Ariel Rivka Dance, Trainor Dance & Texture Contemporary Ballet to Play Citigroup, 2/27-3/1

Ariel Rivka Dance (ARD), a New York City-based contemporary ballet ensemble, presents an ambitious program featuring three emerging dance companies. First and foremost, ARD premieres The Book of Esther - a two-part work based on Jewish mythology choreographed by Ariel Grossman with original, live music by composer/pianist David Homan. It'll be supplemented by performances by Trainor Dance founded by Caitlin Trainor as well as Texture Contemporary Ballet led by one of Dance Magazine's "Top 25 To Watch" choreographers, Alan Obuzor. (Program details are below.)

The principal piece, Book of Esther, is a continuation of last year's successful premiere of Vashti, an emotional interpretation of the virtuous wife of King Ahasuerus. ARD returns to complete the Biblical tale with an abstract exploration of another heroine of Purim fame, Esther, the King's subsequent wife.

With modern choreography that springs from a balletic core, the Book of Esther lyrically depicts the Biblical story of Purim, as seen through the lens of feminism, women's empowerment and two brave, strong female characters. "Though this work is a Jewish work, the story has many interpretations and could fully be taken literally. Instead, I'm concentrating on the inner struggles of the characters and the choices they made," explains Grossman. "Moments of sadness, anger, fear and hope run through both Vashti and Esther, creating a thoughtful and engaging work."

The Book of Esther begins with Vashti - an homage to Vashti, the Queen of Shushan, (wife of King Ahasuerus, the ruler of Persia) who has been identified as many as the world's first heroine. For many and for Grossman (a student of Women's Studies at Skidmore College), Vashti is seen as a courageous fore-runner of feminism, and as a woman who chooses to value her dignity above all else.

Set to elegantly melodic music scored by David Homan for violin, cello, guitar and piano, Vashti features five women - four handmaidens and the Queen - in solidarity of sisterhood, beauty and poetry. This piece premiered in 2013 at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre to much acclaim. According to, "Grossman's lovely, fluid choreography was refreshing."

ARD continues the narrative by portraying the story of Esther. In what resulted as the basis for the holiday of Purim, Esther jeopardized her life when she informed the King that she was Jewish. "There are a myriad of emotions to be explored in the story of a woman who risks her own life by revealing her Jewish identity, ultimately empowering her people to save themselves from extinction," says Grossman. Similar to Vashti, this work is set to new music by Homan and explores acts of honor and nobility through music and dance.

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