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
February 28, 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.
Funny Papers (1994): Music by Novelty Tunes, Choreography by Sandra Stone, Mary Cochran, Hernando Cortez, David Grenke, Andrew Asnes, and Patrick Corbin, Amended and combined by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company.
I’d never seen this 1994 witty work, and the music evoked iconic Popeye comics and novelty songs from the 60’s. Crackling LP record sounds evoked even fonder memories, and this piece fast became a favorite. Songs, such as “Alley-Oop”, “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor…”, had the Company uproariously entertaining the audience. Unusual here was combined, original choreography by six Taylor dancers from the early 90’s, as Taylor’s repertory is noted for his solo choreography. Robert Kleinendorst, as Popeye, used his signature, outsized stage presence to good effect, in combo with Sean Mahoney.
In a “laugh-track” piece, “The Okeh Laughing Record”, Michael Trusnovec and Orion Duckstein led three female dancers in black white long shirts and pants. “I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones”, led by James Samson and Jeffrey Smith, was filled with double entendres. The Bikini song brought out Julie Tice and Eran Bugge as two adorable coquettes, while “I Am Woman” had Michelle Fleet leading the men and Orion Duckstein leading the females, with switched gender motifs. The physicality here was typically aerobic, ebullient, and always endearing. This piece should be mounted more often. Santo Loquasto’s costumes were right out of the “funny papers”.
De Sueños (of dreams) (2007): Music by Agustín Lara, Juan García Esquivel, Osvaldo Golijov, B. García de Jesús, J. Elizondo, Ariel Guzik, Chalino Sánchez, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. It was right at the beginning of this two part work (second piece follows) that I missed Richard Chen See, who had the original role of the man in a black bowler hat licking or presenting the skull. Mr. Chen See is now directing a ballet competition, and Orion Duckstein, often seen in comic roles, carried the skull with edge. As always, Michael Trusnovec was the stag, and Laura Halzack was the figure in gold, with Julie Tice as the ingénue with flowers.
This is a two-part ballet about the Mexican Holiday, “Day of the Dead”. There’s a shooting drama, involving the stag in antlers, and a machete passes within a constantly moving circle. Mexican folkloric chants fuse with South American classical genre, in the recoding by the Kronos Quartet. Julie Tice carries a flower basket, although dark humor further abounds. A transvestite loses a wig and the skulled figure squats cross-legged onstage. Each character invites mimicry and mockery. Each time I see this work, additional nuances are revealed, such as the white airy costumes in this part, then the black edgy costumes in the second part.
De Sueños Que Se Repiten (of recurring dreams) (2007): Music by Ariel Guzik, Silvestre Revueltas, Margarita Lecuona, Robert Gómez Bolaños, Severiano Briseño, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. This was the first time I viewed both works in sequence, and this is how they should be viewed. There’s a cohesive design, à la Taylor, and Laura Halzack returns as the golden goddess with the halo crown, Michael Trusnovec returns with his antlers, and Orion Duckstein returns with his skull.
It was during this second of the two-part dream ballet that Santo Loquasto’s sets and costumes, lit by Jennifer Tipton, became so starkly surreal. The contrasting blacks, oranges, browns, and gold glistened in City Center’s Moorish ambiance. There’s a campy scene of a baby (small doll) dropping from Julie Tice’s pregnant belly and then being tossed by foot into the wings. There’s also a mock-rapturous scene of Michael Trusnovec’s stag kissing and bowing to Laura Halzack’s goddess. I look forward to seeing this duo-ballet again next season.