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Paul Taylor Dance Company

‘Mercuric Tidings’, ‘House of Joy’, ‘Big Bertha’ ‘Company B’

by Colleen Boresta

March 18(m), 2012-- David Koch Theatre, New York, NY

For the first time ever, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is performing their spring New York season at Lincoln Center’s David Koch Theatre. The Taylor Company has been a staple in New York for many years but they were always seen at City Center. Since the New York City Opera is no longer singing at Lincoln Center, the Taylor troupe is able to make use of the larger stage at the David Koch Theatre.

The March 18th matinee is my first time seeing a complete Taylor program. I saw the Taylor group dance ‘Company B’ at the 2010 Fall for Dance Festival. I have also seen American Ballet Theatre perform both ‘Company B’ and Taylor’s ‘Black Tuesday’.

The afternoon begins with ‘Mercuric Tidings’ which is a pure dance piece set to excerpts from Franz Schubert’s glorious Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. Unfortunately all the music is taped, due to the exorbitant cost of a live orchestra in New York City. I really love this work, especially the forms of the movements which keep growing and changing into gorgeous patterns. All the dancers are splendid, leaping and spinning at a breakneck pace. There is so much depth to this dance that I need to see it several more times to even touch the surface of all ‘Mercuric Tidings’ has to offer.

‘House of Joy’ is a very disappointing new Paul Taylor work. It is set in a brothel and though there are hookers, pimps and johns on display, very little actually happens. The company acts very well, but they hardly dance at all. Fortunately ‘House of Joy’ is very brief, but even so it seems to be a waste of time and talent.

‘Big Bertha’ is a disturbingly powerful Paul Taylor piece. Bertha is a mechanical amusement park doll who plays music when a coin is fed in her slot. The Bs are an all American 1950s family who enjoy dancing to Bertha’s tunes. But all too suddenly Bertha becomes an evil force and destroys the happy B family.

By the end of the dance, Mr. B has raped and killed his daughter and Mrs. B reveals a red stripper outfit under her June Cleaver clothes. Just before the curtain falls, Mr. B joins Bertha and becomes a malevolent amusement park doll. All the performers are fantastic – Amy Young as Bertha, Michelle Fleet as Mrs. B and Eran Bugge as Miss B. The real standout, however, is Michael Trusnovec’s Mr. B. His dancing and acting fully show the dark side of 1950s America.

The afternoon ends with ‘Company B’, set to recordings of the Andrews Sisters. This work shows the lighthearted innocence of wartime America juxtaposed against shadowy figures of young boys going off to fight and die in World War II.

Many ballet companies dance ‘Company B’, among them American Ballet Theatre. I agree with chief dance critic of the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, that the way the Taylor dancers use their weight in ‘Company B’ is more effective than ABT’s aerial lightness. When Robert Kleinendorst falls at the end of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B”, there is no doubt that he has been felled by enemy soldiers. In ABT’s production of ‘Company B’ the young boy’s death is too easy to miss.

All the Taylor dancers are superb, but a few (along with Kleinendorst) really stand out. Francisco Graciano is all perfect rhythm and syncopated movement in “Tico-Tico”. James Samson is very funny as the nerdy guy being chased by seven women in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” Amy Young, so menancing as the automaton in ‘Big Bertha’, brings tears to my eyes as a girl sending her young love (Sean Mahoney) off to war in “There Will Never Be Another You”.

I hope to see the Paul Taylor Company during their New York season for many years to come.
I would enjoy these dancers even more, however, if they performed with a live orchestra instead of to taped music.

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