Paul Taylor Dance Company
551 Grand Street
New York, NY, 10002
(Taylor Dance Company Website)
Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
And Chairman Board of Trustees
Robert E. Aberlin, President, Board of Trustees
Bettie de Jong, Rehearsal Director
Martin I Kagin, Executive Director
John Tomlinson, General Manager
Jennifer Tipton, Principal Lighting Designer
Santo Loquasto, Principal Set and Costume Designer
Press, Lisa Labrado, MWW Group
Michael Trusnovec, Annmaria Mazzini, Orion Duckstein,
Amy Young, Robert Kleinendorst, Julie Tice, James Samson,
Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Patrick Mahoney,
Jeffrey Smith, Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack,
Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Apuzzo,
In Performances at City Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 14, 2009
(See Other Taylor Company Reviews)
Years ago, Paul Taylor danced with my Modern Dance Master Class at Skidmore College. For many years, I have been part of Mr. Taylor’s devoted audience and have seen him as an inspiring dancer and as a creative choreographer. Mr. Taylor has been one of my long-time heroes of the Arts. He always sits in the audience, watching his Company perform. And, he always stands onstage, as did his mentor, Martha Graham, to accept accolades, after the final curtain. Mr. Taylor obviously delights in the success of his Company and loyal advisors, and, in fact, Ms. Bettie De Jong, whom I had seen as one of Mr. Taylor’s original soloists and as his dance partner, has been with the Taylor Company for over 40 years and is currently his Rehearsal Director.
Paul Taylor grew up near Washington, DC and studied dance at Juilliard. He first presented his own company and original choreography in 1954. For seven years, he was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company and continued to create dances for his own company. In 1959 he was a Guest Artist and danced with the New York City Ballet, and, since 1975, he has concentrated on his choreography. Mr. Taylor has won dozens of awards, such as the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1993, a 1992 Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues, and a 1992 Kennedy Center Honor. He was elected to Knighthood by the French Government and in 2000 was awarded Legion d’Honneur for contributions to French culture. (Program Notes). He has received numerous honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from prestigious colleges, including Skidmore, where I first met him, many years ago. The Paul Taylor Dance Company is a sought after troupe and tours extensively around the globe. Visit www.paultaylor.org for the latest tour dates.
Danbury Mix (1988): Music by Charles Ives (Excerpts from Orchestral Set No. 2, Three Places in New England, and Circus Band March), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Set by David Gropman, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. This very dark, provocative 21 year-old work, showcases the irony of apple pie-America. Danbury CT, where Ives lived, inspired this work about New England and its layers of not such iconic Americana, or, perhaps, Americana in its true character. I grew up in a New England town, myself, and I appreciated this multi-dimensional presentation of the land of the free and brave. Black-white American flags add to Ives’ atonal mix of patriotic songs, and I noted a “Petrouchka” quality to “Circus Band March”. There are quotes from previous Taylor works, and I thought of Big Bertha, which also revealed the darker side of Americana. Laura Halzack, as a crowned Miss Liberty, is striking in a black-white dress and silver culottes, while the other thirteen dancers appear totally in black. In fact, the entire stage and backdrop are black, and silhouetted characters (thanks to Jennifer Tipton) add to the surreal quality of the oeuvre.
There are casual marches, à la American parades, bare-chested male dancers, and contrasting bright-muted lighting effects. The traditional red-white-blue flags are here red-white, or white, or white-black. The disturbing edge of this work, in sound, light, visuals, and choreography (slow-rapid-still-pulsating), adds to the disturbing music of Ives’ Americana, and thus Taylor’s intent, in particular. Taylor loves to provoke the viewer, to infuse his work with sociological import, and that plan totally succeeds here. Orion Duckstein and Annmaria Mazzini caught my eye, as they were featured in this dissonant drama. Danbury Mix is a work to explore often.
Changes (NY Premiere): Songs Sung by The Mamas and The Papas, Music by John Phillips, John Lennon/Paul McCartney, and John Hartford, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. After Ives, The Mamas and The Papas were a welcome contrast. On this second viewing, I was drawn to Jennifer Tipton’s row of colorful stage lights, Santo Loquasto’s sixties trendy jeans, Annmaria Mazzini’s muscularity in torso-gesture and loose, confident motion (California Earthquake), and the virtuosity of the entire cast in the first song, Straight Shooter. Although James Samson and Francisco Graciano are fully at ease in Dancing Bear, the segment seemed out of place. But, the work as a whole kept revisiting in my mind, musically and visually.
Offenbach Overtures (1995): Music by Jacques Offenbach, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. This 1995 playful piece is another Taylor icon. When Taylor does camp, he goes over the edge, and that what we expect. Just as Danbury Mix seeks to expose the dark side of Americana, Offenbach Overtures cartoonishly embodies the silliness of French pomp. Santo Loquasto is at his finest here, as he dresses the dancers in Napoleonic hats, red unitards, and faux mustaches. They perform a faux ballet, quasi can-can, and quasi duel. Dancers are off-balance, off pointe, and in short heels. The duel, between Michael Trusnovec and Sean Mahoney, handed off to Robert Kleinendorst and Jeffrey Smith, was hilarious. The full 14 dancer cast presented the Flacons de Neige Gallop with aplomb.
Kudos to Paul Taylor and his Company for another superb Spring Season at City Center. And, I’d like to mention Bettie de Jong, who has been awarded the Dance Magazine Award for her longevity, loyalty, and expertise as Rehearsal Director, former dancer, and Taylor “right hand”. They’re quite a team.