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Paul Taylor in NY


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 09:02 PM

PUPPET SHOWAnyone go yet?

Tobi Tobias writes about it in her Arts Journal blog:

Paul Taylor’s current two-week run at the City Center reveals the  company in splendid form, dancing as if an ardent, intensified study of echt Taylor style had reanimated it.  Old and recent masterworks—Aureole, Airs, Piazzolla Caldera, Promethean Fire—look reborn.  And you can spend an enchanted evening focusing on any one of three stellar women:  the veteran Silvia Nevjinsky, who has acquired a new softness, calm, and sculptural dimension; Annmaria Mazzini, who follows in the line of Ruth Andrien and Kate Johnson as the girl everyone adores; and Michelle Fleet, a more recent addition to the troupe, who is instantly recognizable as the Next Great Thing.  The fact that the two new choreographic offerings were non-events—flops, to put it bluntly—is almost beside the point.



#2 liebs

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Posted 05 March 2004 - 04:06 PM

I saw the program on Wednesday night, which included Airs, In the Beginning and Piazolla Caldera. It was the weakest program and performance that I have seen from the Taylor Company in many years.

In the Beginning, danced to Carmina Burana selections, (has there ever been a good dance work to this music?) was like a Sunday school or youth group pagent. A few jokey ideas and very few steps - Taylor at his worst. It is both a sophmoric and boring retelling of the Adam and Eve story.

Airs was weakly danced, I thought. I enjoyed Amy Young, she has a lovely upper body as well as great strength. But most of the cast looked merely dutiful. This is one of Taylor's older pieces and it looks tired. Maybe these dancers are just to far from the original impetus to give more than a dutiful performance.

The evening was saved by Piazolla Caldera. It was sexy and dark and danced with the total conviction we expect from Taylor's dancers. I particularly liked Michael Trusovic and Anne Marie Mazzini. I had seen excerpts from this on tape but never the whole piece. The falling down drunk duet is masterful. Prior to seeing this dance, I didn't understand why men thought stockings with garters were sexy but now I get it - the girls wearing them with the darkly flowered dresses are knockouts.

The other disappointment of the performance was that Patrick Corbin did not dance. I hope to see him in one of the other programs.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 05 March 2004 - 09:06 PM

In the Beginning had its premiere down here, Liebs, and I didn't think much of it either. I'd hoped that the Taylor Company might be able to make more of it (it was danced, very ably, by the Houston Ballet, but Taylor's own dancers might be more comfortable in his movement.)

There are reviews of the opening night gala, the opening night rep (the program lliebs is commenting on), and the second night's rep just up on Danceview Times. Click here for the front page; the links to the reviews are there.

http://www.danceviewtimes.com/

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 08 March 2004 - 09:48 PM

Reviews now up on DanceView Times of the first first four nights of the Taylor season. Mindy Aloff's Letter from New York next week will be devoted to Taylor, and there will be at least one other review in next week's edition.

For now:

The opening night gala:

Three Classics and a New Dance by Susan Reiter

Expectations are not the best baggage to bring into a theater. Ideally, one would come to Paul Taylor's newest work, Le Grand Puppetier, without them, and look at the dance solely for what it is. But there's a tempting trap of expectation—several layers of it—in this case. As with any new Taylor work, one brings the knowledge that this is one of the great contemporary choreographic masters, one who has given us an amazingly rich, diverse and enduring body of work. With each premiere, one wonders: will this be another one of those that surprise and amaze? He certainly did that with his 2002 masterpiece Promethean Fire (more on that shortly), but he has also produced recent works that are slight and unmemorable, such as Dreamgirls (2003). When his inspiration is operating at full tilt, he produces dances that grow in stature with repeated viewings and provide fascinating challenges to new interpreters. Others, particularly the jokey ones, are at best cute but ultimately thin, revealing no new or hidden depths with subsequent performances.


Gods and Demons by Leigh Witchel

To open their season proper, Paul Taylor's company performed one New York premiere along with tried and true dances from the repertory. The newest work may not last as long as its siblings.

In The Beginning was originally made for The Houston Ballet last year and is Taylor’s gloss on Genesis and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He’s dealt with the theme before in American Genesis (1973). I haven’t seen that work to compare it; the works that came to mind watching In The Beginning were his less subtle comedies such as The Sorceror’s Sofa (1989). Both are painted in broad brushstrokes; they’re amusing, but simplistic.


