It is impossible to begin this account of a Sunday matinee performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company without mentioning that I had never see the Company before. Oh, I've meant to go! I saw a bit of a dance on PBS, about twenty-five years ago, and was intrigued, to say the least, by the combination of dramatic eloquence, fierce athleticism, and a soupçon of madness. I have been hacking through a forest of inanition and inattentiveness ever since. My prevailing thought on heading into the City Center was "Finally!" My thought on leaving was "Finally!
Madness, as it turned out, was the keynote to Danbury Mix, Paul Taylor's 1988 dance to music by Charles Ives. I find it hard not to see Ives as the American Kafka, a twisted Yankee emerging from scrims of mystification only to crack macabre jokes in the most demotic vernacular. It's either hooey or hee-haw to me, and Mr Taylor's dancers made it far more interesting to watch than to listen to. Abstract patterns persistently broke down, or blew up, into derangement, frequently enacted by the lone named character, Miss Liberty (Laura Halzack). With fantastic irony, moves from classical dance are deployed throughout the circus-like rowdiness of the central part of the dance. I became an instant fan of Robert Kleinendorst.
The next dance, Private Domain, must be unusually important to the choreographer, as he has taken its title for his autobiography. Dating from 1969, it had the feel of a time-capsule somewhat prematurely unsealed. At least for viewers in the neighborhood of sixty (and there were plenty at City Center), not enough time has passed for the Sixties details of Private Domain to become endearing souvenirs. The dance itself does nothing to endear. Alex Katz's set (an upstage dropcloth into which three portals have been cut, making it impossible for any member of the audience to see everything that is happening onstage at any given time) and costumes (biliously blue bikinis for the ladies; navy trunks for the men conveyed the atmosphere of a swimming party attended with the worst of hangovers. The music, by Iannis Xenakis, was so "period" that it seemed to me more of an interior decoration than a score. At one point, I thought I saw Mr Kleinendorst slip-sliding through some Nijinksi moves (seen by me in photogrpahs only), but the tone of misogyny and/or self-hating lesbianism left me cold.
I'd come, however, to see Arden Court, and Arden Court was everything that I could wish for. Gravely satirical and exuberantly decorous, it mashes the regard of courtly propriety up against the abandon of modern dance, and William Boyce's post-Handelian grandeur seems written to suit Mr Taylor's neo-neo-classicism. Arden Court, one of Mr Taylor's numerous collaborations with Tiffany designer Gene Moore, certainly displays the mesmerizing clarity of well-deployed jewels. The senior member of the troupe, Michael Trusnovec, danced as if he were not an hour older than the most junior, Jeffrey Smith, and Amy Young, impressive in the first two dances on the bill, stood forth as the perfect counterpart. (March 2009)
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