College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Fairfax Native Returns to Perform with RIOULT Dance NY

February 14, 2018

On February 24, RIOULT Dance NY dancer Catherine (Catie) Cooch will return to her hometown here in Fairfax to perform newly premiered and reimagined works with the acclaimed company. A Company member since 2013, we asked Ms. Cooch a few questions about her career and what the audience can expect when RIOULT returns to the Center for the Arts. 

Q: As a native of Fairfax and graduate of Mason, what's it like coming back to perform in your hometown? 
CC: It is wonderful returning to Fairfax to perform at the George Mason University Center for the Arts! My family lives close by and will be able to attend the performance along with the neighbors, friends, and dancers I grew up with who still call Fairfax home. At RIOULT, we travel across the world to share our work with new audiences, it’s so exciting to perform again for so many familiar faces. 

Although I attended college in New York City at Marymount Manhattan College, I have close ties to GMU. Both my brother and my mother obtained advanced degrees at the University. Mason has a fantastic dance program, and I am excited that many of the students studying at dance at the school will attend our performance. For those who aspire to a professional career in modern dance, I hope this performance inspires them to work hard and dream big. The program we are performing is exciting and diverse with dances that appeal to everyone. 

Q: Tell us about your journey from Fairfax to RIOULT Dance NY. 
CC: From the age of three I loved to dance and tumble. My parents enrolled me in dance classes and gymnastics, but at age 10, I made the decision to focus solely on dance. The muscle development needed to excel at gymnastics was not compatible with ballet training. Since I loved performing--dance it was!   

During elementary and high school I took daily classes in all aspects of dance. In high school I attended ballet school at Maryland Youth Ballet. I remember attending high school classes until noon, leaving in the afternoon for ballet classes in Silver Spring, MD, and finishing up my day by racing to Alexandria, VA for more dance classes. It was a busy schedule, but I was passionate about dance. 

My junior year I met a choreographer who had studied at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC, and she convinced me that Marymount was the right program for me! Luckily I auditioned and was accepted into their dance program. The following Summer I left for NYC and have lived there ever since.   

In May, 2013 I received my BFA from Marymount and began the professional audition process. My mother sent me an article from the New York Post about the RIOULT company and suggested that I audition for them. Pascal had choreographed a work for Marymount in the past, so the company and its wonderful work was already familiar to me.   

RIOULT hosts week-long training intensives for dancers with professional aspirations.  I applied to the summer intensive program and was fortunate enough to be selected as the paid apprentice. I performed with RIOULT for the first time in October 2013 and went on my first European tour with the Company in early 2014. By 2015 I was hired as a company member, and am now in my third year dancing in the core group. I love the discipline and challenge of modern dance and have learned a great deal during my five year professional journey at RIOULT.  The extensive travel that comes with dancing for this Company has been truly exciting and broadened my outlook on life.   

Q: How are you preparing for this upcoming performance? What can the audience expect from it? 
CC: As you can well imagine, we are rehearsing the program for George Mason University extensively.  But RIOULT has a very busy performance schedule so we are also in the process of preparing for other programs that will be featured later this year at various venues in the U.S. and Europe. In the spring, the Company will premiere a new work at the Joyce Theater in New York City, so this is a big focus of our rehearsal time. 

The featured program that we will be performing at GMU From Purple to Pärt, was inspired by the life of our founder, choreographer, and Artistic Director, Pascal Rioult. The first half of the show will feature Te Deum, an emotional and beautiful piece that illustrates the modern technique for which Rioult is famous. The second half of the show is a fun and jazzy array of dances that exemplifies the flexibility of the company to perform diverse genres of dance. This program will inspire and entertain, leaving the audience humming the music of the rock group Deep Purple. 

Q: What other projects and performances are you working on?  
CC: RIOULT is a repertory company and requires the dancers learn an extensive array of dances. Dancers are assigned particular parts to learn but must also understudy other dancer's parts to ensure coverage in case of an injury.   

The dances are often grouped to form a program that can be performed at multiple venues. This approach keeps the dancers fresh and challenged, and provides the audience with new and exciting shows. As I mentioned earlier, Pascal Rioult is in the process right now of creating a new work for our upcoming New York Season at the Joyce Theater. This exciting project involves collaborating with a young composer who has been commissioned to write an original score. The process is intense, but the dancers are given an opportunity to be involved in how the music is shaped. Having musicians collaborate makes for exciting and creative rehearsals. 

Q: Tell us a little bit more about yourself. When you're not dancing, how do you enjoy spending your time? 
CC: My number one post-rehearsal ritual is soaking in Epsom salts! I love teaching master classes for local dance studios, doing choreography and practicing yoga. I never pass up an opportunity to travel, and I love art. I make sure I have my sketchbook with me at all times! 

From Purple to Pärt
Saturday, February 24 at 8 p.m.