"Little Adorations", "+1/-1", "Entangled", "Last Look","Images"
Lansburgh Theatre, Harman Center for the Arts
March 14, 2010
by George Jackson
copyright 2010 by George Jackson
Adding a second Paul Taylor work, "Images", to City Dance's repertory and performing it alongside Taylor's "Last Look" was this program's big news. Pieces by two of the company's own choreographers - Paul Gordon Emerson and Christopher K. Morgan - preceded the Taylor dances. One of these homegrown pieces - there were three in all - was a late addition to the program. I didn't know the work and missed seeing the program insert announcing it but when, instead of an intermission, the performance continued and a pair of dancers appeared on stage, I found myself certain that it was more Emerson choreography we were seeing. Indeed, it was - which woke me up to the realization that he must have achieved something akin to a signature style.
The two Emerson items were small works - the trio "Little Adorations" (to a Radiohead recording) and the duo "Entangled" (to live sound by Christylez Bacon) - so this isn't the right occasion for trying to characterize his choreographic signature in great detail. I'd guess, though, that Emerson doesn't think first in terms of steps or moves but rather in densities of bodies within a space. The body of the Emerson dancer responds readily yet somewhat individually to stimulation; its reaction may even be quirky. And, it tends to retain its original identity. Because of that, the choreography doesn't travel far from where it started out although it may intensify and relax substantially. Emerson's musicality in these two works is of an experimental pop sort.
The program's other company choreographer, Christopher K. Morgan, works fundamentally with motion - both steps and other body movement. His "+1/-1", shown as a preview, involves 9 dancers and terse, agitated music (Michael Gordon's "Weather One"). A program note explains that the piece is about dancing with and without a partner. Morgan explores pairing and unpairing technically and emotionally. What interested me most was how differently he uses the body above and below the waist. Morgan's foot and legwork is the more textbook of the two, which isn't a bad thing. In its present state, "+1/-1" ends after a set of lifts for a solitary couple; the male partner leaves and the remaining dancer balances by herself for a time until the lights go out on her just as she drops crouching to the floor.
"Last Look" continues to be CityDance performing at its best and being true to Paul Taylor's intent! The production's impact has already been described in danceviewtimes (Question - April 26, 2009). Currently, William Smith is a worthy heir to Michael Trusnovec, who guested at the premiere in the role of principal looker. One change, or rather restoration, is the use now by CityDance of Jennifer Tipton's original lighting for the Taylor company. It is darker than CityDance's initial lighting and makes the men's overalls look a velvety green.Their former drab appearance contrasted strongly with the rich but ragged look of the women's dresses.
The wittily, poignantly, buoyantly stylized "Images" pairs wonderfully with the harsh realism of "Last Look". Both dances are about the death of societies. In "Images" it is an archaic society that lived long ago and that almost springs back to life as we watch Taylor play with its relic images. In "Last Look", of course, it is a society close to home. Taylor conveys the time that separates us from "Images" by the way he distorts space. Bodies become utterly flattened as they move across the stage, or appear in low relief; on occasion, figures become rounded as they roll on the floor. These are alien dimensions. The way Taylor hears Debussy's piano music, as if from afar, also tells of another time. Yet for all the difference in behavior and the distance, the figures in "Images" are achingly human. What storytelling, what drama and how handsomely danced!
Again, Patrick Corbin staged the Taylor choreography for CityDance faithfully and with feeling. Alice Wylie's Oracle, Delphina Parenti and Maleek Washington's Moon Reflections and all the cast - Giselle Alvarez, Elizabeth Gahl, Kathryn Pilkington, Jason Ignacio and Smith - seemed right. Adjusting a few matters of phrasing will come in due course. CityDance's repertory is acquiring ever greater scope.