Paul Taylor in NY
Posted 14 March 2004 - 10:40 AM
Posted 20 March 2004 - 12:02 PM
Well, let me come right out with it. After having been enthralled by my first look at the Paul Taylor Dance Company this season, which I wrote up rather glowingly here a week or so ago, the company's second and third programs revealed some loose seams which had previously escaped my notice. While Taylor's new In the Beginning (covered in my last review) is a serviceable trifle, his other new work, Le Grand Puppetier, is the greatest disappointment I can remember from Taylor since his 1977 "dream" collaboration with the brilliant and much-missed playwright, Charles Ludlam, on what turned out to be a mess called Aphrodesiamania, of which the less said, the better. While you certainly can't expect even a genius like Taylor to create masterpieces every year (I'm perfectly happy to cut him plenty of slack after his chilling Promethean Fire from 2002), you can expect to see his works performed up to a certain standard, and it was depressing to see this group, particularly the men, struggle through the difficult and showy Mercuric Tidings.
Posted 21 March 2004 - 05:04 PM
I saw each of the programs, including opening night, but sat out "Dreamgirls," which to me embodies a meanness atypical of Paul Taylor's usual humane, affectionate regard for humanity. I would have to see "In The Beginning" again to do it justice, but like many other observers, it looked to me like things Taylor has done previously and better.
Overall, though, I was moved by this season's strong relevance to the Real World that fills our daily newspapers and newscasts. "Promethean Fire" implicity but precisely alludes to what we now (regrettably) call 9/11, despite the choreographer's disclaimers. During the first movement, the company sometimes forms tableaux of two symmetrical groups, one on each side of the stage. Sometimes the ensemble was divided by sex, sometimes it was divided into two groups of couples. And there is the chilling moment when AnnMaria Mazzini is carried across the stage, her body parallel to the floor, her arms extended into "airplane" position. The movement ends with each dancer slowly falling limp into a pile. From this mass of stillness, Michael Trusnovic slowly rises, then touches Lisa Viola's arm. Viola unsurely uprights herself, and thus begins the central duet, which depicts yearning, rage, uncertainty, and great tenderness. And finally, the company reassembles in one of Taylor's most affirmative expressions. Throughout, the audience was completely silent, except for one collective gasp when Viola, flying across the stage with great velocity, suddenly fouettes in mid-air before Trusnovic catches her.
"Le Grand Puppetier" fell together on second viewing in ways that it didn't on Opening Night. I would summarize the action this way: Tyrant (puppetier) rules the lives of his little group, arranging a husband (who clearly loves someone else) for his daughter (who also clearly loves someone else), and keeping Patrick Corbin (the Petrouchka figure) as a leashed slave. When Corbin's character breaks free and gains the baton (playing a scepter?) from the Puppetier, the other characters rejoice in their newfound freedom. In the midst of the carefree celebrations, Corbin drops the baton, which the now enslaved Puppetier regains, and the members of the community lose their freedoms. I took this to be a cautionary message to a society that is now losing many of its freedoms and in immediate danger of losing more. To see what (I think) Taylor was getting at, I had to disregard the silly tone of "Puppetier" and abandon efforts to relate it to Petrouchka, despite the undeniable similarities.
"Sunset," with its uniformed men (and beautifully danced), also recalled current events. Perhaps the cast, too, was mindful of our deployed troops, and that is why the dance seemed to have more than its usual importance and feeling. Watching the powerfully rendered grieving rituals of "Runes" the day after the Madrid bombings left no doubt as to why its impact was especially poignant, and why the season as a whole seemed loaded with profound emotion and importance.
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