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Paul Taylor New York season

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The Paul Taylor Dance Company has set the repertory for its spring season (March 4 - 16, 2003) at City Center on 55th Street. The company will offer six performances of "Promethean Fire," the piece set to Bach that won accolades at this summer's American Dance Festival, as well as five performances of "New Work (World Premier)." Details to come.

There will also be five performances of last year's Great Depression pageant, "Black Thursday," (set to popular music of the 1930's), plus recent hits like "Cascade" (1999, Bach) and "Offenbach Overtures" (1995, Offenbach - who else?).

Revivals will include 1983's "Snow White," a whimsical piece to a commissioned score by Donald York, and 1977's "Images," a haunting essay on Debussy.

Finally, there are two of Taylor's breathtaking masterpieces: the apocalyptic "Last Look" (1985, Donald York), which George W. Bush and John Ashcroft should be compelled to see, and the exultant "Esplanade" (1975, Bach again), which has won Taylor several million fans.

Further info at http://www.paultaylor.org or http://www.citycenter.org. If you want to order tickets, there are many different plans, involving both discounts and surcharges. At this point, call (212) 581-1212 for all the details.

Tickets are available now, though a block has been set aside for Taylor supporters. Discounts for buying multiple performances are available by phone or mail, BUT NOT ONLINE.


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Snow White! It was just so funny.Elie Chaib was the most marvelously ridiculous prince/queen. And oh, the the seven dwarfs. Except there were five of them. So adorable. Who were they?Chris Gillis. Ken Tosti. Dave Parsons. Danny Ezralow.... ?Does anyone remember the first cast??? Was Cathy McCann Show White?Must check program, which would first have to find....Now, if only we could have live music, and also, please, revive Diggity.... Thanks for this post. It's improved everything in life, just thinking about it, and I have gone and found a 1988 program. Wow. Nightshade with Elie Chaib, Kate Johnson, Mary Cocharan, Karla Wolfwang.e, Chris Gillis, Ken Tosti, Raymond Kurshal, Linda Kent, and Cathy McCann. Hernando Cortez was in the company the, and Joan Mauricio, Susan McGuire, Francie Huber, Jeff Wadlington...Heavens, I'd almost forgotton how wonderful that decade was. I think the 1980s was a golden age in modern dance, now that I contemplate it. Not that now isn't fabulous. I'll take now. But I am glad I had then.

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Nanatchka --

I hear you and share your memories.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges facing the Taylor company is how to preserve the vast Taylor oeuvre with a relatively small company. The creation of Taylor 2, a smaller secondary company devoted to repertory, is part of the process, as is recording many works on VCR.

Part of the process is, alas, dispensing with live music. As a "Friend of Paul Taylor," I've asked for more live music, but the fund-raisers invoke "prohibative costs." Mark Morris manages to find live performers for all of his performances, but this seems to be beyond the Taylor folk, since so many repertory pieces require a full orchestra.

Like you, I've found that works absent from the Taylor repertory for several years take on provocative new life when re-staged with completely different casts. To my knowledge, no one involved in the original productions of Snow White, Last Look, or Esplanade is still dancing with the company (though Carolyn Adams, Susannah York, and others show up at rehearsals to coach the new dancers), so we are likely to see a bracing re-imagining of these works.

Seeking to replace a single dancer -- say Carolyn Adams in Nightshade -- has proved so difficult that I'm glad to see Paul waiting to hold a re-staging until he can start over with an entirely new cast. The current dancers are dazzling and deserve both challenging roles and rave reviews of their own. I look forward to the spring season which (as usual) includes my birthday. I always know I'll get a treat.

-- MN

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Originally posted by Morris Neighbor

[To my knowledge, no one involved in the original productions of Snow White, Last Look, or Esplanade is still dancing with the company (though Carolyn Adams, Susannah York, and others show up at rehearsals to coach the new dancers), so we are likely to see a bracing re-imagining of these works.

I hope not! I don't want to see a bracing re-imagining, thank you. I think PT imagined them perfectly the first time. The person who is still there from their beginnings, besides PT, would be Bettie de Jong, who was in Esplanade, by the way. (And no, she is not still dancing, I know.)Her superlative authority will do doubt inform the revivals, though of course it would also be lovely for everyone if former dancers coached. There are later good casts, too...none of these pieces has been in mothballs that long. About the music. I wasn't faulting the company or its supporters, I was just being wishful. If I win the lottery, my first move will be to underwrite an orchestra for Taylor's New York seasons. (Except for his fab dances to pop records, like Company B, et. al. ) Or maybe all his seasons. To quote the score of Company B: "I can dream, can't I?"

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"Snow White" was never one of my favorites, but I wouldn't want it re-imagined, either. MY perfect Paul Taylor Company was the original cast of "Esplanade," that era. I always wince when I see anyone else do a part that Carolyn Adams, Nicholas Gunn, or Ruth Andrien originated. Watching "Esplanade" from year to year since its first season has been instructive -- it's changed completely, in both allocation of roles (minor) and atmosphere and spirit (major). The anger is gone, the roughness is gone. It changed a bit as each dancer left, and then it became something else entirely. No dancer can be a copy of the one before, etc etc etc, and dances change, etc etc etc, but I'll take the '70s for this company. :)

In the '70s and '80s, too, dancers stayed with Taylor for a long time -- some their whole careers. Now many are there for a year or two and the constant turnover is jarring. The last time they were down here, the company looked quite green.

