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Wendy Goldberg
Performance Reviews
New York City Center
Paul Taylor Dance Company
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New York, NY

Paul Taylor Dance Company - Funny Papers, De Suenos (Of Dreams), De Suenos Que Se Repiten (Of Recurring Dreams)

by Wendy Goldberg
February 28, 2009
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019

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New York, NY 10012
212 431 5562

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The opening gambit of the Paul Taylor Dance Company was a light & lively concoction of seven comic strip quality pieces stitched together with black and white costumes, bold swaths of backdrop color, and funny tunes such as 'Alley-Oop', 'I'm Popeye the Sailor man', 'I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones'…etc.

'Alley Oop' exhibited some classic Paul Taylor moves with male and female dancers intertwined rolling on and off stage, slowly, like rag dolls. The men dragged the women (not by their hair, but by their feet, in sync to the strong beat of the music. After the light hearted 'Okeh Laughing Record' came 'I'm Popeye" with a glowing spinach green background, and six dancers rowing, and mock boxing behind a peppy Popeye, (sadly sans olive oil).

'I Like Bananas', with a purple splashed backdrop, showed the cast cavorting about doing the charleston, the five partners exhibiting vaudeville vigor. 'Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini' showed two women careening between flirty and shy in a mixture of dance and pantomime. 'I Am Woman' began with a strong female solo in front of a line of men, switching half way to a male trying to look strong in front of 5 women. Funny Papers ended with 'Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour', as a square dance spoof with the full cast kicking up its heels to the delight of the audience, which hooted and howled in merriment.

Funny Papers was choreographed by Sandra Stone, Mary Cochran, Hernando Cortez, David Grenke, Andrew Asnes, and Patrick Corbin, and quilted by the skillful hand of Paul Taylor. Costumes by Santo Loquasto added to the black and white newspaper comic motif, and the lighting by Jennifer Tipton focused our attention on the dancers' acrobatic skills.

Returning to our seats after intermission, the house lights darkened, the lush red curtain rose, and we caught our breath. Our attention was riveted on the lofty, luminous column of yellowish ivory light cast on a lonely young girl in white, hugging the glowing floor center stage, with only a basket of flowers between her and the vast, empty space.

A line of towering silver streamers sparkled in front of a river blue flowing backdrop, the river representing the seperation between life and death in ancient Mexican cuture. The classical violin music began, slowly, passionately, evolving gradually into a lively folk tune.

Thus the dream story began. The flower girl arises, filling the whole stage with her supple turns, and is quickly joined by two other girls in white who buy red flowers from her, (flowers symbolizing the soul, red the blood of the cruxifix) which they place in their hair…and off they spin into a Mexican flavored dance, spiced with undulating latin hips.

The lighting on the back scrim changes to orange as the three girls move upstage behind the shimmering streamers and a whole cast of fanciful creatures in stark silhouette (animal spirits) march in a slow procession from stage left to right. The flower girl, abandoned, leaves the stage, as a group of boisterous men in sombreros stomp on, accompanied by a transvestite with flaming red hair who they maliciously tease, taunt and torment. They all exit, quintessential Paul Taylor style, falling forward, pairs interlocked, rolling as if made of one body.

The backdrop begins to glow with an ominous black, red, and white cityscape riddled with skulls, conjuring the 'Day of the Dead' celebrations in Mexico City. In sharp contrast, a dazzling bejeweled creature of heavenly dimensions, a silvery sylvan of spirit flows onto the stage. So supple and smooth are her stretches and tip toe precision, that she seems to float on air. Her prescence radiates the cavernous stage with blinding beauty as she molds the floor and sculpts the air in a slow motion back bend. Her daring, effortless leaps carve the gleaming palpable space as if she is gliding in water. Dancer Laura Halzack is no less than iconic in this role.

In the netherworld between the silvery streamers and the backdrop, men in suits, girls in white, move grindingly slowly from stage left to right. Enter the devil in a leering white face holding a skull, as two couples in white dance, torn between the devil and the angelic creature. The sound cascades toward cacophony, with muttering, modern atonal repetition as the flower girl reenters, the Devil does cartwheels around her, and the Angel leaves. The music by Augustin Lara, Juan Garcia Esquivel, Osvaldo Golijov, B. Garcia de Jesus, J. Elizondo, Ariel Guzik and Chalino Sanchez creates a fourth expressive dimension for the dancers to explore.

