The Paul Taylor Dance Company Is In Town
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.
On Sunday, April 3, 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 instruments of the music. It is the most interesting and humorous work of the evening, generating from a long seamless introduction involving the mundane and 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 let's 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 2 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 Kelley even better. Yet overall what is missing in the choreography and in its delivery is the punch and sexiness of good show dancing.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company will be performing at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater through April 10. There are some free rehearsals and family matinees offered in this San Francisco Performances run. It is very fortunate for us that this world-renowned company has made San Francisco it's second home. Last night torrential rains kept some folks at home, including a dear friend who was planning to meet me, but never made it from the East Bay. Please don't let anything short of a very major flood stop you from seeing this magnificent company now, and at any other opportunity you may have again.
<small>[ 04 April 2005, 11:04 PM: Message edited by: Hanna Takashige ]</small>