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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Polaris, Also Playing, Esplanade
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Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance: Polaris, Also Playing, Esplanade

- Onstage with the Dancers

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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 and Conductor, 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 / James F. Ingalls, Principal Lighting Designers
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, Michael Novak,
Heather McGinley, George Smallwood,
Christina Lynch Markham, Madelyn Ho

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

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 20, 2016 Matinee

(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.

Polaris (1976): Music specially composed by Donald York and Reconceived in 2016, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Alex Katz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Krista Bennion Feeney, violin, Ellen Payne, violin, David Cerutti, viola, Myron Lutzke, cello, Margaret Kampmeier, piano, Performed by the Company.

This uniquely conceived dance involves one choreography for Parts I and II, two different ensembles, two different scores, brief black/white costumes, and two lighting designs. An open steel-rod box is the prop for both Parts, with dancers entering and departing, one by one, sometimes stiffly and sometimes casually.

Part I was upbeat, occasionally slow with galloping steps, up-stretched arms, and sideways leaps. Part II was far more interesting, with eerie tones, edgy attitude, and sharp, percussive motion, that had been rounder-edged and softer in mood in the previous Part. Part II was technically darker as well, but one might not notice, until the light shines at the finale, when the Part I ensemble returns to its original positions. This is a must-see work, mesmerizing and thought-provoking. Donald York and the chamber ensemble, listed above, performed Mr. York’s reconceived score with nuance and drama.

Also Playing (2009): Music by Gaetano Donizetti, Excerpts from Dom Sébastien and L’assedio di Calais, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Donald York: Conductor, Performed by the Company.

This frilly balletic camp, called Also Playing, “dedicated to all vaudevillians”, mocks Donizetti’s bel canto music and the very ballets it satirically mimics. Eran Bugge performs a quasi strip dance, Michelle Fleet and Sean Mahoney make like Apaches, Francisco Graciano and Michael Apuzzo knock off an Egyptian dance, Michelle Fleet and four females prance about for a Garland Dance, and, after 14 dances including the full cast’s March, the Stagehand, Robert Kleinendorst, dances a final, “poignant” solo. It’s like a silly silent film, only live, in color, and with a live orchestra for the operatic frivolity. On this second viewing (the first in 2010), I enjoyed the choreography in the moment, but it’s not to be a seasonal highlight, not with Esplanade, after intermission.

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, Donald York: Conductor, Krista Bennion Feeney, violin solo, Naoko Tanaka, violin solo, Performed by the Company.

Once again, Michelle Fleet led the Company in this rarified modern ballet, that I’ve never once tired of, and which energizes and engages the audience on each and every performance. This 41 year-old dance could have been conceived last month, it’s so refreshing and revitalizing. With cartwheels, sliding and falling runs, rapid directional shifts, dashing over a line of curled bodies, somersaults, occasional quietude, virtuosic elasticity, and pure, pure joy, one never leaves the theater on a downbeat.

Kudos to Paul Taylor.

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