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Paul Taylor Dance Company - Esplanade, Three Dubious Memories, Oh, You Kid!

- Onstage with the Dancers

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55th St. Btw. 5th and 6th Avenues
1350 Avenue of the Americas Bldg.
New York, NY 10019
Private Events: 212.757.7610

Northern Italian Cuisine
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Near City Center, Carnegie Hall

Paul Taylor Dance Company
551 Grand Street
New York, NY, 10002

Phone: 212.431.5562
Fax: 212.966.5673

(Taylor Dance Company Website)

Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
And Chairman Board of Directors
Robert E. Aberlin, President, Board of Directors
Bettie de Jong, Rehearsal Director
John Tomlinson, Executive Director
Jennifer Tipton, Principal Lighting Designer
Santo Loquasto, Principal Set & Costume Designer
Rick Benjamin, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra Director
Lisa Labrado, Director of Public Relations

Michael Trusnovec, Annmaria Mazzini, Amy Young,
Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson, Michelle Fleet,
Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney, Jeffrey Smith,
Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack,
Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Apuzzo
Aileen Roehl, Michael Novak

In Performances at City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 22, 2011

(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 almost 50 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 for the latest tour dates.

Esplanade (1975): Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Violin Concerto in E Major, Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor (Largo, Allegro), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by John Rawlings, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. Seeing Esplanade as the first Taylor dance of this season is akin to starting a meal at a favorite restaurant with a tarte flambée. This 1975 work has a medley of moods, unleashed charisma, and an innovative, unique feel, even though it’s been seen for decades. The Bach rhythms are varied, and dancers catapult over the huddled ensemble with arms upstretched. The Company crawls, sprints, tumbles, spins, in solo, duo, and trio togetherness.

Every thematic detail is put to good use: rolling on the floor into the wings, jumping onto chests, leaning and swaying, all in undetermined dance direction. There is unrestrained exuberance, and there is internalized lament. There is dizzying dervish, and there is graceful stillness. My attention turned to Michelle Fleet, who bursts with personality and joy. She leaps over the company in ways I haven’t seen since the days of Lisa Viola, a few years ago. No season is complete without Esplanade, even if you see it first.

Three Dubious Memories (NY Premiere): Music by Elyakim Taussig (Five Enigmas, movements 1, 3, 4, 5), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. At first I found this work a bit mysterious, but Paul Taylor delights in challenging his admirers. Santo Loquasto has dressed the Company as The Woman in Red, The Man in Green, The Man in Blue, Choirmaster, and Choristers. One theme plays out three times, three different ways, as recalled by the three characters in Blue (Sean Mahoney), Green (Robert Kleinendorst), and Red (Amy Young). The silent “Greek” Choristers are dressed in grey. Half way into this dance, I was glad it would be repeated on my schedule request, because if you don’t focus carefully, you miss the variation on the theme.

This is a fantasy piece, like so many of Mr. Taylor’s stories, and the two men and one woman have different takes on the tale, with each crediting himself/herself for halting a betrayal. The first two takes are weightier, and the third a bit campy. In fact, toward the finale, the Choristers turn into benches, where the three leads wait, while one other choreographs the respective memory. James Samson, a dancer who exudes persona, was in the role of Choirmaster. Among Mr. Taylor’s vast repertory, I don’t expect this work to be seen every season. Yet, I did look forward to revisiting it for nuance.

Oh, You Kid! (1999): American popular music from the Ragtime era, Performed by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, Rick Benjamin, Director, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set & Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. Oh, You Kid! was another first for me, but I must say I don’t need to see this again. Among the nine musical vignettes, there was a scene of characters in robes like white sheets, with pointy-hooded face masks, an unsettling vision.

Rick Benjamin led the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, playing American rags, light opera, blues, and social dance tunes. Women generally wore party dresses, and men wore unitards, much more in line with Santo Loquasto’s style. Amy Young and the ever-engaging Michael Trusnovec partnered in “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland”, a lovely duo dance. Parisa Khobdeh danced the solo, “That Hindu Rag”, and the full cast danced “Till the Clouds Roll By”, among the nine numbers. Santo Loquasto’s set design of tiny lights gave the piece a carnival ambiance. Tonight was Paul Taylor Dance Company’s annual Gala, so this carnival started the festivities early on. Kudos to Paul Taylor.

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