The Paul Taylor Dance Company

March 2, 2007

The Paul Taylor Dance Company
City Center, NYC

March 2-18, 2007

Reviewed by Amanda Smith

The Paul Taylor Dance Company arrived at City Center for their annual stint in wonderful shape, a remarkably strong company in which every member is a full-fledged contributor.

Perhaps Taylor, whose works they embody, like Balanchine and Tudor before him, broods more about death these days. Certainly, the keeper of the two new works in Taylor’s season was Lines of Loss, a work of grief and mourning. The dance takes place against Santo Loquasto’s set of lines, like parallel skeins of dark yarn, running horizontally across the back of the stage. The score comes from a seemingly diverse group of composers, from medieval to modern (Guillaume de Machaut, Christopher Tye, Jack Body, John Cage, Arvo Pärt, and Alfred Schnittke), and yet, as recorded by the Kronos Quartet, it has remarkable consistency. For most of the piece, the 11 dancers wear white, the color of purity, and here, of pure emotion; it is a costume color Taylor has used in significant dances throughout his choreographing career.

The central figure is Lisa Viola, who remains Taylor’s female anchor, his most reliable and relied-upon trouper, and her progress through the dance might be one’s journey through life, her interactions and losses along the way, and finally her own progress to the hereafter. Early in the dance, while Viola does a wrenching solo, the other dancers kneel, heads lowered, men on one side, women on the other, like acolytes, witnesses to Viola’s travails.

Michael Trusnovec, Taylor’s male anchor, has a solo of oddity, scratching at his legs, grotesque, disconnected, limping as if walking with a cane.

In the central duet for Viola and Trusnovec, the two are intertwined, but their heads lean away from one another as if they’re Siamese twins yearning for distance. Elsewhere Robert Kleinendorst, in his solo, suddenly checks his pulse. This juxtaposition of bizarre imagery, grotesquerie amidst gravity, and the connection/disconnection that characterize the dance as a whole, is a cocktail no one else but Taylor can manage.

In the rather abrupt and final moment of the dance, 10 of the figures, wearing robes the color of blood, lie in two rows like the aligned graves in military cemeteries and reminiscent of a similar passage in Taylor’s Sunset. Viola paces solemnly down the diagonal path they’ve created toward a brighter light. The William D. Snodgrass poem which appears in the program reads “And I went on/ Rich in the loss of all I sing/ To the threshold of waking light, /To larksong and the live, gray dawn, / So night by night, my life has gone.”

It is Taylor’s way to create a dark work and a light work each season, and Troilus and Cressida (Reduced)—“reduced” refers to Taylor’s witty distillation of the tale—is one of those goofy dances Taylor does so well, in the league with Snow White and Minikin Fair. If this Taylor genre often looks trivial at first glance, as you regard it more carefully, you see the masterful theatrical hand behind these dances. Troilus and Cressida is a costume and comedy dance, a cartoonish piece with a generous dollop of slapstick, set to “Dance of the Hours” by 19th-century composer Amilcare Ponchielli and played out against Loquasto’s over-the-top and decidedly tacky Baroque backdrop of painted clouds and gold curtains. Kleinendorst is the hapless Troilus, beset by purple breeches that repeatedly fall to his ankles. Viola is his Cressida, and here she deliberately mugs through the role. The dance’s costumed characters include not just one but a trio of Cupids (Julie Tice, Parisa Khobdeh, and Eran Bugge), who eventually abandon themselves to gleeful union with three Greek invaders (James Samson, Sean Mahoney, and Jeffrey Smith).

A smattering of impressions from elsewhere in the season: Trusnovec, a dancer of profound power physically and dramatically, has secured his place on the A-list of great male dancers. His eyeing of the girls in white in Sunset is virtually scorching. Francisco Graciano does a knockout “Tico-Tico” in Company B, a role he honed in his time with Taylor II. And Annmaria Mazzini and Richard Chen See embody the noble exuberance of Taylor’s first piece in white, Aureole.

Both of the two new works, as well as almost all the rest of the repertoire, are lovingly illuminated by Taylor’s longtime collaborator, Jennifer Tipton, herself as masterly at shaping mood and focusing the eye’s attention as Taylor is at the choreographer’s craft.