It was the first time I’d seen Paul Taylor Dance Company live. It’s simply never worked with my schedule to be there. (Last year when they were performing at ADF I was watching the world’s greatest tap dancers in Chicago.) I’ve heard the company recommended as a great introduction to modern dance, especially for those who already have an appreciation for ballet. Since ballet is my first love, I circled the date for Paul Taylor Dance Company at the American Dance Festival on my calendar this year.
I could see almost as soon as the first piece started – it was Perpetual Dawn – that the things I’d heard about them were true. The dancers moved lifted and lengthened, like in ballet; they swept across the stage landing lightly, toes first, like in ballet; they did small and fast footwork and partnered with lifts and leaps, like in ballet. The production quality in terms of lighting and dancers’ preparation and expectation also seemed on par with a major world class ballet company. I understand that Paul Taylor Dance Company is a major world class dance company in its own right, but I want to distinguish them from other modern dance companies, most of which have none of these characteristics.
Perpetual Dawn had a rustic charm with smoky pastels against earth tones and a celebratory joyousness that reminded me of the first act of Giselle or any other peasant scene in a ballet. The music from the Dresden Concerti by Johann David Heinichen, a grand harpsichord Baroque piece, contributed to the “wind comes sweeping down the plain” peasant life feeling.
The second piece, Eventide, turns out to have been much the same, with music Suite for Viola and Orchestra and Hymn-Tune Prelude by Vaughan Williams, strings still sweeping, but with less wind. Most of the visual patterns were created using pairs of dancers, as in the first, and this one had a loose story of love and memories. The dancers were as beautiful and composed as ever, and the colors on stage were striking and vibrantly highlighted the dancers, but I began to yawn half-way through.
The final piece of the evening, Arden Court, with music from several symphonies of William Boyce, was the most energetic and modern of the program. The clean lines and flawless technique continued with the addition of more acrobatic feats and humor.
I could see why the Paul Taylor Dance Company is one of the most highly respected and sought-after ensembles in the world. Everything was flawless, from the picturesque costumes and lighting, to the exacting choreography, to the dancers’ technical ability to execute the demanding selections. Still, I left feeling very even and nearly unaffected. Any of the three selections would have been great as part of a more diverse program, but together, they were degrees of the same thing. I grew weary of seeing dancers in pairs, and in spite of the leaping and acrobatics, I felt a monotony I shouldn’t expect from such an energetic performance. After Perpetual Dawn I was gradually deflated by an undynamic program. I walked out impressed by remarkable production quality but not feeling particularly anxious to return.
Here are a few pictures from Arden Court. See more at Arts View NC
Review and pictures by Denise Cerniglia