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Paul Taylor Dance Company - Le Grand Puppetier , De Sueños Que Se Repiten (of recurring dreams) , Promethean Fire
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Paul Taylor Dance Company - Le Grand Puppetier , De Sueños Que Se Repiten (of recurring dreams) , Promethean Fire

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Paul Taylor Dance Company
552 Broadway
NY, NY 10012
Phone: 212 431 5562
(Taylor Dance Company Website)

Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
Norton Belknap, President, Board of Directors
Bettie De Jong, Rehearsal Director
Wallace Chappell, Executive Director
John Tomlinson, General Manager
Jennifer Tipton, Principal Lighting Designer
Santo Loquasto, Principal Set and Costume Designer
Press, Jennifer Lerner

Lisa Viola, Richard Chen See, Michael Trusnovec,
Annmaria Mazzini, Orion Duckstein,
Amy Young, Robert Kleinendorst, Julie Tice, James Samson,
Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney, Jeffrey Smith,
Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack

In Performances at City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 15, 2008

(See Other Taylor 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 for the latest tour dates.

Le Grand Puppetier (2004): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Pianola version of Petrushka), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Richard Chen See as The Emperor, Lisa Viola as His Daughter, Francisco Graciano as His Puppet, Robert Kleinendorst as His Courtier, Michael Trusnovec as His Red Guardsman, James Samson as His Pink Guardsman, and Orion Duckstein, Amy Young, Julie Tice, Michelle Fleet, and Eran Bugge as His Subjects. This alternate version of the original Petrushka ballet (with the tormented puppet, dancing folk doll, evil Moor, and devilish puppeteer) is classic Taylor. In this version, Robert Kleinendorst is a hilarious drag-queen Courtier with a handkerchief and round belly, Francisco Graciano is an innocent and sad puppet, Richard Chen See is a powerful Emperor, and Lisa Viola is his daughter gone wild. And, there are Subjects and Guardsmen who create campy vignettes galore.

In Taylor’s entertaining version, the Emperor has a magic wand, rather than puppeteer strings, and when Francisco Graciano, the vulnerable puppet, gets hold of that wand, the tables turn, without the puppet seeming corrupt. Taylor quotes Lord Acton, “…absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and the Emperor personifies that level of evil, as he manipulates his Court. Chen See uses his strong persona and stage presence as a force with whom to contend. When he is temporarily toppled, the magic passes to the puppet in a pendulum of power. The wedding of the Emperor’s daughter to the Red Guardsman is reminiscent of Fellini.

De Sueños Que Se Repiten (of recurring dreams) (NY Premiere): 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. In Part II of the two-part Mexican-styled dream ballet, the score changes to fuse music by five different Latin American composers, but many of the De Sueños characters return, such as Richard Chen See’s deathlike man and skull figure, Michael Trusnovec’s deer and antlers, and Laura Halzack’s goddess figure in gold, with the halo-shaped crown. The ensemble dancers wear mostly black, in contrast to the white costumes of the earlier work. And, in both dances, Jennifer Tipton’s stark and changeable lighting figures prominently, to showcase the shiny skull, the ghostly apparition of Richard Chen See, the bright flower girl (Amy Young), and the onstage abortion of a rubber doll that falls from a carelessly pregnant dancer. That “baby” is kicked across the stage with surreal shock, after it does not fit back into the belly.

The Jung quotation in this second De Sueños work, “Recurrent dreams…they mean something”, perhaps intends to jolt the mind to interpret the disturbing visions, with death and devilish behavior so rampant. Yet, these are not totally dark ballets, as humor and fancy are fused intermittently, with the collection of skulls, for contrasting effects - Taylor’s signature style. The “pas de deux” of Mr. Trusnovec’s antlered deer and Ms. Halzack’s gold goddess is mesmerizing and monumental, especially when the deer rolls down to the floor and kisses her. Only Paul Taylor could imagine such a rapturous duo. Again, Santo Loquasto’s sets and costumes are of award-winning quality and design. I look forward to seeing this two-part work again next season.

Promethean Fire (2002): Music by J. S. Bach (Toccata & Fugue in D minor, Prelude in E flat minor, and Chorale Prelude BWV 680), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. I first saw this work five years ago and wished to see it again. Promethean Fire is truly a work to revisit often, with serious, disturbing imagery against a black backdrop, with dancers in black, velvety unitards, striped in gold. Arms and faces are gloriously lit, and the mesmerizing organ music by Bach enhances the concept of disaster and re-birth, a work created after September 11, 2001.

In 2003, I wrote, “The choreography interprets the collapse of gothic or architectural shapes and forms into a heap of bodies, perhaps at Ground Zero, perhaps in Hell. Suddenly, one lone male re-emerges from the shapeless pile and symbolically lifts a female, as they survive to rebuild.” Michael Trusnovec and Lisa Viola were showcased, with Ms. Viola leaping, mid-air, into Mr. Trusnovec’s open arms. Promethean Fire is imbued with virtuosic choreography, such as dancers creating an endless pile of bodies, one lonely arm reaching to the heavens.

Paul Taylor
Courtesy of Maxine Hicks

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