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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Rite of Spring, Company B, Piazzolla Caldera

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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 20, 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.

Rite of Spring (2003): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Four-Hand Piano Version recorded by Fazil Say, Concept, Choreography, Costumes, Set, and Makeup Design by Shen Wei, Original Lighting Design by David Ferri, Performed by Guest Company, Shen Wei Dance Arts.

My second disappointment this Taylor Season, after the Premiere of Death and the Damsel, was Shen Wei’s Rite of Spring, one of the most unpleasant and boring dances I have ever seen. I could say worse. In 2012, at Fall for Dance, I reviewed this same work, writing “To include Shen Wei’s abstract version we experienced tonight with……complex, coherent versions would be insulting to the Rite of Spring ballet repertoire.”

As part of the new umbrella organization, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, the Taylor Company invites visiting companies to share the stage. Shen Wei Dance Arts is the last group that should have been invited. The stage was prepared with some kind black/white/gray, graffiti-styled writing, taped to the floor. Dancers in shabby, colorless costumes (everything but the music is by Shen Wei) walk the length of the stage, intersect like a very poor version of Robbins’ Glass Pieces, and there’s no discernible Chosen One for the Rite, nor story. Fazil Say’s recording for four-hand piano, sounding like Stravinsky on acid, was worse than construction noise. The dancers were so generic in gesture and presence that they would have been more striking, had they been animations on backdrop. It’s rare that I write this type of review, so pardon me for venting.

Company B (1991): Music – Songs sung by the Andrews Sisters, Typical sentiments of Americans during WWII, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company.

Having dispensed early on with the grating, nerve-wracking, previous work, by a guest company, it was pure pleasure for the remainder of the evening. It’s too bad that the exact same casting from the March 12 Gala was used for tonight’s performance, even though the piece is always spectacular. It would have been refreshing to see a different woman in the sexy, “Rum and Coca-Cola” (Eran Bugge again), a different man wooing women in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” (Michael Trusnovec again), and a different, athletic dancer in “Tico-Tico” (Francisco Graciano again). In the “Pennsylvania Polka”, once again, Laura Halzack and Michael Apuzzo were wildly ebullient and rambunctious, and Michelle Fleet was a little more ingénue and impulsive in “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”. The Andrews Sisters have mesmerizing voices, maybe unequalled to this date, and listening to these songs is transporting. Kudos to all.

Piazzolla Caldera (1997): Music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky (Gidon Kremer’s Recording of Hommage à Piazzolla), Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company.

Tonight was unusual in that there was no live orchestra, as all the music was recorded (Fazil Say’s Stravinsky, Andrews Sisters’ standards, Kremer’s Piazzolla). Not only is Kremer’s album, Hommage à Piazzolla, one of my favorite of the Piazzolla oeuvres, but Mr. Taylor’s 1997 Piazzolla Caldera is one of my favorite modern ballets ever. He has synthesized the tango genre to its core, the staccato motion of the legs, the severe affect of the performers, and the sensuality and sexuality of the partnering. And, he has also added a bit of wit and camp, understated but understood. Santo Loquasto’s set features cloth-covered, suspended lightbulbs, and his costumes feature men’s loose pants and fedoras, as well as women’s leg garters and strapped heels. Koch Theater is transported to Buenos Aires, with its smoky, sultry aura. James Samson, Parisa Khobdeh, and Michael Novak, in particular, drew my eye.

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

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