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ORBS & Paul Taylor Dance Company

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Paul Taylor Dance Company

Ann Arbor, Michigan

(Performances at Power Center, Oct. 7, 8, 9)

Last Friday I saw the second scheduled performance of the PTDC

presented by the University of Michigan Musical Society. The performances

were part of a week's residency, which included the UM Dance Dept.

students learning (during the current term) Paul Taylor's Le Sacre de Printemps (The Rehearsal)

for a matinee family performance, as well as a lecture and a panel discussion,

and a master class taught by former PT dancer Dan Wagoner.

The Friday performance included Orbs (1966) and Also Playing (2009).

Before the performance was the panel discussion called Then and Now: Restaging/Reviving Paul Taylor.

The panel was led by Angela Kane (U-M Professor and Chair of Dance)

Clement Crisp (Dance Writer, Financial Times UK), John Tomlinson (Managing Director of PTDC),

Eileen Cropley and Dan Wagoner (former dancers of PTDC)

and Bettie de Jong (PTDC Rehearsal Director and former dancer).

Angela Kane is also on the staff of the PTDC as Company Historian.

The hour-long panel discussion was very interesting for explaining how the work which had been dormant for more than a decade (more later on this) was revived through the work of the three dancers who were in the original cast: Cropley, de Jong and Wagoner.

Paul Taylor only saw it for finishing touches.

Clement Crisp was on the panel because he saw (and found it a work of the first order)

in its initial appearance, so PTDC wanted to know whether the revival,

first seen last Friday, matched with his memories of the original.

Another interesting bit that came out of the panel discussion was when someone posed the question

about teaching Paul Taylor technique as a way of preserving

for the future the works on which it is based.

The response from the panelists was that there is no such thing as "Taylor technique" that can be taught in classes.

Mr. Taylor himself calls it a "style". Essentially the intensive classes feature the learning of blocs of choreography--

those who pick it up speedily and accurately have the 'technique' necessary for the job,

whether they come from a classical dance background or any other background.

In the UMS program I noted that on the page of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation, Inc.

under The Taylor School it states:"Taylor style and repertoire classes are held throughout the year,

taught by former and current Taylor Company members."

Orbs premiered in 1966 and was danced to Beethoven's Last Quartets,

Op. 127, 130, 133.

In Paul Taylor's autobiography he writes that Clive Barnes after opening night called it an "epic masterpiece".

After looking up as much as I could, I found out on the internet an article of Anna Kisselgoff (April 14, 1982)

which discusses the first revival of the work, whose subject was 'God and the universe' and the nature of humankind.

The ambitious work was for Kisselgoff…"one of those grand successful failures that any choreographer encounters in his career".

Kisselgoff's writes that in the climate of the 60s, the work initially was accused by some as being balletic,

when, actually, what it reflected, in her view, was Taylor's heritage from the Martha Graham texts (read Appalachian Spring).

So that brings me to the performance.

Beethoven's last quartets seemed to me the farthest possible stretch from musique dansante.

My concern, as I sat down for the performance, was that I would look and listen carefully

for any dance behavior that was not consonant with its musical partner.

I found none.

The dancers performing as the Sun, four planets and four moons were found in the environments of a

Venusian Spring, a Martian Summer, a Terrestrial Autumn and a Plutonian Winter.

And that included a rubber turkey used as a prop in the terrestrial environment during the Harvest Farce.

The work, close to an hour and a half, was absorbing, beautifully danced, and a worthy partner to its music.

Paul Taylor is a genius.

As Arlen Croce wrote of the work: "(like his Orbs, which made Beethoven quartets sound like Taylor music)".

Also Playing, of 2009, is danced to Donizetti overtures, and has fun with the mannerisms of ballet,

ethnic dancing, and the assorted goings-on of vaudevillians, to whom it is dedicated…

"especially those who went on no matter what".

Saturday night's program included the poignant Black Tuesday (2001),

the spine-chilling The Word (1998), and the moody Piazzola Caldera (1997).

The dancers, without exception, are top-notch.

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