PAW readers who follow the world of modern dance might remember an October 2008 profile of Silas Riener ’06, a young performer who, despite entering college with no formal dance training, had risen to extraordinary heights as a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Nearly three years after joining the prestigious company, Riener continues to grow and flourish as one of Princeton’s most accomplished young alumni artists. His performance in the July 22 debut of Nox, a collaboration written by the poet Anne Carson and choreographed by Riener’s Merce Cunningham Dance Company colleague Rashaun Mitchell, received high praise from New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay, who called the Riener and Mitchell “two of the greatest dancers before the public today.” Here’s how Macaulay described the male-male duet featuring Riener and Mitchell:
“In looks and movement, Mr. Riener (in electrifying form) and Mr. Mitchell (whose relaxation here seems suffused with darkest meaning, like a form of numbness that drives even his most piercing falls, runs and turns) become negative and positive versions of the same person. … Even their skin tones and simple black-white costume patterns are reverses of each other. Question and answer, left and right, image and mirror image, the two are convulsed, incapable of repose, two halves now forever sundered.”
As a high-school student in Washington, D.C., Riener devoted much of his extracurricular time to soccer and track, and in college, he looked to fill that void with a new physical activity, first joining the Princeton student dance group diSiac and then studying under dance faculty Rebecca Lazier and Ze’eva Cohen. Riener quickly progressed, earning lead roles in campus performances of Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’après-midi d’un Faune and Sergei Prokofiev’s Le Pas d’Acier. After graduation, he completed his MFA in Dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and during that time, he caught the eye of Cunningham, who invited him to join his company in 2007.
(Photo courtesy Merce Cunningham Dance Company)
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