Saturday, March 24, 2012

Paul Taylor Dance Company—Revival Fever

Jamie Rae Walker and Michael Novak in Junction. Photo:
Paul Taylor Dance Company’s March 21 program included two revivals new to me: Junction (of tranquility and fervor) (1961) and House of Cards (1981). Alex Katz designed the color-block leotards for Junction and the backdrop of vertical red bars—allusions to colorful tropical birds in an aviary, reinforced by repeated wing-shakings and bird-like behavior by the dancers. Set to some of Bach’s Solo Suites for Cello, the dance simmers alongside the hearty melodies rather than depicting them, at times defying the music. 

There’s plenty of stillness; Michael Novak in a child’s pose is essentially a base for the scupture that is Jamie Rae Walker, as Sean Mahoney stands nearby, and the general tone is placid and unhurried. Taylor created Aureole the next year, and you can feel themes resonate between these two works—a sweet optimism, relishing the body’s athleticism, spaciousness, and celebrating a  community. At times it even recalls Cunningham, with its disregard for tempo and small groups moving independently. I hope it remains in the repertory for awhile.
Aileen Roehl, Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Novak, and Amy Young in Junction. Photo:

While Taylor’s work generally stands up well to being time-stamped, it’s clear that it can’t avoid being branded by 1980s fashion. Cynthia O’Neal designed the costumes for House of Cards, using leg warmers, jazz shoes, low-armhole tank tops for the men, and head wraps. Mimi Gross’ brash painted drop, a clatter of familiar and abstract objects, slowly scrolled vertically throughout the dance, done to Milhaud’s La Création du Monde. Relatively new company member Heather McGinley, elegant and serene, portrayed a goddess in silver lamé, empowered as the puppeteer.

3 Epitaphs (1956) was also on this intriguing program. The five dancers wear Robert Rauschenberg's head-to-toe mud-colored unitards with mirror medallions. Their chimpanzee-like posture and tendency to lean groggily on each other at first paints them as sort of sad, but it's just as likely they're content.

Mercuric Tidings
(1982, and recostumed by Santo Loquasto in recent years) closed the program. Like many of Taylor's abstract, musically-attuned (to Schubert) densely-patterned pieces, it rewards multiple viewings. It's not just being able to see more clearly the incredibly fast parts that push these fine dancers just to their limits. It's smaller details, like the ending of a section when Amy Young quickly slips her hand onto Michael Trusnovec's just before the lights darken, locking the whole tableau into perfect focus. Mercuric Tidings made for a bracing finale of a fascinating program (lit by Jennifer Tipton) that revealed the breadth of Taylor's subgenres, and of his
artistic collaborators.

No comments: