Review of Rioult Dance: Iphigenia
French choreographer Pascal Rioult’s internationally renowned company Rioult Dance is enjoying their 13th season (although not all consecutive) at The Joyce Theater in Chelsea, from June 21st to June 26th, 2016. On Thursday night I saw Program A: a trilogy of Greek myths centering on strong women. The opening piece, Iphigenia, communicated the tragedy of Iphigenia, whose father King Agamemnon sacrifices her to save Greece, much to the fury of his wife, Clytemnestra. The piece is laden with Greek imagery—from tableaus that echo Greek art to gestural pantomime, which at times feels stiff, but works to add setting and culture to the dance. The exquisitely cohesive ensemble acts as a Greek chorus to the tragedy unfolding amongst the family. Kathleen Turner’s powerful narration and the stark opening foreshadow the tragedy of the story, which speaks to Rioult’s ability to story tell through movement. His efforts are greatly aided by the superb costuming by Karen Young, as well as the dynamic set by Harry Feiner, which helps to set the rigid tone of the piece.
Much of the movement references Graham technique, as Rioult himself danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company for a number of years. He clearly differentiates between the fluid, Limon-esque movement of the young Iphigenia—vibrantly portrayed by Catherine Cooch—and the sharp choreography of both the Chorus and Clytemnestra. Dancer Charis Haines positively shone throughout the trilogy, but her duet with Brian Flynn’s solid Agamemnon was a standout moment of the night. The couple’s motif of a hop/chug punctuated the entire piece and contrasted brilliantly with Cooch’s masterful airiness. Rioult crafts a lovable heroine in Iphigenia, and her acceptance of her role as a martyr becomes all the more powerful through the contrast of her and the rest of the ensemble’s opposing movement dynamics.
Pascal Rioult’s “Iphigenia” certainly evokes the world of Ancient Greece for the audience, but still captures the timelessness of Euripides’ tragedy. The strong technique of the entire ensemble and Rioult’s angled anti-war message ensure that this is a night at the Joyce you won’t want to miss.
- Review by Olivia Brown