Years ago, Paul Taylor danced with my Modern Dance Master Class at Skidmore College. For many years, I have been part of Mr. Taylor's devoted audience and have seen him as an inspiring dancer and as a creative choreographer. Mr. Taylor has been one of my long-time heroes of the Arts. He always sits in the audience, watching his Company perform. And, he always stands onstage, as did his mentor, Martha Graham, to accept accolades, after the final curtain. Mr. Taylor obviously delights in the success of his Company and loyal advisors, and, in fact, Ms. Bettie De Jong, whom I had seen as one of Mr. Taylor's original soloists and as his dance partner, has been with the Taylor Company for over 40 years and is currently his Rehearsal Director.
Paul Taylor grew up near Washington, DC and studied dance at Juilliard. He first presented his own company and original choreography in 1954. For seven years, he was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company and continued to create dances for his own company. In 1959 he was a Guest Artist and danced with the New York City Ballet, and, since 1975, he has concentrated on his choreography. Mr. Taylor has won dozens of awards, such as the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1993, a 1992 Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues, and a 1992 Kennedy Center Honor. He was elected to Knighthood by the French Government and in 2000 was awarded Legion d'Honneur for contributions to French culture. (Program Notes). He has received numerous honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from prestigious colleges, including Skidmore, where I first met him, many years ago. The Paul Taylor Dance Company is a sought after troupe and tours extensively around the globe. Visit www.paultaylor.org for the latest tour dates.Piece Period (1962):
Music by Vivaldi, Telemann, Haydn, D. Scarlatti, Beethoven, and Bonporti, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by John Rawlings, Lighting by Tom Skelton, Performed by the Company. This revival for ten dancers actually had one more star – the chandelier, campy white balls on a contemporary creation with an antique motif, the synthesis of this dance. Antique music (Vivaldi, Beethoven, Scarlatti, etc.) is the musical backdrop for campy dance with antique evocations, long velvet dresses, white wigs, aprons, and men's high stockings, while performers drink beer from extended, off-stage hands, throw their own hands limp in a Baroque vaudeville, and shake them with a silly style.
Richard Chen See led this revival, in a solo called Uno
. He is bounding with energy and muscularity, and from this first view of the Company in 2007, I knew we were in for another successful season watching some of the most dynamic, skillful dancers onstage today. Lisa Viola, another Taylor "star", appeared in Dos
, as always virtuosic and emotionally in the moment. Robert Kleinendorst, in Drei
, who is always a powerful presence, was the beer guzzler in wig and period attire. In Five
, Annmaria Mazzini, Amy Young, and Michelle Fleet were the velveted women with limp wrists. This revival should be seen more often.Banquet of Vultures (2005):
Music by Morton Feldman Oboe and Orchestra
, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. One of Mr. Taylor's dark pieces and ever so relevant today as a statement on war, is described on the program with a quote from John Davidson, "…For war breeds war again!" Jennifer Tipton has created smoke and dim lights, and the ensemble carries tiny lit candles that open the scene in eerie angst. Dancers have headbands and unisex costumes (thanks to Santo Loquasto), so one does not actually know who they are, except Michael Trusnovec and Julie Tice, two of Mr. Taylor's most renowned dancers. Mr. Trusnovec seems to be the metaphor for the government (my own interpretation), as he wears a dark suit and red tie, and Ms. Tice seems to be the metaphor for cannon fodder, as she is physically worn down in one long agonizing dance with Mr. Trusnovec.
The "soldiers" are slapped hard on the back or neck with the side of Mr. Trusnovec's hand, as one by one they fall into a heap of lifeless bodies. Mr. Trusnovec moves with sensational athleticism, lifting a leg above the mass of prostate dancers or leaping sideways into the air, his face to the side, intense and glaring. Morton Feldman's score is haunting and sharp, and Robert Kleinendorst also has a solo that mesmerizes the viewers. Mr. Taylor and his team have added a serious, searing work to an eclectic repertoire, one that stands on its own. Esplanade (1975):
(See March 20, 2005 Review
). Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Violin Concerto in E Major, Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor
(Largo, Allegro), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by John Rawlings, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. After the previous work, this upbeat, joyful dance generates ebullience and extreme energy. Dancers run and slide along the floor, as if they are moving on batteries. It is incomprehensible that both male and female dancers are so athletically trained that this daring choreography takes off so effortlessly and elegantly. In orange and pink costumes (thanks to John Rawlings), Mr. Taylor uses the Bach Concertos to make his dancers soar.
This is modern dance with a classical feel, and the shifts in direction, circular dances, and spring-like, positive attitude transport the audience to a park or meadow, far beyond the City Center confines. Especially noteworthy were Lisa Viola, Richard Chen See, Michael Trusnovec (fresh from his lead in the previous work), and Parisa Khobdeh.
Paul Taylor Dance Company - Banquet of Vultures
Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia
Paul Taylor Dance Company - Esplanade
Photo © & courtesy of Lois Greenfield