PAUL TAYLOR AMERICAN MODERN DANCE
March 13, 2017
On March 8th, the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center hosted Paul Taylor American Modern Dance’s second evening of the 2017 season. The program featured the world première of "Ports of Call" and repertoire landmarks such as 1980’s "Le Sacre du Printemps" (The Rehearsal), and 1990’s "Company B". The community’s enthusiastic engagement was in tune with the company’s marketing campaign integrating the slogan “This is why we live here!” to audiovisual clips highlighting the artists’ experience as Taylor dancers living in New York City. Nevertheless, the evening coincided with International Women’s Day whose slogan, “Be Bold For Change”, provoked alternative layers of interpretation to the program’s artistic statements, particularly through the lens of our current political discourse.
The world premiere of "Ports of Call" brought attention to Taylor’s leadership embarking in ample company tours at home and abroad reaching his homeland’s fifty states as well as distant places such as Africa and China. In a carefree travelogue parody, the third generation American modern dance icon played with gestures, pedestrian motives, and stereotypical elements in costume added to a plain base of electric blue leotards or dance pants.
Organized in four tableaus, the ports portrayed are described in the program as Africa, Hawaii, Alaska, and Midwest U.S.A. and accompanied by a musical score that hints references from Stravinsky, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Glinka, and Aaron Copland, respectively. Baffled, the audience finally broke silence during the Alaska tableau. In it, three shivering dancers wearing fur Eskimo hoods and collars gathered by an imaginary fireplace outside an igloo were joined by two couples of male dancers wearing furry ear cuffs, who were all displaced by the appearance of a pair of tumbling dancers disguised in polar bear costumes dancing to Spanish music. The closing Midwest tableau portrayed the enactment of the forced marriages of a pregnant young woman with an evasive lackadaisical groom and a farmer dragging a woman to the altar with a rope around her neck; poignant against the day’s principles of woman’s rights.
Through "The Rehearsal", Paul Taylor infused a new life to the groundbreaking masterpiece of "The Rite of Spring", composed by the Russian genius that settled in the United States for twenty-six fruitful years. Drawing from Nijinsky’s bi-dimensional aesthetic signature while imprinting Taylor’s athletic air-bound contained shapes, the work digresses from the original portrayal of the tribal virgins sacrifice. Instead, Taylor presents a two-fold story departing from dancers warming up in a studio lead by a rehearsal mistress dressed in Cossack-like attire, progressing into the reminiscence of a Cops and Robbers silent film, animated by John Rawlings' set and costume designs, accompanied by Stravinsky’s arrangements of "Le Sacre du Printemps" for two pianos.
The evening closed with "Company B" buoyed by swinging bursts to the lively beat of songs performed by the Andrews Sisters. The versatile company succeeded in transmitting the contagious joy of dancing that celebrated the post-American depression era in the midst of World War II. Nevertheless, the closing piece revealed similarities between then and now, in the portrayal of a fragile society candidly celebrating oblivious of the approaching tempest of ideological powers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada
M. Gabriela Estrada