Gods and Puppets by Mary Cargill

Taylor’s typically well-balanced program combined light, darkness, and ambiguity. Mercuric Tidings was sprightly and joyful;Runes, dark and threatening; and Le Grand Puppetier, a premiere, was an ambitious—and not totally successful—examination of power.

Mercuric Tidings, set to (unfortunately) taped excerpts from the 1st and 2nd symphonies of Franz Schubert, is the Taylor people love, a deceptively simple romp through a gentle, attainable heaven. Beautiful dancers in raspberry leotards walk, run, and gamble to gentle, lilting music. Simple, yes, but at times profoundly moving; the possibility of a rich, pure beauty is exalting. Of course, even in Taylor’s heaven, there is no unalloyed joy, and the elegiac second movement had an outsider, Michelle Fleet. She was not deliberately or cruelly excluded, she just seemed to be wishing for something not quite there in that harmonious community.


Paul Taylor's [I]Sunset[/I] by Nancy Dalva

The performance I saw at City Center was the first for the current cast, and it was particularly plain spoken and clean. For example, a marvelous duet for two men, when danced formerly by old Taylor hands Patrick Corbin and Andrew Asnes, had an interesting element of soft shoe, swift and graceful. The current performers, Robert Kleinendorst and Andy LeBeau, are less Fred Astaire and Gene Kellyish, and more like, say, guys from a gas station engaged in a fast, clear, light-footed drill. Both ways of performing the piece work, but it was perhaps the very lack of personality in the current incarnation of Sunset that made its structure so clear and interesting.

For within that Alex Katz flat world with its close-up vanishing point, Taylor exercises a whole different three-point perspective–a moveable one, as if the dance is a series of paintings, seamlessly melded. This notion naturally leads one to the thought that the work is cinematic, but it really is not, because the camera ruthlessly chooses what you see. Rather, Taylor takes the auteur sensibility and works it out in the theater, guiding you to see what he wishes, when he wishes.



#5 Alexandra

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Posted 10 March 2004 - 08:22 PM

Eric Taub reviews Paul Taylor for ballet.co's magazine:

Mixed Bill: ‘Airs’, ‘In the Beginning’, ‘Piazzolla Caldera’

While watching Sylvia Nevjinsky dance the "priestess-odd-woman-out" stepping through a few pique arabesques (or what would be pique arabesques, had she been a ballet dancer) in the elegaic opening to Paul Taylor's always inspiring Airs on Sunday night, I couldn't help thinking back to the many Sleeping Beautys I'd just seen New York City Ballet perform (that's for another story). In the Rose Adagio, the ballerina strives to hold her balances on pointe as long as possible; here, in Taylor's world, the point of Nevjinsky's arabesques wasn't how long, or even if, she stayed up there, but how she moved through them: the arc she made through space as she moved up, over and down. I also repeatedly noticed the wealth of nuance in the dancing of Nevjinsky and the three couples in Airs, and realized that this was what I'd been missing in much of New York City Ballet's stagings of Balanchine: the sense that a work had been shaped by the guiding eye of its creator. In Airs, the dancers hopped, skipped, and jumped (especially the women!) with an organic consistency that made one of many, and made Airs' many beautiful (and witty) moments into a coherent expression of its creator's guiding intelligence.



#6 carbro

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Posted 10 March 2004 - 08:59 PM

In the Rose Adagio, the ballerina strives to hold her balances on pointe as long as possible; here, in Taylor's world, the point of Nevjinsky's arabesques wasn't how long, or even if, she stayed up there, but how she moved through them: the arc she made through space as she moved up, over and down.

And it would have been so had Balanchine choreographed the Rose Adagio. (Imagine that! :D ) Petipa's values, however, were different.

For all that Taub saw in this cast's rendering of "Airs," I still think it looks tepid in comparison with Taylor's original cast. No one since has given the scooping attitudes penchees the voluptuousness that Ruth Andrien gave them. On her, those phrases alone were a highlight of the Taylor oeuvre.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 10 March 2004 - 10:14 PM

Ah, Ruth Andrien. I think she's the most fearless dancer I've ever seen. The way she'd slam her body into the floor in Esplanade, and throw herself at her partner, trusting he'd catch her in mid-air. She and Carolyn Adams were two of my all-time favorite dancers, and it's still hard for me to watch anything they did done by someone else. Nicholas Gunn, Elie Chaib....... I became interested in dance the season Esplanade was new and the Taylor company came to Washington for a week every year, bringing three programs.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 11 March 2004 - 09:49 AM

Robert Greskovic reviewed the company in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. It's not available online except to paid subscribers, but here is his lead graph:

