Paul Taylor Dance Company - Sunset, Dream Girls, Promethean Fire
-Onstage with the Dancers
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Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
Norton Belknap, President, Board of Directors
Bettie De Jong, Rehearsal Director
Wallace Chappell, Executive Director
John Tomlinson, General Manager
Jennifer Tipton, Principal Lighting Designer
Santo Loquasto, Principal Set and Costume Designer
Press, Jennifer Lerner
In Performances at City Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 11, 2004
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Sunset (1983): Music by Edward Elgar (Serenade for Strings and Elegy for Strings), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Alex Katz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Lisa Viola, Richard Chen See, Silvia Nevjinsky, Andy LeBeau, Michael Trusnovec, Annmaria Mazzini, Orion Duckstein, Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson, and Michelle Fleet.
With a very impressionistic set, resembling both the outline of trees and the outline of bodies, tiny, Pointillist leaves in blue-green, and with costumes that dress soldiers in red berets and beige army outfits and dress ladies in frilly, white dresses, Elgar's romantic and elevating music alternates with the eery cries of loons on a summer's night. Paul Taylor, as usual, rivets the audience here with every biologic sense on alert, as sunset turns to night, as joy turns to a dream of death, as strength is shifted from male to female, and as music turns from symphonic to nature, from harmony to simplicity.
The choreography consists of Mr. Taylor's oft-repeated motif of dancers climbing on one another, like walking on rocks or human stairways. At one point, the men shift in crouched position to keep extending this horizontal stairway, and it appears that they have bodies of steel. The leaps into partners' backs, necks, arms, and torsos are silently performed and lyrically expressed. Again, Jennifer Tipton has mastered the necessary lighting with precision timing, so that dusk turns to darkness, just as instrumental music turns to loon warbling, and then back to the Serenade and Elegy once again.
Dream Girls (2003): Music: Barbershop Quartet Songs sung by The Buffalo Bills, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. Paul Taylor has an infectious sense of humor, and this hilarious piece, set to songs, such as Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, Hard Hearted Hannah, and Toot Toot Tootsie has erotically charged and entertaining vignettes that have Lisa Viola kneeing the men or walking on men, as well as a coy fan dance with huge white feathers, and Andy LeBeau dancing in striped pants that have one leg as long as the stage. Santo Loquasto has created a large black drape against a bright orange backdrop, using a Western motif, replete with mustached barbershop singers and, in one song, Amy Young, drinking beer from barrels that perch atop her bobbling breasts.
Julie Tice dresses in a red, curly wig and thick padding everywhere to wobble through So High So Low So Wide. Dream Girls is like a silent film, with campy pathos, slapstick, and some of the most dynamic and daring dancing the Company has presented. Kudos to Santo Loquasto for set and costumes that set textures of black, gray, and white against the most blazing orange and silhouetted shadows the stage has seen.
Promethean Fire (2002): Music by J. S. Bach (Toccata & Fugue in D minor, Prelude in E flat minor, and Chorale Prelude BWV 680), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. Last year, on first viewing this piece, I was dazzled with the athleticism and power of the warmly lit bodies in black, velvet unitards, laced with glittering gold threads. This year, I was additionally dazzled with the choreographic creativity of a work that commemorates the cataclysmic events of September 11, 2001. I felt the energy of the Toccata & Fugue, Prelude, and Chorale, the resonant chords of the organ, and the hypnotic and mesmerizing intertwining of bodies onstage and mid-air. Lisa Viola's sudden leap onto Michael Trusnovec's waiting chest and arms caught me by surprise. This was a breathless moment for the audience, as well.
Paul Taylor Dance Company has never looked better and never been stronger. Mr. Taylor, for half a century, has provided the American dance community with some of the most splendid choreographic designs and inventions ever seen or experienced in any dance genre. Paul Taylor is a legend and a treasure. I look forward, already, to next Season's additional surprises. Kudos to Paul Taylor, Artistic Director, Choreographer, Teacher, and Master Dancer.
Paul Taylor Dance Company
in Promethean Fire
Photo by Paul B. Goode