Living Separately, Thriving Together ; A look into the creative minds of Pascal Rioult and Polina Nazaykinskaya
By Sarah Badham
When asked about transitioning from dancer to choreographer, Pascal Rioult, of RIOULT Dance NY, recalls working with Martha Graham. He remembers her saying that she was put on this earth to be a choreographer, and at the time he rolled his eyes, thinking that it was a good line for an interview but couldn’t be true. And then sure enough, as he began sculpting his own movement he finally understood the moment Graham was mentioning. The moment where you discover you were put on this earth to create.
This week (May 30 – June 3) at The Joyce Theatre, RIOULT Dance NY opens their new season entitled Written for Dance. The work features three pieces by Rioult set to music by Russian composers that were composed specifically for dance. The first, Rioult’s Dream Suite, with music by Tchaikovsky, secondly his work Les Noces set to music by Stravinsky. Finally, the program includes the world premiere of Nostalghia, a new piece of choreography with an original score composed by Polina Nazaykinskaya. Written for Dance as a whole uses distinct eras of music from Russian composers and praises the partnership between composers and dance. Nostalghia, which represents the contemporary era of music, has allowed Rioult to revisit this long held tradition of composers and choreographers working together towards a single creative entity.
Pascal Rioult, originally from France, has been dancing and creating for over 30 years. He joined the Martha Graham Dance Company after arriving in the United States, and he danced with the company for 10 years. In 1994, he founded his own dance company, RIOULT Dance NY, allowing him a chance to train his own dancers and a platform to present his own original works. Since its inauguration, RIOULT Dance NY has performed around the country and the world, sharing Pascal’s original work. With a strong emphasis on education, the company also uses the opportunity to train and teach open classes as well as company classes for its dancers.
Polina Nazaykinskaya grew up in a small town in Russia and was immediately drawn to music. Deemed a young prodigy, and after composing her first big piece of music at age 14. She has composed everything from full orchestrations to musical theatre work. She attended the Tchaikovsky Conservatory College in Moscow, where she studied composition and violin. She went on to study composition at Yale University, and it was through her mentor at Yale that she was introduced to Pascal Rioult.
It had been a dream of Polina’s to compose a ballet, so when she was approached by Pascal and after seeing his choreography, she knew it was something she had to do. Rioult wanted to use a younger Russian composer for this new work. He recognized that just as both Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky were in a way contemporary for their time, using a younger composer, whose influences may include recent popular music, would be the distinguishing sound to represent this era and Polina’s original score does the job perfectly. A beautifully crafted blend of elegance and excitement, her score gives the audience a feeling of remembering an old dream as it weaves in and out of staccato, legato, silence, low pulses and melodic waves.
Rioult’s choreography has been praised for its musicality, but he explains how it is sometimes in the moments of lack of music that you can find a different way of painting a picture. Polina and Pascal recall during the rehearsals for Nostalghia, at one point the score contained a ‘club beat’ as Polina describes it, a heavy syncopated pulse driving the dancers movements. Then all of a sudden, the beat disappears. Pascal turned to Polina and asked “Do you think it is coming back?” She simply replied no, and Pascal had an idea. Through their movement, the dancers became the ‘club beat’ that was no longer present in the score, and in this magnificent creative moment, the pulse of the work found a new way to live on, allowing the audience to still feel the heartbeat when the music had left it behind. Pascal notes, on the topic of creation, how you often find that you are doing something while you are working, and you are not sure why or how this will be a part of it, but you keep it hanging around. Then one day, the epiphany arrives, and you are over taken by the feeling that it has all come together for this very reason.
When you speak with Pascal Rioult and Polina Nazaykinskaya, you know you are in the presence of true artists. Both of them, though their own mediums, have found their place on the earth was to make art for the world. Many scores that were originally curated for dance have gone on to have their own life and what is remarkable about these pieces of music is that although they can go on without the movement with them, they are incomplete without it. Written for Dance and Nostalghia celebrate the power that two pieces of art can have when they are working together. Pascal and Polina used their creative abilities to allow for a beautiful piece of music to be heard, and stunning choreography to be seen, but when the two are brought together on one stage for a singular purpose, this is the moment that both thrive.
*Cover photo by Nina Wurtzel