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Paul Taylor - Airs, In The Beginning, Piazzolla Caldera

by Robert Abrams
March 9, 2004
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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Paul Taylor - Airs, In The Beginning, Piazzolla Caldera

presented at
City Center
New York, NY

(See Other Taylor Reviews)

Robert Abrams
March 9, 2004

Airs is a modern dance in the form of a Greek vase painting. The dancers have chiseled bodies and present strong geometric forms. The movement was crisp. Oftentimes, one move rapidly flowed into another. The sections of this extended work were at times graceful in a balletic mode or snappy in a folkloric mode. Throughout the work there was much jumping and leaping for joy.

In The Beginning is a reenactment of the biblical creation story. It is also a progression of emotional states. I think it works better when looked at through a personal lens, rather than the epic lens one is almost expected to adopt for a work on this theme. A reading of the program suggests that Mr. Taylor was trying for a literal narrative. Sometimes the exact narrative meaning was not clear, but it didn't really matter because when the story wasn't clear, the dancing felt like a portrayal of the random tribulations of life, which is, perhaps, what the creation story is when seen on a personal level. The way the dancers enacted Eve's pregnancy was rather humorous.

Piazzolla Caldera starts with two gender-segregated oppositional groups set in strong red lighting. This set the mood well. This passionate mood was carried through the whole work with variations. The movements felt like Tango even when they were not Tango, which was most of the time. The dance interpretation was flowing yet angular. While Piazzolla Caldera is very different in its dance style compared to Airs in an important sense they are very similar. Both are strong tone poems that through movement express the music to which they are set. All three works draw from the same movement vocabulary. For instance, both In The Beginning and Piazzolla Caldera make use of a leap performed by the ensemble moving in a large circle where the legs and torso compress into a sideways, forward facing V. In a latter section of the work, the lighting literally joined the movement as the set of about ten hanging lamps began to sway. Normally Jennifer Tipton's lighting designs create a strong frame; here the lights were a strong performer as well, complementing two dancers portraying a 4 am post-milonga torpor, clasping each other upside down at the waist and rolling across the stage in a two-person cartwheel. Overall, I thought Piazzolla Caldera was an excellent modern dance expression of Tango music that stayed true to Tango's feel, even if it used very little actual lead and follow Tango. Assuming that was Mr. Taylor's goal, I have only one criticism. There is one passage where the dancers move in promenade using hyper-extended straight arm styling. To the best of my knowledge, this arm styling was developed by Groucho Marx as a parody of Tango done badly. It is generally frowned upon in Argentine Tango (and American Tango and International Tango as well). Unless this arm styling is in Piazzolla Caldera to make a specific statement, I would soften it a little. It is true that this arm styling is what many people think Tango is supposed to look like, but a company of Paul Taylor's high caliber shouldn't be encouraging such bad habits. Other than this one issue that takes up maybe 15 seconds, Piazzolla Caldera is an impressive and exciting work that anyone interested in either Modern dance or Tango should not miss.

All three works tonight were very well danced. Once again Paul Taylor demonstrated that he is adept at choreographing with a wide range of dance styles and to a wide range of music.

I attended this performance with the New York City Ballet's Society in C, NYCB's group for young dance enthusiasts who want to be patrons of the arts on a budget. Society in C joined Design Watch, a program of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, who teamed up with Paul Taylor through their mutual Jennifer Tipton connection. Dance is a collaborative art form, and supporting dance is a collaborative effort as well.

Paul Taylor Dance Company - Airs
Photo courtesy of Paul Goode

Paul Taylor Dance Company - In The Beginning
Photo courtesy of Paul Goode

Paul Taylor Dance Company - Piazzolla Caldera
Photo courtesy of Paul Goode

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