David Taylor

August 13, 1999

David Taylor Dance Theatre

Riverwalk Center
Breckenridge, Colorado

August 13-14, 1999

Reviewed by Janine Gastineau

When the snows melt, Colorado shuts down its ski runs and earns its bread and butter through an increasingly popular venture here?the performing arts. In Breckenridge the glorious backdrop of the Rocky Mountains was the setting for a first-ever collaboration between the excellent National Repertory Orchestra, conducted by Carl Topilow, and Denver’s David Taylor Dance Theatre. Both are organizations newly populated. The NRO’s players are drawn each summer season from the ranks of major U.S. and international orchestras; all but two of DTDT’s fourteen members joined the company at the beginning of the 1998-99 season.

The prestigious Music Festival is widely known for its summer residency and performances at Breckenridge Ski Resort. This year, though, the centerpiece of the evening’s performances was David Taylor’s An American in Paris, set to the Gershwin score. Here Taylor sets himself up for daunting comparisons to filmmeister Gene Kelly’s 1951 triumph and to stage his ballet so his small company performs with such presence that they are not overwhelmed by the full-sized orchestra.

The work starts off promisingly? intriguing characters abound?but quickly becomes overly busy and lacking in focus. This changes dramatically when the music slides into the andante, which Taylor titles “An Evening in the Park.” Featuring three couples (Sara Rifkin and Corey Colfer, Alison Jaramillo and Jeoff Horgan, and Rachel Whiting and Richard Comstock), this section is sexy and romantic, perfectly echoing the music, and displaying some of the loveliest dancing Taylor has ever made. Its simple beauty is the strength of this ballet, and it reveals Taylor’s strength as well?partnering. (The pas de deux is always the best part of his choreography, as witnessed by several of DTDT’s midwinter evenings of duets.)

Jeffrey Patterson as the American and Sara Kappraff as the Girl of His Dreams are both effervescent and their brief moments together are tantalizing. He wins her at the end; here Taylor adds the vernacular to his ballet?time steps and wings?just at that right musical moment. Patterson tosses these off exuberantly before landing on his knees before Kappraff.

Returning to the classical vocabulary of much of their repertory, DTDT also performed The Lark Ascending, choreographed by Bruce Marks, and Anaîs, choreographed by James Canfield. As the Lark, Rifkin was an elusive, tremulous presence throughout. In his ballet Anaîs, Canfield chooses superficiality over substance when rendering the affairs of its subjects, Anaîs Nin, Henry Miller, and Henry’s wife June. There is much anguished, passionate grappling, which the more-than-able cast?Traci Pakri (Anaîs), Colfer (Miller), and Whiting (June)?eke every nuance from, but these dancers are capable of and deserve better.

Good news: DTDT was so warmly received by Breckenridge Music Festival audiences that efforts are underway to make this shared NRO/DTDT performance an annual feature at the prestigious gathering.