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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Beloved Renegade, Death and the Damsel, Esplanade
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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Beloved Renegade, Death and the Damsel, Esplanade

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Paul Taylor Dance Foundation

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

Phone: 212.431.5562
Fax: 212.966.5673

(Taylor American Modern Dance Website)

Paul Taylor, Artistic Director
Music Director, Donald York
Featuring the Paul Taylor Dance Company

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, Principal Lighting Designer
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, Aileen Roehl,
Michael Novak, Heather McGinley,
George Smallwood, Christina Lynch Markham

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

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 13, 2015

(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.

Beloved Renegade (2008): Music by Francis Poulenc (Gloria), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Devon Guthrie, Soprano, and St. George’s Choral Society, Performed by the Company.

Laura Halzack was porcelain and poised in this ethereal modern ballet, and this time she could dance to the Poulenc Gloria sung live, by St. George’s Choral Society and soprano, Devon Guthrie. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s brought an organist along, too. Michael Trusnovec, again, was dreamlike, introspective, and eloquent, in this sophisticated, Walt Whitman-inspired role. Beloved Renegade takes on Walt Whitman’s mortality and the meaning of war, all at once. Taylor quotes Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”…”I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world”. This work, although embedded with soothing and soaring music is riveting for its drama and deathlike doom. There are military motifs, autobiographical - choreography innuendos, and deep spirituality. Michael Trusnovec leads the Company through “I am the poet of the body, and I am the poet of the soul”, while Robert Kleinendorst, Michelle Fleet, Francisco Graciano, Jamie Rae Walker, and Aileen Roehl were awe-inspiring in “Come children, come my boys and girls”. This intense, introspective work has emotional texture and thought-provoking structure.

Death and the Damsel (World Premiere): Music by Bohuslav Martinu: Sonata No. 2, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by James F. Ingalls, Margaret Kampmeier, Piano, and Myron Lutzke, Cello, Performed by the Company.

It was quite disappointing to see this World Premiere, one about a current or former prostitute, who, in her own bed, while day dreaming of her plight, is suffocated by an intruder, with her own pillow, followed by flashbacks of sexual and psychological torture. Michael Trusnovec, who had just performed the role of bucolic dreamer, is now in black leather, holding Jamie Rae Walker’s legs stiffly upright and wide open, with her pink panties exposed, just in his direct gaze. The brightly lit “Dance Club”, in which Ms. Walker then finds herself, becomes a scene of sexual business and abuse. What was Mr. Taylor thinking this time? After all these years, I have come to avoid his Big Bertha, with its incestuous rape scene. Early on, that 1970 work had disturbed me less, but, over time, it grew to make the viewer recoil. I am now shocked, that in 2015 a similarly degrading scene would appear onstage at the Koch, and during this new umbrella year, of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. The Dracula-like male and female Club costumes, similar to that of The Sleeping Beauty’s wicked Fairy Carabosse, were worn while slapping and attacking Ms. Walker’s character. Although Ms. Walker seems to conquer her demons, much like Martha Graham’s 1947, Errand Into the Maze, the process getting there does not make worthwhile ballet. Margaret Kampmeier on piano, and Myron Lutzke, on cello, brought out the poignancy of Martinu’s Sonata No. 2, which I should have listed to with eyes closed.

Maybe, just once, Mr. Taylor should create a major new work about strong women, who stop predatory abuse in its tracks.

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, Krista Bennion Feeney and Naoko Tanaka, Violin Soloists, Performed by the Company.

The perfect antidote to the previous Premiere was Taylor’s 1975 Esplanade, my second viewing this week. It could not have been more perfectly joyous, spirited, frolicsome, or athletic. In a complete about face, the warm smiles, sliding falls, spinning into the wings, and hopping over the curled up ensemble, the Company won me over, true to form. What must be noted, incredulously, is that Michael Trusnovec danced in all three works tonight, leading two, with each of the three uniquely different in mood and motif. Other Company dancers appearing in all three were James Samson, Michelle Fleet, Laura Halzack, Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Novak, and Heather McGinley. Kudos to all.

Kudos to Paul Taylor, who always takes a bow with his Company, clapping for them.

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