"Continuum", "Ports of Call", "Syzygy"
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance
David H. Koch Theater
New York, New York
March 24, 2017
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2017 by Mary Cargill
In addition to the standard two new Taylor pieces, Paul Taylor's recent New York seasons have featured works by other choreo- graphers, with predictably mixed results. Lila York, whose "Continuum" had its New York premiere this season, danced with Taylor in the 1970s and 1980s, and has choreographed many pieces since retiring from dancing. The new work, set to Max Richter's "Recomposed: The Four Seasons", a reworking of the familiar Vivaldi music, looks like a reworking of many familiar Taylor moves, and is at various times thrilling, exuberant, and nostalgic, but not original or moving.
Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec in "Continuum" Photo © Paul B. Goode.
There is a peppy young girl going it alone (Madelyn Ho), who appears to be York's alter ego running around in "Esplanade". There are circles, rolls, lots of jumps and difficult lifts, and two pas de deux exploring different moods. These were danced magnificently by Laura Halzack in her serene goddess mode with Michael Trusnovec as a tormented male, and Heather McGinley and Sean Mahoney flowing around each other with a sense of loss (and lots of facial emoting), but the dances, coming in the middle of so much energetic hustle bustle, seemed unfocused. Dancers came and went, doing their familiar Taylor steps, demonstrating emotions rather than evoking them. York used the dancers' physical gifts and distinctive personalities but didn't explore or extend them.
"Ports of Call", one of Taylor's new works, unfortunately, doesn't extend his dancers either; its air of desperate whimsy seems weaker at each viewing. The dancers seem to know that it needs help and they mugged their way through most of it. Michelle Fleet was a notable exception, as the music seemed to ripple through her body in the "men must fight and women must weep" story Taylor set in a fantasy Africa. The sashayed bravely through the unexceptional hula, and shivered through the Alaska section, though even they could not make the nose-rubbing men seem anything but painful. The "barefoot and pregnant" episode set in the Midwest (though the Ma and Pa Kettle characterization looks more like Appalachia than Nebraska) has become a congealed cartoon with a lot of spitting, snorting, and gum-chewing substituting for choreography.
Taylor's 1987 "Syzygy" was a welcome relief, an explosion of pure and controlled energy. Unlike York, Taylor has not packed the dance with every different step he can fit into the music, but has focused on a few quick, smaller jumps matched with a loose-limbed upper body, which made the dancers seems like they were floating effortlessly through the dark space, alternately slinky and silky. Ho again danced the woman alone part, revolving in a Mercury-like pose, seeming at times to lead the group on, and at other times acting as an intermediary between the dancers and some celestial force.
Though the dancing was fast and furious (especially the sharp, shaking little jumps for the men), Taylor let the dancers react to each other, and this was a true community. I particularly enjoyed Eran Bugge and Jamie Rae Walker in their perky little dance-off.
Photos © Paul B. Goode:
Top: Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec in "Continuum".
Bottom: Robert Kleinendorst, Michael Trusnovec, Michael Apuzzo, and Sean Mahoney in "Syzygy".
Copyright © 2017 by Mary Cargill