Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance
David H. Koch Theater
March 20, 2015
Artistic Director, Paul Taylor
Music Director, Donald York
Featuring the Paul Taylor Dance Company
Although the three works, Rite of Spring, Company B and Piazzolla Caldera that made up the evening are very different in style and tone, they are equally compelling.
Rite of Spring, set to music by Igor Stravinsky, specifically a four-hand piano version recorded by Fazil Say, is a series of dramatic patterns beginning with toe rises that move into spirals and twists. There is a lot of running with dancers’ arms and legs pumping purposefully as they charge across the floor. The costumes, mostly gray, black and white with a few notes of blue, each display a diagonal printed slash that echoes the dancers’ movements. Some of the twists and leaps recall martial arts; the entire piece is incredibly intense, almost to the point where it becomes hard to process, right before it ends.
Company B brings nine songs sung by the fabulous Andrews Sisters in an evocation of the 1940s. The dancers wear pale tones—khaki, gray and white—complemented by thin red belts on men and women and a note of red ribbon in each woman’s hair. They dance in pairs and groups with a few solos as in Tico Tico. The dancers sway and party sometimes in a jitterbug, at other time launching into jumps that end as rolls on the floor. There is a fair amount of humor and a vigorous solo in Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! while There Will Never Be Another You is pure romance, ending as the men leave the stage in silhouette, each with a knee raised in a long pause. It’s American idealism realized in dance and song.
The final piece, Piazzolla Caldera, with music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky, has sets and costumes by Sandro Loquasto and lighting by Jennifer Tipton featuring hanging lamps that sway, adding to the sensuality. The red-and-black tango setting is enhanced by the dark red glow the dancers move in. Men and women are separate at the start but as the piece moves forward there are couplings. It’s the tango, sort of, with its traditions of both man-woman and same sex attachments. There are lots of spirals and interesting exits and entrances–the tango distilled with the gloss of modern dance. After a lot of hip swiveling along with leaps and some dazzling male acrobatics, the closing is stark as one dancer standing in front of the group sinks slowly to the floor. Piazzolla Caldera, (caldera loosely translates as “cauldron), first performed in 1997, has a program note by Pablo Neruda alluding to “the flawed confusion of human beings….as impure as old clothes, as a body with its food stains and its shame.” This didn’t make much sense to me but the animalistic ardor on view certainly did.