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Paul Taylor Dance Company

 

'Cloven Kingdom,' 'Lost, Found, and Lost,' 'Company B'

 

by Hanna Takeshige

 

April 3, 2005 -- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

 

The Paul Taylor Dance Company is currently celebrating its landmark "first 50 years". Much cause for celebration is in order for the vast body of innovative dance works this company has produced, all of which have been choreographed by Paul Taylor. As a child, I was fortunate enough to see Taylor dance at Jacob's Pillow. He was the biggest dancer I had ever seen on stage, and the strength and clarity of his movement, combined with his large presence, made a huge impression. What reverberates in Paul Taylor's choreography, and was clearly discernible in Taylor's own dancing, is the direct simplicity and purity of the human body in motion.

 

The company presented "Cloven Kingdom", a work choreographed in 1975, which evokes many ways in which "Man is a social animal." Clusters of organisms give birth, partner, and spontaneously regroup in dynamically evolving patterns. The male dancers, dressed in evening attire, move in wonderful, quirky synergy, while some of the women in simple long dresses sport geometric headgear. The music of 3 composers, Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Cowell and Malloy Miller, together form a score contrasting and combining elements lyrical, pointillistic, and chaotic. The theme of geometric symmetry wins out in the finale as all the dancers appear on stage wearing headgear in a stage swirling with reflective light. The human animals in this dance appear strangely and perfectly ordered.

 

"Lost, Found, and Lost" is a brilliant 1987 work that draws on an earlier piece from 1957. It is choreographed to the lush strains of a generous montage of 1940's melodies, including "Red Roses for a Blue Lady" and "As Time Goes By." Here, Taylor produces an androgynous slew of dancers in black unitards and netted veils moving with such musicality as to almost seem like musical instruments. It is the most interesting and humorous work of the evening, generated from a long, seamless introduction involving the mundane and the pedestrian.

 

Overcome with boredom, a group moves offstage one at a time in a long, slowly moving line. Dancers assume long, still pauses unencumbered by time, and then cursorily look each other over from the front and back. Simple movements and poses are examined in human encounters mixing ennui with curiosity. Here and there, wild and frenzied movement erupts, and is dutifully copied by the others dancers. In this chorus line of bored athletes, languorously facile and inventive, the choreography lets the body do what it does, and it does so very well. In perfect musical and theatrical timing, the group moves beyond the boredom of conformity into an expansive and chaotic abandon. The corps of 10 dancers executes this work in a perfectly nuanced and fluid style. Jennifer Tipton's lighting design enhances this and each of the other ballets presented on the program. Alex Katz designed the strange and oddly pleasing costumes.

 

"Company B" concluded the evening. First performed in 1991, this ballet features songs sung by the Andrew Sisters in an antiwar tribute of pure Americana. It is the least cohesive piece on this program. The men and women's costumes, designed by Santo Loquasto to evoke soldiers' uniforms feature pastel hues of khaki, print shirts, and bright red belts, and are very unflattering. The music after a short time becomes hard to listen to. I began to long for some Duke Ellington, George Gershwin ... anything else. The Andrew Sisters songs of the World War II era are relentlessly upbeat and frivolous. The carefree, youthful dancing they inspire, is here and there contrasted with images of death and suffering. There are brilliant moments, as in Andy Le Beau's Tico-Tico solo, which does Gene Kelly even one better. Yet overall what is missing in the choreography and in its delivery is the punch and sexiness of good show dancing.

 

 

Edited by Staff.

 

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