Dance Review: Paul Taylor Dance Company

Taylor wasn’t marked as a ground-breaker in the true sense of the word, but as a master of pleasing, with rather safe, all-American modern dance.

May 9, 2010 03:08
2 minute read.
Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Paul Taylor Dance Company 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Paul Taylor
Dance Company (USA)
Haifa Auditorium
April 28

Prolific, octogenarian dance-maker Paul Taylor has enjoyed an exceptionally long career. He is perhaps the last of the iconic pillars of American modern dance in the post-Martha Graham era. His dances always appealed to large audiences, who were attracted to the fluidity, musicality and easily digestible treatment of occasional social comment.

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Almost 20 years have passed since the company’s previous tour to Israel, and we still received typical Taylor materials ranging from the basic, rather simplistic and trivial to the sublime and sophisticated.

The evening opened with Changes (2008) set to songs of The Mamas and the Papas, which, apart from “California Dreaming,” have limited appeal to begin with. The piece purports to depict the spirit of the ’60s, but without a grain of its true socio-political complexity. Even the dancers looked a bit jaded, going through the motions, leaning on stereotypical images. It also suffered from its inner fragmented structure, set to a string of various tunes which left little room for in-depth treatment of its spatial, thematic or spiritual materials.  

Fortunately the evening picked up with Piazzolla Caldera (1997) and its superb musical rendition by Gidon Kremer. One cannot stay indifferent to Piazzolla’s pungent melodies and the company had a chance to express its sensual, sassier side, while Taylor’s creativity seemed better focused.

The surprising highlight of the evening, though – and one that left a favorable aftertaste – was Promethean Fire (2002). The work, one of the best produced by Taylor, achieved juxtaposed objectives – to go back and progress forward.

Stylistically, it goes way back to the earlier sources of modern dance and reveals the traces of its roots as far as the aestheticism of Nijinska, and some postures that would have pleased Mary Wigman of pre-war German expressionist dance.

In a somber setting, elegant costumes and timeless music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Taylor explores anew aspects of the neoclassical approach to more lucid group structures and values such as symmetry and other geometrical forms, and manages to evoke an earlier age while somehow producing a more relevant, age-defying creation.

Taylor wasn’t marked as a ground-breaker in the true sense of the word, but as a master of pleasing, with rather safe, all-American modern dance. In that context, his Promethean Fire was a really beautiful, uplifting surprise.

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