In an age when choreographers all too often set movements that meander athletically but emptily while some music selection serves as incidental background, Paul Taylor, who will mark his 50th anniversary as a dancemaker this year, can be forgiven for going to the opposite extreme: working almost too hard to choose and tie his music to specific theatrical ends. His two new dances this season have their carefully worked-out intentions written all over them. One, a world premiere called "Le Grand Puppetier," is a look at absolute power shaped into a puppet-and-puppeteer scheme animated by Stravinsky's "Petroushka." "In the Beginning," the other, is a pageant-like dance on the subject of the Book of Genesis, set to the music of Carl Orff, primarily "Carmina Burana."


and, after describing the new dances as well as the repertory classics, his final one:

In the end, Mr. Taylor's less than inspired newest dances can't really interrupt the momentum he's built over the past 50 years. His golden anniversary should inspire much talk of the gold he's mined in modern dance. In his catalog of more than a hundred works, the shining examples rule the day; by comparison, the misses merely prove that their creator is, after all, really only human.



#9 Herman Stevens

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 03:22 AM

Robert Gottlieb is rather ecstatic about this program in the Observer, too.

I wonder how it feels, if you're Annmarie Mazzini, and your name has become inextricably linked to the phrase "who everybody adores."

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 07:56 AM

I doubt that she'll sue :unsure:

#11 cargill

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 09:38 AM

This is off topic, I know, but I did want to respond to the idea that Petipa's Rose Adagio was there to show off how long a dancer could balance--it is my impression that the over-the-head balances were a 20th century invention. The Russians I know don't do them, just balance while moving the hand to the next suitor, so the piece is constantly moving.

#12 Juliet

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 02:35 PM

For all that Taub saw in this cast's rendering of "Airs," I still think it looks tepid in comparison with Taylor's original cast. No one since has given the scooping attitudes penchees the voluptuousness that Ruth Andrien gave them. On her, those phrases alone were a highlight of the Taylor oeuvre.

Very true. But a good many things look comparatively tepid, or gruesomely exaggerated, or completely WRONG---it depends on the dancer's talents, sensibilities and the coaching received.

I really, really enjoyed the review and wish, like Alexandra, that the company would come to Washington more frequently. I thought In The Beginning was rather negligible--what I took away was the Old Testament posturing--but others may like that sort of thing.

On Rose Adagio, I hesitate to open a can of worms, but I hold that the Russian artists I have seen, especially recently, hold every pose, exaggerate every arabesque, and do all manner of tricks. Petipa or no Petipa, it is all part of the milk the audience for all it's worth, penche as deeply as you can, pirouette three times as much as is called-for and "maybe they'll give us a job in Cirque de Soleil."
(No disrespect to C du S artists--I love them!) Elegance and artistry are being stuffed under the tutus in the packing trunks. I have no objection to the slightly faster tempi which are being used--there is a point in which "luxuriating in the artistic moment" topples over into "are they ever going to finish this variation?"
Perhaps the balances used to be used for effect, perhaps not, but I have seen Beautys recently in which they were not vehicles for tricks, and they were not danced by Russian dancers.

It's all in the coaching and the dancer, whether Paul Taylor or Balanchine, or Petipa.

#13 Manhattnik

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 03:05 PM

it is my impression that the over-the-head balances were a 20th century invention. The Russians I know don't do them, just balance while moving the hand to the next suitor, so the piece is constantly moving.


So are you saying the practice died out with the past century, or that you've been watching 19th century dancers?

I hear it's all that Foneteyn woman's fault...

#14 Alexandra

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 03:49 PM

No, she's saying they're a 20th century invention and that the choreography didn't include extended balances.

Edited by Alexandra, 12 March 2004 - 05:46 PM.


#15 atm711

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Posted 14 March 2004 - 10:30 AM

This die-hard ballet-goer finally got to a Taylor concert on Saturday---my first time, and I watched it through virgin eyes :rolleyes: 'Airs' is a wonderful work--so reminiscent of Balanchine at his best---my only reservation musically was his dance to the Handel Alcina music. It seems to me the music was only used as background, where the rest of the work was so exhiliaratingly set to the music. I also enjoyed 'In the Beginning', it reminded me of the wonderful little trifles that deMille and Tudor created for Ballet Theater (Tally-Ho, Judgement of Paris, etal). I was dreading the use of Orff's music, but Taylor mercifully did not use the more pulsating part of the score. While watching 'Piazzolla Caldera" I thought it was very 'sturm und Stroman'; but then I realized this was created two years before "Contact". :(


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