Monday, March 7, 2011

Keeping It Relevant at Paul Taylor Dance Co.

Annamaria Mazzini leads the full cast as Flemish Villagers in Paul Taylor Dance Company's "Phantasmagoria." Photo by Tom Caravaglia.

BY TAMARA BECK

CONCEPTS
can sometimes overwhelm and muddy a dance piece. Or, more happily, they can be just the ticket to delightfully conjoining mind and body on the stage.

The former unfortunately is true of Paul Taylor Dance Company’s “Polaris,” a piece originated in 1976 to commissioned music by Donald York. The concept that two casts of dancers consecutively perform the same steps and movement to two different scores is intriguing, even fascinating. The resulting work is a dull disappointment, though.

“Polaris” is performed inside and outside of an open-faced box, delineated only by its struts. This box is an open square built of edges against a blue background designed by Alex Katz.

The dancers begin downstage in confinement within this enclosure. At first they define the space, reaching out to touch the imaginary walls. As one of the dancers breaks free from the box onto the larger stage, others soon follow. Their confinement is voluntary and eventually, they all return to it. At this point the second crew comes on stage and one by one replaces the first group of dancers.

Dancing inside the box in "Polaris." Photo by Lois Greenfield.

The music changes, but the movement repeats, line for line, stretch for stretch, step for step. “Polaris” lacks the verve and energy this reviewer has come to expect from a Taylor-made piece.

There is repetition and recurring characters in “Phantasmagoria” as well. But, oh my, everything in “Phantasmagoria” is to pleasurable effect. The eclectic and lively music is selected from anonymous Renaissance composers. The costumes by Santo Loquasto are imaginative, colorful, and echo the eras they reflect.

Annamaria Mazzini, Amy Young and Laura Halzack as the Isadorables in "Phantasmagoria." Photo by Tom Caravaglia.

“Phantasmagoria” is a kind of history of the world set through dance, covering an amusingly wide range. The Renaissance is represented in a pictorial opening featuring the entire cast as Flemish Villagers (12 cast members led by Annamaria Mazzini), onward to the tribute to Isadora Duncan in the form of the Isadorables (Amy Young, AM, and Laura Halzack). There is a side trip to an East Indian Adam and Eve, deftly and humorously played by Sean Mahoney and Parisa Khobdeh with a toy serpent.

The oft-present Byzantine Nun (LH) dances off with PK’s prop serpent also to very funny effect. The Flemish Villagers, the Isadorables, an Irish step dancer (Michelle Fleet), come in and out of the wings. Michael Trusnovec, as St. Vitus’ dance transformer, infects the cast. The involuntary jerky movements of the disease named for St. Vitus, the patron saint of dancers, are turned into a joyful display.

Michael Trusnovec as St. Vitus’ dance transformer and cast in Phantasmagoria. Photo by Tom Caravaglia.

Paul Taylor continues to add vibrant, thought-provoking and relevant dances to his repertory at the age of 82. There are some 150-plus works that are often licensed for performances by other dance troupes and taken on tour by both the larger company of 16 dancers and Taylor 2’s ensemble of six.

In 1993, PT with longtime colleague, Linda Hodes, created Taylor 2 so that it could tour the world and share his works with a wide audience. Since it is a company of only six professionals, it can economically meet its mandate to accommodate performance requests as well as teach and provide community outreach with a repertoire that spans the broad spectrum of his works and can be performed by a smaller ensemble. (See video at http://ptdc.org/video/taylor-2)

Among the works in the Taylor 2 repertory is the classic “Company B” set to music sung by The Andrews Sisters. It is a jazzy and wistful recollection of the nation’s hopes, dreams and disappointments just as World Wa II was beginning.

Taylor 2 dancers in "Company B." Photo by Tom Caravaglia.

While the main company’s annual visit to New York City Center ended yesterday, it goes on the road, starting 19 March at Altanta. Other stops include Washington, D.C., Stillwater, OK and Clearwater, FL. It ends on 23 July in Durham, NC.

Meanwhile, Taylor 2 is in residence at the UB Center for the Arts in Buffalo and performs there Thursday (10 March, http://www.ubcfa.org/webmodules/event/Events.aspx?eid=647#647e). Other stops are Livermore, CA and Napa, CA before the tour ends on 2 April in Colorado Springs, CO.

Taylor Dance and Taylor 2 exclusively perform pieces created by its founder and namesake. (See Video of PT's “Scudorama” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfdpmYzs3J4&NR=1) and the classic “Esplanade” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnYmdX8hpPE&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/user/danceonfilm)

Visit http://www.ptdc.org/ to learn more about the Paul Taylor Dance Company and http://ptdc.org/artists-dances/taylor-2 to learn more about Taylor 2.

Goings-on Elsewhere in the World of Dance
ANTICIPATION is growing for a visit from the Martha Graham Dance Company in honor of its 85th anniversary from 15 March to 20 March at the Rose Theatre in the Time Warner Center. (http://marthagraham.org/company/newyork)

New York City Ballet dancers Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar perform "For the Love of Duke. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The program will include classic pieces by Martha Graham, a world premiere by Bulareyaung Pagarlava and the revival of a piece commemorating MG, Robert Wilson’s “Snow on the Mesa” …

THE New York City Ballet comes in little bursts. The winter season just ended, featured some old gems, including George Balanchine’s “Cortege Hongrois” and new faves like Susan Stroman’s “For the Love of Duke.” Not to worry. They’re back in residence at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the spring season from 3 May to 12 June. (http://www.nycballet.com/1.html) ...

WHAT won’t be back in the spring is Peter Martin’s “Swan Lake” which sold out the house, actually creating a cancellation line during the last week of the winter season. “Black Swan”-effect, you think?

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