Performing Arts: Dance
March 22, 2017
This season, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance (PTAMD) displayed a bright gamut of upbeat choreographic works. The Weight of Smoke (2016) opened the program, choreographed by Dough Elkins in collaboration with the dancers and assisted by Carolyn Cryer. Dressed in Karen Young’s costume design consisting of stretch pants and short sleeve shirts or sleeveless tops, sixteen dancers merged scenes departing from a club-dancing context. Fusing abstract contemporary pas de deux exploring a plethora of inversions and contact improvisation motifs, the collective choreography portrayed a gamut of relationships with explicit gestures, such as mouth-kissing promenades between dancers from the opposite or same-sex. Equally contrasting, excerpts from George Frederic Handel were blended with original music composed by Justin Levine and Matt Stine.

The world premie`re of The Open Door was the main dish of the evening, choreographed by Paul Taylor to Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, with exquisite designs by acclaimed designer William Ivey Long. As the curtain rises, it reveals an ample lavender blue Edwardian room, with an open main entrance door and tall windows, through which a Monet-like countryside appears in the background. A fine gentleman sets the scene entering the pastel ballroom, placing ruby red wooden chairs in a semi-circle for a festive gathering. As the guests arrive, they are welcomed by their host at the door: a young girl with her parents, a sophisticated lady, an elegant gay character smoking a cigarette, an officer, an awkward young boy, an overweight distinguished woman, a gentleman wearing a pleated suit, and a coquettish painter in work attire.

Once seated, the characters take turns displaying their role either dancing center stage or interacting with each other with a comic flair. Eager, the girl takes off dancing and leaping around the guests until she is caught in midair and demanded to remain composedly seated. Following, the distinguished woman in a fat suit shows off in a solo that evolves from flickering hand gestures to light jumps and turning progressions, leading her to fall rolling on the floor, requiring the help of the gentlemen to restore her verticality.

The officer and the awkward young boy get into a fight over the coquettish painter, and the gay character “attempts” to imitate the partnering dancing between the other couples. The ball scene culminates with a group waltz, after which the family members depart, leaving the host alone, rearranging the chairs. Throughout his new work, Paul Taylor excelled in keenly adopting Enigma Variations, to the point it could seem the music was commissioned for his choreography, meticulously designed to enhance every gesture and describe each character’s personality.

Brandenburgs (1988) closed the evening, choreographed by Paul Taylor to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto with costume designs by Santo Loquasto. Coached by rehearsal director and former lead dancer, Bettie de Jong, the company displayed Taylor’s aesthetic signature and glimpses to his mentors, Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Brandenburgs, stands as an iconic work in the repertoire, although the abstract narrative succumbed to the energy display in The Weight of Smoke and the brilliant plasticity of The Open Door. As the season proves, the company’s versatility is highly commended. The upbeat and light-hearted array of the evening’s works radiated a joie de vivre to the copious audience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabrieal Estrada

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