A Chat With: Rioult Dance Artistic Director Pascal Rioult

Classic Arts Features   A Chat With: Rioult Dance Artistic Director Pascal Rioult
An interview with Rioult Dance Artistic Director/Choreographer Pascal Rioult. The ensemble will be performing at the Joyce Theater from June 4 – 9.

Rioult Dance will present the world premiere of Iphigenia, a dance drama inspired by the Greek heroine of the same name from Euripides' "Iphigenia in Aulis." The piece was created in collaboration with composer Michael Torke and features his newly commissioned score, which will be performed live by the Camerata New York Orchestra. The program also includes the critically acclaimed On Distant Shores, the powerful Prelude to Night, and one of the company's signature works, Bolero. The Joyce Theater is located at 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street. Tickets can be purchased at the Joyce Theater box office, by calling (212) 242-0800, or at www.joyce.org.

Please tell us a little about the world premiere of your newest work – Iphigenia. How were you inspired by the Greek heroine from Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Aulis”?

I had been thinking about creating a dance based on Greek mythology for quite some time. In 2011, I choreographed “On Distant Shores” which focused on Helen of Troy. I enjoyed working on the characters and decided to create a full evening of dances about Greek heroines. I love women and I think my work reflects that.

My new work is based on Euripides’s "Iphigenia in Aulis," which chronicles the sacrifice of Iphigenia at the hands of her father, an act that ultimately allowed the Greeks to go to war with Troy. Iphigenia will shed new light on the Greek heroine within the context of the play’s central theme: violence justified by seemingly honorable motives, which, happens to be a very current theme.

I envision this work as a "dance drama," which brings with it a new approach and welcome artistic challenge for me. Though it will not be a linear, narrative dance, through dramatic movements and nuanced interactions, each dance of the four duets will offer a glimpse into the characters' psychological states and their different relationships. Structurally and visually, the Chorus (an ensemble of dancers to be perceived as a unit rather than as individuals) will serve as the crux of the dance’s architecture and reappear throughout.

What is it like to work with composer Michael Torke on this piece? In the past, have you worked closely with composers when choreographing a new piece?

I’ve had the honor of working in the past with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, and Grammy award recipient, Joan Tower but this will be the closest choreographer-composer collaboration I’ve had to date. The choreography and score are being developed simultaneously with Torke frequently present at dance rehearsals, allowing us to dynamically fit the music and movement together.

Why is the Dance to Contemporary Composers Series so important and valuable?

For the last decade, I have explored the music of the great masters, Ravel, Stravinsky, Bach –using their music as inspiration for many of my dances. The "Dance to Contemporary Composers Series" fosters collaboration with living American composers and additionally awards dance audiences the opportunity to experience live contemporary music. Artistically, I intend to continue collaborating with living composers. It is a worthy tradition that has given us some of the greatest pieces in the history of dance. While it has become a rare, less affordable practice, it enables an exciting and challenging creative process; it allows for new music and new dance to be created and performed with live musical accompaniment.

Can you tell us a little about the process you go through when choreographing a new piece?

I can be inspired by anything, a painting, a book, a movie, a poem, something I see or by a piece of music I listen to, the process is always different. At times, I’ll work with the dancers in silence and then share the music with them and set the movement to it. Other times, I’ll have a very clear idea of what the movement should be and I will teach it to the dancers. But I also have created by giving the dancers images or text that they improvise on. No matter which process takes place, I always work very closely with the music score. My mother was a very big influence in my life; she was a choral director and pianist. I grew up in a very musical household.

What goes through your head right before the troupe takes the stage during a performance?

Oh boy, it’s a whirlwind. I think I’m more nervous for my dancers than they are. As for the choreography, I realize that at that moment there is nothing more I can do, I accept it as it is and hope the audience has a good and meaningful experience.

What can we look forward to in Rioult’s future?

The celebration of our 20th Anniversary Season in 2014! We are thrilled to commemorate 20 years of creating and presenting the highest quality dance in New York and abroad; bringing dance to private and public schools in the NYC area and educating and creating new audiences for dance. You can find our performance schedule here: http://www.rioult.org/calendar.htm

What music are you listening to these days?

Michael Torke’s music is in my head all day long!

What do you consider to be some of your favorite moments in your dance career?

Dancing with the Martha Graham Company, working with Martha Graham, May O’Donnel and Paul Sanasardo, dancing with Baryshnikov, dancing and working with my wife, Joyce Herring (who is the Associate Artistic Director of RIOULT Dance NY) and of course, creating for the amazing group dancers in my company.

For our 20th Anniversary I plan to honor those who influenced my development as an artist. The program will include revivals from both May O’Donnell and Martha Graham, as well as my own repertory. I’m really looking forward to seeing my dancers performing the works of my mentors.

What are three things you can’t live without?

Dance, Music, the sound of laughter and Joyce….Yes, I know, that’s four.

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