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Paul Taylor - Program A

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Last night, I saw the Taylor Company in a program, which included Cascade, Last Look and the NYC premiere of Dream Girls. All three pieces fall into well defined Taylor genres but for me only two of the three were successful. The company all danced very well but most of the woman are a bit bland.

Cascade is another of Taylor's pure dance pieces to baroque music like Airs and Arden Court. Cascade uses Bach concertos for piano and orchestra and much of the music is very familiar. This is a lovely piece but not as special as Arden Court, which highlighted the virile dancing of the company's men or Airs, in which the duets have always seemed to me to be profound expressions of love. Taylor doesn't develop any new vocabulary in this piece or even, I think extend any of the dancers' personal gifts. There is a solo for Lisa Viola, which she dances well but blandly. I know she is one of the company's senior dancers and Taylor clearly likes her but she's always left me cold. Viola is small with a large head and a short neck, maybe it is her proportions that spoil the look of her line for me. Patrick Corbin and Kristi Egvedt had a nice duet and he continues to be Taylor's finest dancer. All the men looked strong and less muscle bound and more fleet than in previous years.

Last Look (1985)is, for me, Taylor's darkest piece. Even darker than Speaking in Tongues, which at least shows a community. In Last Look, they are all strangers. Having been left cold by Viola's solo in Cascade, I was surprised and delighted by the terrific impact of her solo in Last Look. She's not just running from and fighting against some outside horror but also something ugly within herself. Viola's passion and anguish in this solo moved me tremendously. Michael Trusnovec (the red head) and Egvedt dance the simlutaneously solos on opposite sides of a mirrored panel. I had noticed Trusnovec last season but was not expecting the great growth in his performing abilities that I saw last night. He appeared in all three pieces and was terrific and different in each one. In Last Look, he was an all America boy monster, some one like Ted Bundy, twisting his body into the grotesque shapes the choreography requires sometimes seeming almost inhuman. The scene I always think of as gang rape was as frightening as ever.

Dream Girls belongs to the Taylor genre of antic Americana,which includes a piece set to a score of music box music, which I saw last season and didn't really enjoy. Dream Girls is set to the Buffalo Bills, a barber shop quartet, singing classic or novel America songs like Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye. The women all appeared to be padded in the breats and hips under their costumes of corsets and turn of the century underwear. In one piece, Julie Tice even appears in a fat suit. I'm not sure what the tone of this piece is supposed to be and with the exception of a tour de force solo for Corbin to Sam You Made the Pants Too Long the choreography isn't very interesting. Corbin's solo is a quirky number based on a costume with one enormously long pants leg. Corbin slides on it, dances with it, jumps rope, etc with great charm, innocence and bravura. A little bit of barber shop singing goes a long way for me and so does Taylor's rather curdled humor.

One last observation. At least in mezzanine where I was sitting, the audience was sparse and the response was tepid. More importantly, the audience was old, largely 60s and 70s. It make sense that Taylor's audience would age with him but if I were managing the company, I'd be worried about who will be attending in the next ten or fifteen years.

I'm going again to final performance of the run and looking forward to it.

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Thanks for that, liebs. I love the "antic Americana" genre description!

Twenty-five years ago, down here, the young modern dance choreographers all wanted to be either Paul Taylor or Laura Dean. They'd be in their 40s now, and I don't see them at Taylor performances either. In Washington, the company appears on a subscripton series (and it's not scheduled for next year), so we have a more mixed-age audience. But among young modern dancers and dance choreographers I've talked to, he's considered a dinosaur -- not a master from whom they can learn.

I hope others will be going and we'll have more reports of this and subsequent programs!

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I sat in the back of the orchestra, where a couple of rows were mostly populated by young people -- in their late teens or early twenties, I'd say -- who appeared to be members of a group. Though they were quiet and well-behaved, they were noticeable because most of the Taylor audience is indeed graying. (Not me; I've been bald for years.) Anyhow, the young folks' reactions to what they saw were pretty uniform -- they applauded all three works with the same degree of modest enthusiasm. None of them laughed at anything in Dream Girls, nor did anyone seem in the least disturbed by the horrors of Last Look. However, one young woman rose to give Mr. Taylor a solitary standing ovation at the end.

I generally agree with liebs about Program A, but found Dream Girls quite amusing. I don't know anything about The Buffalo Bills (neither the football team nor the quartet), but it struck me that these songs are not exactly typical of the barbershop quartet repertory, certainly not "Hard-Hearted Hannah" or "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long." In the latter, Patrick Corbin was hilarious in an old-fashioned vaudeville way. The last song in the piece, "Now The Day Is Over," was a puzzling choice to end what was essentially a knockabout comedy -- with everyone gone suddenly prayerful. Nice, though.

I agree that Cascade is not among the best of Taylor's "pure dance" works, and, in fact, becomes a little tedious. Last Look is shattering, unsparing in its darkness, and a great work.

I know someone who feels about Lisa Viola as liebs does. But I like her a lot.

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I went to the opening night. Patrick Corbin danced the leads in all three pieces. I don't know how he does it.

I'm sorry they won't be doing A Field of Grass again during the run. Patrick Corbin's opening solo, smoking something which I imagine isn't meant to represent a cigarette (see the title), well, was just one of the most gorgeous things I've seen in years, evoking what was a very special time for me, those pre-Oil Embargo, pre-disco days of the early Seventies when it really did seem that anything at all was possible, especially if you did remember to inhale.

It's typical of Taylor's bright/dark dichotomy that near the rousing finale of Grass he has Corbin mime, ever so briefly, having a really bad trip, man.

I'm looking forward to Snow White, one of Taylor's cute/nasty specials (although nothing can top Big Bertha in this vein). And Esplanade, well, sometimes one's cup runs over.

It is really scary to think that Taylor's demographics are following those of NYCB's. Perhaps we're not interested in choreographic genius anymore; perhaps we don't deserve it.

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