BWW Reviews: Paul Taylor Dance Company
Paul Taylor, Brandenburgs, Gossamer Gallants, To Make Crops Grow
Past Articles by This Author:
BWW Remembers: Frederick Franklin, June 13, 1914 - May 4, 2013BWW Reviews: Ballet in Cinema from Emerging Pictures Presents ESMERALDABWW Reviews: Juilliard Dances RepertoryBWW Remembers: Maria Tallchief--January 24, 1925 - April 11, 2013BWW Interviews: Lar Lubovitch of Lar Lubovitch Dance CompanyBWW Interviews: Tiffany Rea FisherBWW Reviews: Ballet in Cinema from Emerging Pictures Presents 'La fille mal gardee'BWW Interviews: Elisa MonteSpring Dance Coverage Coming Your Way in NYCBWW Reviews: Ballet's Greatest Hits: YAGP Gala
Paul Taylor has always been one of my favorite choreographers. For over half a century he has choreographed works that have entered the repertoires of ballet and modern dance companies around the world. With a mind, spirit and quest to choreograph works not only in the purest Balanchine sense, as it were, but to address issues that confront and confound modern society, he has blazed a path that no other modern choreographer can match. We go with high expectations and are ready to be amazed. Thus, the evening performance on March 16th, 2013, proved to be less than stellar. Two works, Gossamer Gallants and To Make Crops Grow, did not represent Taylor at his best. However, with the closing dance, Brandneburgs, a true masterpiece in every sense of the word, we were able to enter the realm of the truly sublime. Fortunately, I was there for the last dance.
Gossamer Gallants is Taylor in a whimsical mood. Or, should I say, in a rather lopsided one. Dancers resembling insects scamper around the stage. The men are costumed in blue and wear wings, the women in green and sport antennae. The women chase the men and, at one point, look like they are about to annihilate them. Calling Jerome Robbins! Set to famous musical pieces from Smetana's, Bartered Bride, its main purpose seems to be nothing more than eliciting guffaws from the audience. After the performance, I heard one patron refer to it as "cute." An overstatement, if I ever heard one. Not to mention a waste of time and efforT. Taylor is not really a comic--an ironist, yes. Let him twist every day realities into heightened, darkened nightmares, and the results can be extraordinary. Mine your irony, Mr. Taylor. You've done it before. You'll get better results than Gossamer.
Speaking about irony, Taylor's new offering, To Make Crops Grow, to music of Fred Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, does not have an edge or a sharp stick with which to hit us over the head. And I enjoy being hit over the head when Taylor gets it right. But here, it is merely off target. The curtain rises on a group of dancers walking around, holding hands, kissing-as Irving Berlin wrote and Ethel Merman sang: doin' what comes naturally. At least, it seems like that. But then things darken as the villagers draw lots. One of the members draws a number, and she is the one: the one to get stoned to death, that is. Is this a Shirley Jackson short story? No, it's a Paul Taylor dance, or is it an Agnes de Mille ballet in disguise? Watching this work made me think of Fall River Legend, where Lizzie Borden runs riot with her axe. But here there's no axe and no apotheosis. The villages just circle the chosen one-yes, I know, it's the 100th anniversary of The Rite of Spring premiere-- pick up the stones, raise them high, and the curtain falls. That's it? Couldn't the chosen one have danced, thrown herself around the stage like a crazy person unhinged, and begged for mercy? She was going to be killed, after all. Not here. We are left with a blank canvass, and I don't like being left with blank canvasses. What was is about this particular theme that appealed to Mr. Taylor's imagination? He's already choreographed an excellent piece to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Beats me.
A passionate and enthusiastic dance lover with other interests in books, theater, music and architecture. I have served as the director of the docent program at the New York City Ballet. I am interested in all facets of dance, and do not limit myself to only one dance brand, as I call it. This encompasses ballet, modern, folk and whatever else there is. Call me eclectic. |
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