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Paul Taylor on PBS

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Dale Brauner previews the upcoming Dance in America segment on Paul Taylor (with Black Tuesday and Promethean Fire)


Dance in America presents “Acts of Ardor: Two Dances by Paul Taylor,” on Wednesday, January 28 as part of Great Performances on PBS (check local listings) as its first performance presentation. This is a return byTaylor to Dance in America, which has broadcast some of his most celebrated works in Aureole, Esplanade, 3 Epitaphs, Arden Court, The Rite of Spring (The Rehearsal), Roses, Last Look, Speaking in Tongues, Company B, Funny Papers and A field of Grass.

Two of Taylor’s most recent creations, Black Tuesday and Promethean Fire, will be shown to a national audience. The program was recorded live in performance at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre last May. Matthew Diamond, involved in Dance in America productions From Broadway: Fosse and the Emmy-winning Le Corsaire with American Ballet Theatre, directed. The sets and costumes are by Santo Loquasto, while Jennifer Tipton designed the lightning.

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I saw most of it, and it was a real guessing game for my husband and me to figure out what it was. For anyone who also listens to Karl Haas' "Adventures in Good Listening" on classical music stations, you can appreciate the game of "Name That Company" that we played that night.

We tuned in probably half-way through "Black Tuesday" and the TV guide listings in our local paper were of no help. We first debated whether if it was a Broadway production because the staging was more commercial than your average ballet production.

Then we were thrown by the technical excellence of the dancers -- too strong for Broadway-style hoofers. So was it a classical company? (we live in the middle of the country, so we can't identify companies by their faces -- "oh yes, darling, of course that's Maria K, remember we saw her at Mimsy's cocktail party last weekend?").

So then we decided the dancers' builds and technique were simply too muscular for classical. So it had to be a top-notch contemporary company, and it had to be American, given the subject matter of the piece they were dancing (clearly something about life during the Great Depression).

Now we have seen Mark Morris enough times to know it wasn't his group (not enough rough edges to the choreography :wacko:). So I tossed out the only name I could think of and that was Paul Taylor. Ding, ding, it was a winner!

Aside from our pathetic Midwestern attempt there at cultural relevancy, we enjoyed the telecast greatly. And I liked Promethean Fire the best. The thing that can appeal to me most about modern are the interesting permutations of geometry you get with truly gifted choreographers. If classical tends most toward simple shapes and lines, then good modern (and in this respect I would include Balanchine) takes those shapes and sinuously explores all their possible arrangements -- but without losing sight of the human element underlying the geometry. Promethean Fire definitely did that. And the dancers' personal excellence only enhanced that. I'm often left wondering, after a lot of modern performances, if it wouldn't have been easier to understand what the choreographer was striving for, if the dancers had been better (harken over to my reaction to the Baryshnikov solo tour). Such a challenge for most modern companies!

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Thanks for this, chauffeur -- I love your thought processes!

I think you made some good points, too -- yes, choreography does look better with good dancers!

I couldn't see all of this -- I was working. But did make a point to catch Lisa Viola in "The Big Bad Wolf" As Dale has written, it was obvious to company watchers when ABT premierred this that she would do that role, and I wanted to see her in it. She was wonderful, I thought. It's hard to imagine her having a career in another company, and yet with Taylor, she's created dozens of roles in which she is absolutely unique.

Didn't anyone else see this?

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Yes! Came upon it just about the same as chauffeur did, but did know who the choreographer was right away. I think Taylor choreograpy has a very identifiable style which beautifully plays with the music, much like Balanchine. With Taylor you have to be ready for his humor which he frequently injects into many of his works. Loved the lift in Promethean Fire where the female wraps herself completely around the mail dancer's head and for just a few steps he walks with her in that position while he pantomimes feeling his way in a dark room. I have never seen his company perform, and do not know any dancers to watch, but regardless, it was a real treat.

I immediately called my DD who lives across the country, knowing she might be home and to see if it was being broadcast on her local PBS channel. We watched it together, via AT&T. We agreed we enjoyed both pieces, though didn't know the names of either one until reading this thread! Thanks for that information.

Isn't Paul Taylor's 50th Anniversary next year? If so, there should be something special being planned, no?

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On the Stars of the RDB in Newark thread (under Ballet Companies/European Ballet Companies/Royal Danish Ballet), there were some comments made about choreographer Rushton's use of Bach:

Leigh Witchell wrote

...if you're going to use Bach, please show me something about the music. If you're not going to delve into a Bach score, consider using other music. Bach ain't wallpaper.

and carbro replied

You're being generous, Leigh. I think Rushton used him as a doormat here.   :angry:

The one thing I did think of Promethean Fire was that its powerful imagery and the Bach score went hand in hand.

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