A Stag in his prime takes the stage, dominating it completely. His animal alertness, quivering still readiness, darting, and gamboling movements are captured breathtakingly by dancer Michael Trusnovec. He doesn't symbolize a force of nature; he is a force of nature who holds the audience's attention entirely.

Sailors enter with a huge knife threatening the flower girl, who narrowly escapes to a cast of characters moving as if they were a carved carousel of people, and not horses. The angel reenters & she and the devil touch each other as they gaze upon the people in white whose movement morphs into a folk dance. The Dream sequence ends with the face of the devil stage left, one sole light on his leering white-face, in a sea of darkness.

The last performance of the evening, De Suenos Que Se Repiten (of Recurring Dreams), brings together elements of ancient Mexican Yaqui culture of the Sonaran desert bound with the conquerors' Jesuit spiritual teachings, interpreted by the master Paul Taylor. He weaves the dual story lines with the juxtaposition of ballet and modern dance.

The striking, evocative sets and sumptuous, theatrical costumes are by Santo Loquasto, and the liquid lighting by Jennifer Tipton make this recurring dream, startlingly vivid. The emotive music is by Ariel Guzik, Silvestre Revueltas, Margarita Lecuona, Robert Gomez Bolanos, and Severiano Briseno.

In ancient Mexican Yaqui tradition, our world, is really a dream. It started when the old man and woman were young, made passionate love, and created our universe. This world consists of four separate facets: animal, people, flowers (manifest the soul) and death. Four main characters dominate the final tour de force; the Stag, the young girl, the Angel, and Death.

The curtain rises on the leering white-face of the devil, knife poised menacingly in hand. The Stag enters backwards, followed by fauns consuming the space in a slow procession.

The black and gold backdrop with a huge, gruesome skull lit from behind is enhanced by the aztec motif costumes worn by the warriers who enter with jagged, wild, masculine moves, in tribal unison, with flexed feet, zig zagging around the stage.

The Angel enters amidst this threatening scene, lit by a golden light which flows down her golden, gem studded costume, like liquid lava. Her tremendous presence engulfs the entire foreboding space. A young girl in white, her neck bound in rope, is dragged in by the aztec warriors, to be sacrificed. They lift her high as the Devil slays her with his knife, and she falls, before they drag her out.

The Devil gives the aztecs a goblet from which they all drink, then lay supine on the floor, kicking their arms and legs in the air, like angry insects. The atonal music, dominated by percussive strings, accents the circular, passionate blood lust dance.

The Stag enters doing cartwheels, now poised, now quavering with hair trigger darting, leaping incredibly high unexpectedly, crouching with quick deftness, filling the whole stage with his being, searching, searching, until finally the Angel enters. They join arms, roll on top of each other, and intertwine rapturously. The love dances begin.

Two women in black enter with fans, doing a sumptuous rumbaesque dance, with elements of ballet, modern amd latin flavors. A man gives a woman a flower, which she places in her hair as they begin a tender duet. A strange cast of characters move from stage left to stage right, between the shimmering, golden streamers and the black/red backdrop. They move slowly, on their knees, a flat silhouette, like an Egyptian Frieze painting, relating the story.

The Angel lifts the Stag, then he lifts her, twirling her so the light reflected off her golden jeweled costume radiates in graceful arcs around the stage as they joyfully exit. A man and woman kiss, two fellows join and play at love, a man kisses a pregnant woman, her baby falls out, he stuffs it back in. The baby falls out again and he kicks it away as she chases him off. A man and two women roll over and under each other, then he lifts them carrying them off triumphantly.

The whole company, in white, burst onto stage as the music takes on a cariachi, folk rhythm and melody and they dance together, in a circle, with strong, high kicks. swift arm movements, coupling off, as the dark mood lifts and the plush red curtain came down.

The audience reacted instantly with cheers and as the dancers took their bows, the master himself, Paul Taylor joined them as the crowd stood for a standing ovation. The only complaint we heard when leaving was…we want more!
Laura Halzack in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's 'De Sueños'

Laura Halzack in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's "De Sueños"

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia

Michael Trusnovec in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's 'De Sueños'

Michael Trusnovec in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's "De Sueños"

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia

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