing short of mesmerizing.
Manhattan-based dance group RIOULT Dance NY has become Queens’ newest of its kind. The popular troupe will be returning to the Queens Theatre stage for a limited run this weekend – before officially calling the World’s Borough home, when they move to their new location in Astoria this summer.
Whatever your taste in music and dance, you shouldn’t miss this eclectic program, featuring founder and artistic director Pascal Rioult’s sensual, articulate and exquisitely musical works.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to present RIOULT NY at such an exciting time for the company as they open their new center in Astoria,” Queens Theatre Executive Director Taryn Sacramone said. “The fact that this extraordinary company is making its home in Queens is something to celebrate. This is an opportunity for people in the community to see the work of their new neighbors.”
A very spiritual piece, the first offering in Rioult’s “triple threat” repertoire is performed to the sounds of Estonian composer PÃ¤rt, whose classical and religious music is inspired at times by Gregorian chant.
“Te Deum,” one of Rioult’s earliest works that has stood the test of time, is based on the journey of a man at the crossroads of two careers. It’s a personal story. “When I finished my career, I embarked on a new one, not knowing what that was and where that would take me,” he said. “The central character is a man, who has to let go of his young self… a dancer. And that’s why there’s a beautiful and touching duet between two men: the older self and the younger self, as a choreographer and artistic director for many years. It is a journey in a spiritual sense.”
The second work provides the audience with a different, darker experience. Titled “Wien,” which means Vienna in German, it brings to life an image of a decaying society that remains eerily relevant today. A very strong modern dance expressionistic piece inspired by events that happened in Vienna right before World War II and the rise of Nazism, it is performed to the music of Ravel (who is probably most famous for his Boléro). This interpretative dance depicts a group of people who are sucked into that whirlpool of violence against each other, which was prevalent worldwide at the time, according to Rioult.
“It is very powerful and disturbing at the same time, and very exciting,” said the artistic director, who founded his dance troupe in 1994. Ranging from joyfully energetic to breathtakingly tragic, Tchaikovsky’s captivating melodies and vivid orchestration seem to possess an enchanting power, especially when accompanied by an extraordinary performance.
Keeping in mind that the most popular Russian composer of all time forever changed the world of ballet with “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”, it seems likely that the audience will appreciate Rioult’s choice of music and his unique mix of modern movement and classical vibes in this third piece, aptly named “Dream Suite.” The truly colorful work is inspired by the surreal world of artist Marc Chagall and, according to its creator, is “full of whimsy and mystery.”
After the March 4 matinee, theatre-goers are invited to stick around to toast RIOULT Dance NY’s move to a new second floor studio and performance space at 34-01 Steinway St. in Astoria.
“Building a dance center is a longtime goal for us,” said Rioult, whose troupe will be transforming from its well-recognized dance company status in Manhattan to a friendly, community-oriented neighborhood dance school in Astoria, offering classes for kids from ages six and up.
Students will be given different types of dance instruction, including some ballet, but mostly a form of modern dance. And at the end of the year, recitals for young dancers will take place at the theater. Rioult said teachers are already lined up and ready to go.
The newly constructed Rioult Dance Center will boast five studios, which will be used by the dance community as rental spaces. One of these, the big studio, will transform into a 110-seat black box theatre, fully equipped so that young choreographers will also be able to rent space for their works. Part of the floor space will also be used by Rioult’s dance troupe, which will perform there as well. In addition, adult dancers can enjoy African, Indian, and hip-hop classes, and even Zumba.
“We’re in the process of building our own type of dance exercise for adults. At the core, we’re going to build a high level of professional dance training, mostly based on American modern dance,” said Rioult, who will take part in training new dancers to become professionals. The company also has an important outreach program for schools, including after school programs here in Queens.
“We’re starting construction this week and it’s very exciting,” Rioult said.
The dance center is scheduled to have its grand opening on or around July 1, as well as an open house; free classes will be offered then as well. Student dance classes should be filled by September, and performances will hopefully begin around December or January 2019,
RIOULT Dance, which is made up of 10 dancers and 2 apprentices, will be moving to Queens for two reasons, according to Rioult: “Because Manhattan has become too insane for artists to live and work in; it has become a place of money. It’s the rents and the whole attitude,” he said. “Unless you do Broadway shows, it’s very hard to survive there. And most dancers live outside of Manhattan.”
He also wants to be a part of the Queens community.
“We felt since we’re starting a school apart from training professionals, in terms of reaching a new community, we picked Astoria,” he noted. “The whole place is transforming, and we’ve been welcomed by the Kaufman Arts District. … It’s going to be very vibrant and great for us to move into a new community and see how we can immerse ourselves into it and what we can give to it and build something new and exciting.”
The new location is right across from the Steinway Street subway station and it will boast floor to ceiling windows, so there will be a lot of natural light and passersby can see the dancers.
Shows are set for Saturday, March 3, at 2 p.m., and again at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 4, at 3 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20-$42, and can be purchased by calling the Queens Theatre Box Office at (718) 760-0064, or visiting www.queenstheatre.org.