Paul Taylor Dance Company

The Paul Taylor Dance Company is back in town, but this time they're using the Koch Theater due to NYCB's off-season and the NYC Opera's eviction from the theater last year. Their triple bills are always surprising, delightful, thought-provoking, and most of all, a reminder that Paul Taylor is maybe the last choreographic genius who is still alive, running his own company, choosing his own dancers, and supervising his dances. He's a national treasure and when he comes out for his curtain calls at the end of performances there's always a bittersweet feeling that it might all come to an end.

The triple bill this afternoon started with the stunningly beautiful Roses, set to Wagner's Siegfried's Idyll and Heinrich Baermann's Adagio for Clarinet and String. It starts off with four couples, the women dressed in black, the men in gray, as they move to the strains of Wagner's Siegfried's Idyll. At times Roses looks like something Balanchine could have choreographed, as the women swoon into the arms of the men. At other times, it incorporates some Taylor favorites, like cartwheels. A common theme is one partner cartwheeling over the body of his or her partner. The Idyll builds to a climax, and then, when one expects the dance to be over, a couple in white walk onstage to the considerably calmer, more serene Adagio. I could be wrong but I thought Roses perhaps depicted the natural progression of courtship. At first, the couples are full of passion. The final couple in white represents the more stable, mature phase of a romance that often marks a formal marriage.

The second dance on the program was Gossamer Gallants. This is one of the lighter Taylor pieces. It's set to the bouncy music of Smetana's Bartered Bride, and depicts the mating rituals between insects. The program includes this quote: “The nocturnal radiance of the fire-fly is purposely intended as an attraction to the opposite sex … some insect Hero may show a torch to her gossamer gallant”—Herman Melville. At first the male fireflies dance, and they are enthusiastic and preening, Then it's time for the female insects, whose flirty demeanor belies their fierceness. By the time the male insects and female insects dance, it's clear the males are no match for the females. The dance ends with the men exterminated, being dragged around onstage by the triumphant female insects. It's a delightful and disturbing dance, one that had the audience laughing and wincing at the same time.

The program ended with the well-known masterpiece Promethean Fire, an intense dance Taylor commissioned in honor of 9/11. Perhaps the most striking image of the dance was all sixteen bodies, piled on top of each other, as in a heap of ashes. That being said, I saw the company do this last year, and the central duet was much more strongly danced last year by Annmaria Mazzini and Michael Trusnovec. My friend Bill and I both remembered a moment when Mazzini literally threw herself backwards towards Trusnovec and the the audience gasped. The central couple this year were Robert Kleinendorst and Parisa Khobdeh. Khobdeh lacked the breakneck speed of Mazzini, and Kleindendorst lacked the incredible upper body strength of Trusnovec, and as a result, the same duet had a more muted effect. I saw the same backwards dive, but it looked careful and rehearsed and as a result, didn't have the same impact. The series turns the male does with the female wrapped around his neck and shoulders also didn't have the same speed. Still a great piece though, stunning to watch from beginning to end.


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