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It's always difficult to adjust to cast changes in favorite works, especially with a small company of unique dancers, like PTDC. Like you, I have especially fond memories of the company of the mid-70s, when I first began to follow it closely. I even got to see one of Taylor's last peformances, in the evening-length American Genesis on Broadway. Appropriately enough, he played both God and the devil.

Some of the departures, of course, were involuntary. Robert Kahn, a leading dancer of that era, was told to stop by his doctor, since the physical demands of the Taylor repertory (e.g., the Cloven Kingdom quintet, of which Kahn was an original member) was doing serious damage to his back. Then there were the victims of AIDS, most egregiously Christopher Gillis. And from the film Dancemaker, I get the impression that Taylor is perceived as less than a benevolent presence by his dancers. He wants to keep them on edge for the best of reasons -- if they get complacent, their performances can get lazy. But firing dancers on what seems to be a whim, or watching promising talents leave in search of "safer" alternatives, is a cost entailed in the process.

That said, it's worth noting that some stability has returned in recent years. Looking at my program from March, 2002, I note that nine of 16 company members had been there for at least five years; counting time in Taylor 2, 11 of the 16 had this extended exposure to Taylor's work. The two senior dancers (Patrick Corbin and Lisa Viola) have been with him for more than a decade. I lack the energy to track down all my old programs, but I believe this is the largest group of relative "veterans" since the late '80s. Let's hope a new period of stability is with us, since Corbin and Viola just keep getting better, as do dancers like Richard Chen See and Silvia Nevjinsky, who were quite spectacular last spring.

And a note to Ninotchka: I regret overlooking Bettie de Jong, perhaps because (influenced by Taylor's memoir, Private Domain) I see her as PT's alter ego. Her title is "Rehearsal Director," but she actually runs the company on a day-to-day basis. She's kept the repertory in shape year-in and year-out. I've been to a few open rehearsals, and she's the one who goes on stage with a legal-pad full of notes every time. No detail escapes her eye, so every detail is right in the performance. I admired her work on stage and I admire her work behind the scenes even more.

When it comes to the impact of changing casts, I remember a seminar I attended many years ago with Alexandra Danilova. Offered the possibility of asking a question, I pointed to the difference between stars of her era -- known for their charisma, wit, and gift for intepretation -- and today's dancers, with their prodigious technical skills, and asked how she felt this change affected the dance. My response was an elaborate Russian shrug: "The girls today, they can do things I never imagined possible. If we do not PRO-gress, we RETRO-gress."

It's difficult, to be sure, but I try to follow this advice and not spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror.

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A belated comment on the Danilova quote, which is raised here often. It's the kind of comment that can be expected when a dancer/teacher/ballet mistress is asked a question like that in a public forum. Danilova dealt with the question of her difficulties with the then-current generation of students in other interviews.

And isn't looking in the rear view mirror what a historical consciousness does? Otherwise, one propounds the notion that anything that happened before *I* entered the scene is unimportant or should be disregarded. I also think there's a difference between "I really liked that dancer so I can't watch anyone else in the role" (not that I'm dismissing that) and the idea that the very nature and character of a work changes with different casts. Sorting out those differences is, for me and many others, part of the fun not only of performance comparison but of the ever-fascinating question of "what is the work?"

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THis is quoted with permission from the author and the publisher. and is copyrighted material. It appeared in Dance Ink, Summer 1996. The author notes that the last line is a play on the famous Arlene Croce statment, "The arabesque is real. The leg is not."

....Any dance truly worth seeing once is worth seeing again. And again. Night after night, season after season, if you can manage it. Until somewhere, somehow, a platonic version of the dance emerges from its various performances, and you have a sense of it in the true abstract, between its performances and apart from the dancers. Until you feel, for instance, the "Localeness" of Locale, and its green world, the sunshine of Aureole, the moonlight of Serenade. Until you know the dance well enough to see not just what is danced, but how....The first time you see Esplanade, you fall in love. The second time you see it, it looks the same, but different. A different phrase draws you in; a different correspondence sets itself up--variations inspired by your own caprice, or by a capricious dancer. The premise (and promise) of variability is indeed what makes live performance so thrilling and so heartbreaking. You love something, and it's gone, and you'll never see it quite that way again. But just like any life experience, your experience of the performance is there for you to call on--or to reassert itself seemingly of its own will. By an enormous and deliberate act of concentration, we may try to shut out the past and see something "fresh;" yet this is only hocus-pocus. Each Esplanade is all our Esplanades....Through the vagaries of casting, you discover what is always in a dance and what is put there by particular dancers. You see, for example, that the unbearably beautiful way that Kate Johnson kicked her feet up out of her long white skirt when David Parsons lifted her in Roses was unique to her. Cathy McCann never did it. And whoever Paul Taylor puts in that role next will wear that skirt in her own way. The lift stays the same. The legs change.

copyright Nancy Dalva 1996

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Thank you, Nanatchka, for the post, and thank you, Nancy Davla, for so exquisitely capturing the agony and the ecstasy of the balletomane.

At the same time, my pedantic soul must point out that "the moonlight of Serenade" is a relatively modern addition to a ballet created in 1934 and originally performed in white "Greek" tunics. The moody lighting was first seen in 1948, the clouds of blue tulle in 1953 (I rely on Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review). In other words, Balanchine conceived this as an abstract piece -- Agon with a more accessible score -- but created, in both cases, a work of haunting and universal impact, no matter how many casts may dance it.

So I will, inevitably, compare new casts with favorite casts, until I reach what a philosophy professor called the "Ding an Sich" -- the essence itself. But I don't take a German dictionary to the theatre!

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