PAUL TAYLOR AMERICAN MODERN DANCE : FROM SOUP TO NUTS/LINES OF LOSS/COMPANY B
March 29, 2017
Paul Taylor Dance Company returns once again to Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater for its annual New York season. This time, the three-week run brings the world premiere of Paul Taylor’s “Ports of Call,” the New York Premiere of his “The Open Door,” and fourteen company classics. Sprinkled throughout, are the New York Premiere of former company dancer Lila York’s “Continuum,” and works by both Doug Elkins and Larry Keigwin. The “come one, come all” sentiment continues with guest artists from Lyon Opera Ballet dancing Merce Cunningham’s “Summerspace” and live music on every program, thanks to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
This programmatic diversity is a nod to the company’s 2014 re-branding as Paul Taylor American Modern Dance and its public embrace of Taylor’s prolific repertoire alongside that of modern dance pioneers and contemporary artists alike. In theory, this modern dance mélange will offer audiences a look forward and back, inside Taylor’s repertoire and out, for years to come. The evening of March 16, however, was a trip down memory lane—Taylor memory lane, that is.
The opening performance of “Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (From Soup to Nuts)” is a quintessentially Taylor, zany piece. It proved just as amusing last week as it was at its world premiere three decades ago. This is, in part, due to the costume work of Alex Katz, featuring the men in tiny togas, thongs, beards, and body tights covered in excess hair. Their female counterparts, in flowing white tunics, take up the giddy, yet sultry stereotype to contrast the caricatured brawn of the men.
Comedic timing drives the gregarious movement, all to edited music by P.D.Q. Bach (the forgotten son of the Bach family). It’s packed with back-and-forth melodrama, jovial encounters, and a flash of leopard-print. For a true Taylor fan, though, there is another layer of wit to be found: the parody of his own past repertoire throughout this nonsensical Roman-era display. Seeing as this piece hasn’t graced a New York stage since 1988, it enjoyed a welcome comeback.
The polar opposite follows with Taylor’s bleak and dark “Lines of Loss” (2007). The most recent work of the evening, it strings together nine vignettes set the music of seven composers. A sense of melancholy consumes the work, a reflection of the W.D. Snodgrass poem on which it’s based, as well as Santo Loquasto’s abstract, water-like design splayed across the backdrop. Here, simplicity reigns in each encounter of loneliness, anguish, and farewell. Among fleeting solos and duets, the eleven dances rejoin repeatedly to pace along a new (sometimes, familiar) path, their bodies fading into silhouettes.
“Company B,” which has become one of the company signatures, closes the program. First performed in 1991, its content and mix of World War II tunes sung by the Andrews Sisters takes us even further back, historically speaking. The timeless undertone of this work lies in its evocation of the resilient human spirit. Over the course of ten songs, we travel from romance to death, innocence to sin, and everyday life to war. Curious on this particular evening is Robert Kleihnendorst’s atypical, lackluster performance as the “Bugle Boy”—usually a standout solo, sparking awe in the ferocity and vigor it requires.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jenny Thompson