The 2017 Bi-Annual Taylor Visit

5 May

You could almost make a ditty about that heading. Something about Paul Taylor’s choreography and his marvelous dancers remind me of a world which shaped me, and I expect helped to mold Taylor’s view of the world.  It was the ‘Thirties and The Depression which was the subject of his plaintive, evocative closer of Program B, April 27 and April 28. Unlike many modern choreographers, Taylor possesses many of the spare qualities forming the American mind-set in the early-Thirties, as well as an almost ineffable sense of whimsy, a droll regard for cliches which he manages to present slightly askew. Somehow, he manages to make me, at least, feel right at home,in the right place, and breathing contentedly, making of a swallow a wisp of satisfaction.

There were the usual three programs, with Programs B and C being repeated; Program A had the only local premiere, The Open Door, as well as an early classics, Airs, to George Frederick Handel’s music.

Program B opened with Book of Beasts, a 1971 work set to E. Power Biggs using a pedal harpsichord, the familiar tunes rendered with a somewhat remote sound with tinny accents. The costumes by John Rawlings echoed Taylor’s whimsy, calculated down to the last streamer. Both costumes and music provided a perfect foil to the dancers, women and men, black garbed up to their tilted berets, marching on stage with pointed arrow-ends to white staves.  They marched, moved in formations, inter-twined, moved through their lines, thrust their staves to the ready when a white ghost with flame steamers flitted on stage; abandoned the stage when Michael Trusnovec danced Phoenix to the strains of Mahler, glittering in gold-sequined body suit, head band, red streamers as hand accent; staves utilized as game holders to Saint-Saens Swan; staves creating a halo behind Michael Novak’s Deity to Beethoven as he bent, bowed and twisted with glacial Le Roi Soleil demeanor. The staves provided weapon support for the de Falla Devil danced by Robert Kleinendorst, pointing dark blue cellophane straw claws at his victims, swiveling his hips, encased in a blue/black unitard of glistening sequins, all knowing gleeful naughtiness. For the finale, what but Tchaikovsky’s notes for the Russian divertissement in the Nutcracker’s Act II.  Such a send up!

The 2007 Lines of Loss left me more or less neutral, occasionally nodding, though the dancers, in spare off-white Santo Loquasto costumes, were their usual excellent selves.  My principal reaction was admiration for Taylor’s adroit patterns and groupings.

Black Tuesday is now sweet sixteen, created in 2001 to songs of The Great Depression, the set and motley costumes of mix and match by Santo Loquasto apt echoes of survival under the Third Avenue El, still in place during my brief Manhattan sojourn in 1952. The tinny quality of the musical renditions provides the exact ambiance of momentary cheer and inevitable despair. There is a knowingness about the women’s dresses, accented by black mesh stockings whose black banded tops could be seen all too often, heightening the anbiance of “So what’s it to you?” Parisa Khobdeh’s about-to-deliver baby bump awakened empathy as she hopped, twirls and jumped around the self-absorbed figures in her space.  Michelle Fleet and James Samson gave no-cost cheer in”Slummin’ on Park Avenue,” while Heather McGinley left no doubt about her seedy means of survival, stretching her lengthy limbs or being carried and tossed by fellow survivors iin “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

While each of the eight songs conveyed its own message of the era, Michael Trusnovec’s “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” formed the finale, phrases like “Once I built a Railroad….”with added references to early skyscraper construction, being a World War I doughboy, and “…Al, I’m Your pal.” The phrase “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” finished each sequence as Trusnovec, in khaki, spun, gestured or jumped.  The bitter sweet, tender exposition of those years of Taylor’s childhood, [I too remember them], closed with the company’s hands illuminated with the words “Can you Spare a Dime?”

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