On Thursday evening, Oct. 17th, the Kirby Theater in the small town of Roxboro, North Carolina, in Person County, hosted six members of the Paul Taylor dance troupe for a special performance and educational experience that reached young girls and boys dreaming of a dance career. The Taylor 2 Dance Company, a troupe designed in 1993 by the choreographer Paul Taylor to bring his dance style to students and to reach communities that might not have a chance to enjoy the excitement of a live professional dance performance. Taylor and partner Linda Hodes agreed that six dancers who embodied an understanding of the Taylor style could be his ambassadors of dance throughout the world; and sure enough, 20 years later, the troupe has performed in over 400 cities throughout the United States, Africa, and India.
The repertoire of the performance at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex consisted of three very different pieces that represent a historical view of both dance itself, as well as of Paul Taylor’s choreography. The first piece, entitled “Aureole,” featured music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). First performed in 1962 with Taylor’s choreography, costumes by George Tacet and lighting by Thomas Skelton, “Aureole” includes five movements.
The piece was not originally written as a ballet; Taylor conceived it strictly to be a celebration of dance. When first performed, “Aureole” received rave reviews. Now, 51 years later, it is called Taylor’s masterpiece.The first movement features the full cast. The music appears to herald spring, and the dancers’ movements are birdlike, emphasizing full sweeping lines that some have called akin to an antelope’s movement. The second movement, featuring Manuel Sanchez, appears to celebrate the human body, almost like a dance imitation of Leonardo DaVinci’s “Vitruvian Man.”
In the third movement, four of the dancers conduct a dance that has minuet-type steps; and in the fourth movement, Alana Allende and Sanchez tell a love story with their lovely heart-shaped lines. Finally, the full cast fills the stage like galloping ponies for the jubilant fifth movement. I think Handel would have approved.
After a short intermission, the six dancers fill the stage for an abstract modern narrative called “Dust.” First performed in 1977, the music from “Concert Champetre,” a harpsichord concerto by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). At times the troupe appeared tob more like 24 dancers, instead of a mere six, when their bodies spread at angles and shapes that appear to tell the story of tormented souls. “Dust” is a piece full of vitality, a sense of humor and basic reality, with an ending that draws order out of chaos and spells a hope for humanity. The piece brought the audience to its feet for a prolonged standing ovation.
After another short intermission, the troupe came back to the stage to perform “Company B,” a selection of songs sung by the Andrews Sisters which embody the musical taste of Americans during World War II. During “Bei Mir Bist du Schon” the troupe told the story of the era of marathon dances, sometimes appearing to dance in slow motion as if they had been frozen in time. Rei Akazawa and Lee Duveneck took the stage for the second dance, galloping the “Pennsylvania Polka” with enthusiasm and facial expressions that told of learning the dance and having a wonderful time doing so. In “Tico-Tico,” Hank Bamberger embodied the styles of ballet, contemporary and Broadway, to depict the little sparrow that is the main character in the song (originally sung by the Brazilian songstress Carmen Miranda). Sanchez with the three female dancers brought a sense of humor to “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh,” a song that extols the attributes of an attractive man and the frustrations of the women who follow him.
Akazawa followed that crowd-pleaser with an especially romantic version of “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” that was perfectly suited to her ability to float across the stage like a butterfly. The sassy “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” featured Duveneck in a hectic dance from one side of the stage to the other, an exercise that would have left most breathless. That sense of humor also lent itself to “Rum and Coca Cola” with Alana Allende embodying the role of a flirtatious South American woman playing with the male members of the troupe, leaving them wanting more. As with the rest of the songs, the underlying theme of men going to war rose to full embodiment in “There Will Never be Another You,” featuring Amanda Stevenson and Sanchez. And, finally, the reprise of “Bei Mir Bist du Schon” brought the full cast back to the stage.
A prolonged standing ovation brought the troupe back to stage for individual bows and the appreciation of an audience filled with dancers-to-be who had enjoyed the master class with Taylor 2 earlier that day.
This show and the master class were sponsored by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, and the productions of each piece were made possible through grants from various state arts councils, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. Paul Taylor’s work is a perfect example of artistic American genius that is only available to small theaters because of the generosity of those organizations.
TAYLOR 2 DANCE COMPANY (Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, Oct. 17 at the Kirby Theater in Roxboro, NC).
2013-14 SEASON: http://www.personcounty.net/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=2486.
Taylor 2 Dance Company: http://ptdc.org/artists-dances/taylor-2/ (official website).
Paul Taylor (choreographer): http://ptdc.org/artists-dances/paul-taylor/ (Paul Taylor Dance Company bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Taylor_(choreographer) (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.