By Stanford Friedman

Lobster tater tots! Yes, fried cubes of minced potato topped with delicious bits of shellfish were the hors d’oeuvre of choice on February 28th as Rioult Dance NY held its 2018 winter gala at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. This year, the theme was “Centered On The Future,” and the evening offered an exciting look ahead for the company, as well as a dynamic performance by its current powerhouse troupe, songs by a couple stage veterans, and pop up performances with scantily clad dancers performing posed pairings among tables where gala goers could bid on silent auction items such as house seats to The Lion King, bottles of rare whisky and gold earrings.

Rioult Dance was founded in 1994 by Pascal Rioult, a French born choreographer who was also a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. This past weekend, the troupe performed at Queens Theater, in Corona. Next, they are off for a three week European tour. But, as we learned at the gala, their most important travel plan comes this summer when they move into a permanent home, an 11,000 square-foot dance center in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District, with studios and a performance space that seats 100. Offering classes as well as performances, Rioult will be an invaluable addition to the arts and culture scene that is blossoming around Steinway Street.

So, gala night was one of the year’s few troupe trips into Manhattan (Their next is a May 30 – June 3 engagement at The Joyce.). But they came fully energized with a great performance from Mr. Rioult’s rock ballet, Fire in the Sky. Set to the music of Deep Purple, eight dancers (with what appeared to be a combined total of zero body fat), were in full tilt glory, jumping to the beat of what the choreographer describes as an homage to his early dance club days. Prior to this piece, the Broadway actor Christine Andreas performed a hauntingly beautiful version of “Hymme à L’Amour” while two company members danced a gentle pas de deux. Rounding out the evening’s entertainment, movie star turned Broadway star turned cabaret chanteuse, Kathleen Turner, offered “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” in her trademark deep tones. The song was a fitting reminder that when you have faith, the kind shown by Mr. Rioult and his company, dreams can become a reality.

Kathleen Turner. Photo: Eric Bandiero.