Paul Taylor Dance Company
Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Reviewed by Helen Peppard
The company in Airs
Oh, Paul Taylor Dance Company, you’ve been too long away. Ten long years since you were last at the Music Center and some seven since you danced in Orange County—it’s too long to keep dance lovers in Southern California out of the loop. We should start campaigning now for its next appearance in the southland. Meanwhile, the company presented three evenings of sheer bliss at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, April 11–13.
Among choreographers, there are few in the history of concert dance who can match Taylor’s inventiveness and ever surprising integration of dance and nondance movement. His style is idiosyncratic. Despite a vast range of subject matter and emotional content, his work is immediately identifiable: feet flexed, knees and elbows jutting out, bodies suspended off-center and doing all kinds of things you can’t quite believe are possible. His company doesn’t make it look easy, but the dancers are most certainly unfailingly impressive.
Jeffrey Smith, Michael Trusnovec, Sean Mahoney, and Orion Duckstein in Banquet of Vultures
Photo by Tom Caravaglia
The program (the same all three nights) comprised works from different periods of Taylor’s output, dating from 1978, 2005, and 2011. The opening work, Airs, got the evening off to an exhilarating start. Dancing in front of a midnight blue backdrop, the three bare-chested men in pale blue tights and the four women in gauzy blue dresses rarely paused for breath. Baroque instrumental music by Handel provided the impetus for this whirlwind of movement that kept the stage in a state of flux. Incorporating ballet, nondance moves, and Taylor’s own signature movement style, the work is still as surprising as it is delightful all these 35 years later.
Moving from the glorious to the inglorious, the program’s second offering, Banquet of Vultures, took the viewer into a black hole seemingly peopled with fireflies desperately flickering about, trying to find...what? Dim shafts of light from above and offstage side gradually revealed black-garbed dancers to be carrying points of light, which were slowly extinguished. Confrontational, belligerent, grappling, struggling moves that were somehow dancelike expended the energies of the dancers. Eventually, a rabble-rouser in black suit and red tie exhorted and bullied the group to more violent action, a last lone point of light was extinguished, and the stage was left with a pile of bodies completely vanquished: a powerful anti-war piece to remind us that art is not just about beauty.
Lightening the mood after the heavy tone of Banquet of Vultures could not have been done more effectively than with the laugh-out-loud antics of Gossamer Gallants. Testosterone-charged males in black and electric blue insect attire buzzed around the stage in aimless bug-like movement until a pair of lime green females attracted their attention with very come-hither moves. That galvanized the males, who eventually succumbed to the charms of a swarm of the green predators, who exulted in their final victory over their helpless bedazzled conquests.
After 60 years of brilliant dance-making, Paul Taylor isn’t even slowing down. Now if we can just get him back before another decade goes by!
April 17, 2014
Bottom photo: Heather McGinley and Michael Novak in Gossamer Gallants, photo by Tom Caravaglia
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