Paul Taylor Dance Company 2
Academic Congress Centre, Lublin, Poland, 8th November, 2006
“Dust”, “Profiles”, “Esplanade”
Paul Taylor once wrote: “My works are primarily meant to be a kind of food for the eye,” and the beautiful, intriguing movement he creates remains sustaining nourishment. The rationale for the chamber company, Paul Taylor 2, is for six dancers who can take the famous choreographer's repertoire to cities and venues that are no longer possible for the main company. Having been used to seeing Taylor's work in the 1500-seater Sadler's Wells, I appreciated the chance to view some timeless classics from the back catalogue in a smaller venue and closer to the performers. While no new work is created on this chamber group, some larger scale pieces are re-choreographed for a smaller number of dancers.
All three dances performed in Lublin date from the second half of the 70's, that is the middle of Taylor's choreographic career, which started 20 years earlier. Thus, it is noteworthy that two of the works are in such sharp contrast. “Profiles” (1979) was made as a study for the later “Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal)” and the the movement source, images stripped from a Greek urn, is clear to see. Much of the work for two women and two men does indeed take place in profile with arms making right angles and awkward held balances. The remarkable thing is that this slow dance creates so much internal energy and one of the dancers told me that he is only aware of his partners, such is its intensity. To a score by Jan Radzynski, Taylor mesmerises with the patterns he creates on this small group, as they seem to struggle with sinister forces. Only at the end, when one of the women in distress reaches out to a man, who accepts her hand, is the tension relieved.
Whereas “Profiles” uses heavily stylised movement, “Esplanade” is as natural as can be, with walks, runs, skips and a sunny disposition for most of its length. It's as if a group of friends are playing games together and the good humour spills out to the audience. This is highlighted in one scene where five of the dancers lie on the floor while another hops between their legs. A slow movement from the two Bach concertos forming the accompaniment, provides a setting for romantic duets and Winston Dynamite Brown, who had already impressed with his power, was able to show his sensitivity and grace, as well. Finally we are back to a reprise of the fun of the opening with Latra Wilson making the most of her role as the prime energiser of the group. Throughout, Taylor's use of space is a lesson for all would-be dance makers, using circles, lines and other groupings in a flowing and coherent style.
The evening opened with “Dust” (1977) to Poulenc's lively “Concert Champêtre” and the choreographer picks up the music's humour and rhythms. Yet, somehow this work never drew me in, perhaps there are too many different dance ideas, from quirky to stately, to make a homogeneous whole.
George Jackson, the dance historian, outlined the differences between the forms with the epigram: “..if ballet is about beauty, then modern dance is about ideas..” While agreeing with the thrust of this argument, there have to be counter-examples, illustrated by the beauty of Paul Taylor's dances. Perhaps this is why I have heard several times from ballet lovers that Taylor is their favourite modern choreographer. Overall, this performance was not only a satisfying look at one period in the history of modern dance, but also underlined the continuing place of exquisitely-crafted, technically proficient work and that conceptual minimalism is not the only model for the future, as some would have us believe.