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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Diversion of Angels, Summerspace, Promethean Fire
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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Diversion of Angels, Summerspace, Promethean Fire

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Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance
551 Grand Street
New York, NY, 10002

Phone: 212.431.5562

(Taylor American Modern Dance Website)

Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
Music Director and Conductor, Donald York
Featuring the Paul Taylor Dance Company
And Lyon Opera Ballet

Music Performed Live by:
Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Paul Taylor, President, Board of Directors
C.F. Stone III, Chairman, Board of Directors
Bettie de Jong, Rehearsal Director
John Tomlinson, Executive Director
Jennifer Tipton / James F. Ingalls, Principal Lighting Designers
Santo Loquasto, Principal Set & Costume Designer
Lisa Labrado, Director of Public Relations

Michael Trusnovec, Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson,
Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney,
Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack,
Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Apuzzo, Michael Novak,
Heather McGinley, George Smallwood,
Christina Lynch Markham, Madelyn Ho
Kristin Draucker

In Performances at the David H. Koch Theater
At Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 19, 2017

(See Other Taylor Company Reviews)

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, now under the umbrella of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, is a sought after troupe and tours extensively around the globe.

Diversion of Angels (1948): Music by Norman Dello Joio, Choreography by Martha Graham, Reconstructed by Blakely White-McGuire and Tadej Brdnik, Costumes by Martha Graham, Music by Norman Dello Joio, Original Lighting by Jean Rosenthal adapted by Jennifer Tipton, Rehearsal Director: Linda Hodes, Conductor: Donald York, Performed by Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec as The Couple in White, Parisa Khobdeh and Sean Mahoney as The Couple in Red, Eran Bugge and Michael Novak as The Couple in Yellow, Jamie Rae Walker, Heather McGinley, Christina Lynch Markham, Madeline Ho as Four Women, and George Smallwood as Fourth Man.

Once again, the Taylor Dance Company embraced Martha Graham’s oeuvres, in accordance with its umbrella organization, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. And, what better choreographer to choose than Ms. Graham, in whose Company a young Paul Taylor learned his craft in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. Graham’s 1948 Diversion of Angels, danced to Norman Dello Joio’s score, tonight conducted by Donald York, presents three couples, The Couple in White, Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec (calm maturity), The Couple in Red, Parisa Khobdeh and Sean Mahoney (intense eroticism), and The Couple in Yellow, Eran Bugge and Michael Novak (ingénue energy). There’s a kaleidoscope of color in the women’s dresses, with the male partners in beige, underscoring the swirling, choreographic shapes. A Chorus of Five, four women and one man (George Smallwood) is Graham’s quasi-Greek Chorus. Each Couple enacts the affect and mood of the color of the female dancer’s dress.

Former Graham stars, Blakely White-McGuire and Tadej Brdnik, masterfully reconstructed this work for the Company, which was in fine shape this season. In the profiled leaps, the Taylor dancers faced sideways, in appropriate fashion, a dramatic vision. George Smallwood and Eran Bugge have morphed into Graham-esque, in the moment. The Taylor dancers have made a valiant effort in internalizing the Graham genre and have achieved more fluidity. Although the Taylor Company is not as gesturally as intent as the Graham Company, it is reverent and eloquent. The Taylor dancers still need to refine the internalized pelvic contractions and intense personas. Mr. Novak and Ms. Bugge were particularly ebullient in their youthful fervor, and Mr. Mahoney and Ms. Khobdeh were stunning as she dashed into and was lifted by his waiting arms. Mr. Trusnovec and Ms. Halzack exuded warmth and serenity, requisite to the roles.

Summerspace (1958): Music by Morton Feldman (Ixion), Choreography by Merce Cunningham, Design and Costumes by Robert Rauschenberg, Lighting by Aaron Copp, Pianos: Margaret Kampmeier and Blair McMillen, Performed by Lyon Opera Ballet Dancers, Kristina Bentz, Elisa Monguillot De Mirman, Tyler Galster, Coralie Levieux, Raúl Serrano Núñez.

Also, as part of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, a visiting company, Lyon Opera Ballet, was invited to perform. This guest company performed Merce Cunningham’s 1958 Summerspace. What could have been better than this Sunday night program, combining the choreographic talents of Martha Graham and her two protégées, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Taylor, who joined the Graham troupe about ten years after Mr. Cunningham had left to form his own troupe. In fact, tonight’s presentation of these three related choreographers’ works was truly historical.

With Aaron Copp’s warm lighting on Robert Rauschenberg’s pointillist-pastel backdrop, that matched the pointillist-pastel unitards, the dynamic ensemble of six leaped from stage left to stage right, epitomizing many of the Graham gestural dashes, legs stretched out or bent under, en air, arms outstretched, attitude stark and intense. The Morton Feldman score for two prepared pianos was performed by the same duo pianists who had performed the duo piano Stravinsky score for Mr. Taylor’s Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rehearsal). The music was like atonal summer raindrops morphing into electronic pulses. When the dancers dash onstage from the wings, they either face the audience, spin, or run forward with a leg lifted, or stand and turn. The compelling pulse propels the bodies, no partnering, only isolation. Each of the six dancers is self-contained. I would like to see this work again, soon.

Promethean Fire (2002): Music by J. S. Bach (Toccata & Fugue in D minor, Prelude in E flat minor, and Chorale Prelude BWV 680), Orchestrated by Leopold Stokowski, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Conductor: Donald York, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company.

If the Taylor season is ending for me, nothing is more spellbinding than Taylor’s 2002 Promethean Fire, created in the aftermath of 9/11. The depth and talent of this Company always glows, internally and across the stage, as they pile on one another, dance in formations of angst, then peacefulness, and seem to transcend the moment. I noted that this work still seems too short. I did not want it to end. Hearing the Bach Toccata & Fugue, Prelude, and Chorale performed live again, under Donald York’s baton, is again a riveting experience. Santo Loquasto’s velvety, sleeveless, dark, gold-striped unitards enhance the import and weight of this work. Mr. Taylor was obviously inspired to respond, choreographically, to a tragedy of dire proportion, and this remains one of his finest accomplishments. The score is dynamic and dramatic, the energy is extraordinary, and the Company dances as if one. This piece should still appear annually as a reminder of the collaborative strength in coming together in New York and the nation.

Kudos to Paul Taylor.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at