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Steve Sucato
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Modern/Contemporary
Cain Park
Paul Taylor Dance Company
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Cleveland Heights, OH
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Paul Taylor Dance Company

by Steve Sucato
July 19, 2008
Cain Park
14591 Superior Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 371-3000

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www.ptdc.org

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To help celebrate its 70th year of presenting summer arts programs to Northeastern Ohio residents, Cleveland Heights' Cain Park turned to another veteran of the arts world, the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Taylor's 50-plus-year-old company was the highest profile dance company Cain Park had booked in recent memory and their program featured two Taylor masterworks plus one of the very last opportunities to see the longtime company member Lisa Viola who was retiring from the company.

The program began with Taylor's amusing dance work "Diggity"(1978). On a stage littered with artist Alex Katz's painted cutouts of dogs that gave one the sense of a surreal dog park, Taylor's dancers moved about with happy-go-lucky attitudes as if enjoying a Sunday afternoon jaunt. Set to composer Donald York's music that at the start sounded like the theme music to a vintage Television show, "Diggity" was a superficial and playful bit of fun.

As the work progressed it shifted from exuberant group dancing where giant cutouts of vegetables where paraded out onstage, to a melancholy duet, then back again to exuberance this time the dancers taking on the characteristics of canines themselves.

A trio of men bounded and shuffled after a lone female in lingerie as if in heat, and a group of female dancers strutted about like pampered pooches in a dog show. "Diggity" concluded with the dancers yipping and barking as gleeful applause rained down on them.

Keeping with a theme of man as animal introduced in "Diggity", Taylor's much darker "Cloven Kingdom" (1976) delved into the social airs we as humans put on to disguise our animalistic nature.

The work opened with a half dozen of the company's female dancers costumed in formal gowns and waltzing to the Baroque music of Arcangelo Corelli. Not far into the piece, the music and the dancer's prim proper demeanor turned primitive. Taylor's choreography no longer advanced a look of elegance rather the women appeared aggressive and adopted ape-like arm movements. In the first of her two appearances on the program Viola instantly drew one's attention to her like a beacon of light. Her technical prowess, attacking movement style and fierce stage presence setting her apart as it had done so often in her near two decades with the company.

When it was the company men's turn in the work they too turned against their sophisticated tuxedo-clad exteriors to prance like horses and bound over each other like monkeys.

Taylor's choreography for "Cloven Kingdom" was sharp, defined, and without subtlety driving home its theme that "Man is a social animal" and beneath our refined exteriors lies our raw instinctual selves.

The work's final images to that end came with the dancers donning John Rawlings' mirrored headpieces perhaps to indicate that we are reflected in one another.
The program closed with arguably Taylor's most famous creation "Esplanade" (1975). The energetic and daring work epitomized the choreographic wit, creativity, and emotion that has made Taylor a legend.

Set to the joyous music of J.S. Bach, "Esplanade" opened with its dancers engaged in elegant carefree runs and prances that burst with joy. As the work continued on to its famous middle section where a trio of dancers without joy come together but do not touch and its closing section where dancers ran and flew themselves into slides across the floor, one could sense Taylor's dancers were enjoying the performance. Highlighted by the effervescent Viola in the lead female role who skipped and bounced like a young school girl, "Esplanade" capped a solid evening of dance that left a memorable impression of Taylor's and Viola's unique genius.

Photo © & courtesy of Lois Greenfield

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