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Paul Taylor in Houston--Airs, Sunset, Esplanade

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Paul Taylor is a wonderful company, and its brilliant founder is still at the helm at age 83, which is remarkable. This was a program of two absolute classic Taylor ballets (Airs and Esplanade) and a fairly well-known and critically adored ballet (Sunset), so it was worth seeing just for the choreography. I had not seen Esplanade in ages, and the incredible jumps, slides, and falls of its last movement are even more mindboggling to me now.

Sadly, Mercury Baroque orchestra, which provided the live accompaniment, is both cliche-ridden and technically lacking (many wrong notes, much out of tune and utterly toneless playing, and the usual 'Baroque' mechanical sewing-machine approach to each and every piece, in addition to some egregious attempts at ornaments in the Bach two-violin concerto. An ensemble this small is also at a disadvantage in the Elgar Serenade for strings and Elegy for strings (the score for Sunset) even had the tone been acceptable.

The dancing however was an added bonus in most cases (the exception was Michelle Fleet, who did not need to be doing the large solos she was given if her dancing was going to be this much sloppier than the rest of the company's.) Eran Bugge is intrepid and superb both in fast footwork (her pas de deux in Airs) and in lifts and difficult aerial tricks (Sunset); she is also witty and funny, with great inflections of movement. Robert Kleinendorst, a company stalwart, was great in all three ballets, and Laura Halzack, who has a big, grand line and a velvety quality of movement, was especially magnificent in the final solo-with-company of Airs; I also liked the dancing of George Smallwood in Esplanade.

The hero of the evening, as he so often is, was Michael Trusnovec, the senior member of the company. Trusnovec is of such chiselled blond perfection physically that one would be content to look at him by the hour if he were only an average dancer; instead, he is an artist who speaks through every movement, who lands jumps more lightly than most ballet premier danseurs, and who has a tensile strength and stretch like the two great dancers Chris Komar of Cunningham's sadly defunct company and Bart Cook of the New York City Ballet. This dancer conveys more in a lounging pose (at the beginning of Sunset) than many dancers do in an entire full-length starring role. Trusnovec made the evening magnificent all by himself; fortunately almost everyone in the company was nearly at his Olympian level too.

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