Paul Taylor, again



I made a return trip to see Paul Taylor Dance Company tonight. As usual, it was an oddly assorted triple bill that showed off the choreographer's incredible, if quirky range. Although I'm not nearly as familiar with Paul Taylor's output as I am with ballet, everyone can be a quick study with him. It doesn't take a dance expert to love the joy of Esplanade. The audience for these performances I've noticed is surprisingly diverse, a mix of young and old, male and female, very different from, say, Nutcracker performances. It's not good or bad, it's just different.

The program started with Roses, which I saw last week. I don't have to be very familiar with this piece to know that tonight's performance was much stronger. The movements had much more snap and flow, especially the series of cartwheels that the couples do over each others' bodies. The couples were much more coordinated and the cartwheels seemed an expression of joy. At first, it seems an odd dance movement to put into a piece set to Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, but then lovers will often resort to simple, even childish physical movements to express joy. It's a beautiful and too-little-seen Taylor work.

The Uncommitted was next, it's a new work that had its debut this season. I didn't hate it but it wasn't a masterpiece, and didn't have the unique energy of the other debut Gossamer Gallants. The music by Arvo Part had its moments of beauty, but the idea of men and women meeting briefly for some fleet encounters before parting is by now an overdone modern dance cliche. The costumes by Santo Loquasto were hideous -- a friend commented that it made the women look pregnant and the men fat. The lighting was way too dark for the whole stage and auditorium -- at times the dancers were barely visible. I don't know, it was okay, it just didn't jump out to me as a masterpiece.

The program ended with the company's signature piece Esplanade. It's based entirely on non-dance movements like walking, running, skipping, sliding, falling. The piece is very "70's" -- there's something vaguely free-love-ish about the dancers onstage as they seem to be enjoying a picnic/romp outside. My dad, who was a conservative immigrant, told me that when he first arrived in the United States groups of young people would often pack themselves into a car and go by a lake for a "picnic." One day a rather wild picnic ended with a frantic phone call to my dad -- would he PLEASE drive down to the lake ASAP? A car had gotten stalled on an incline to the lake and everyone was too drunk to try to drive the car out of that incline. My dad was known as the good driver among the bunch. Anyway, Esplanade reminds me of that -- maybe the best sequence of the dance is when one couple after another throws himself onstage in a belly fall. It looks like effortless fun. Beautiful, fun, timeless dance masterpiece.

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