Review: Taylor dancers astonish again

After 56 years, every grand superlative to describe the dances of Paul Taylor have already been put

After 56 years, every grand superlative to describe the dances of Paul Taylor have already been put on paper. But while biographers and critics might lack for new things to say, Taylor doesn’t. His malleable imagination continues to astonish.

As he approaches the age of 80, the choreographer still has handy an endless supply of ideas that secures his reign as modern dance’s living genius.

His Paul Taylor Dance Company easily supported that fact this past weekend at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. In front of a sold-out house, Taylor’s amazing ensemble of 16 unfurled the Taylor magic. And as usual, the spell was cast and the audience was spellbound.

How does Taylor do it, again and again? Sheer talent is involved, certainly. But he also has a sympathy for his audience. He measures his movements just right. He knows how to shock, thrill, amuse and captivate. And, equally important, he knows when to bring the curtain down.

Consider his newest work, “Brief Encounters,” set to Debussy’s “Le Coin des Enfants.” Eleven dancers, dressed in nothing but black skivvies, looked like classical sculptures coming to life in a museum or temple. Against a painted backdrop of an arched stone passage, the dancers were lit in what appeared to be a setting sun. As the stage dimmed, the 11 began to circle en masse. They were drawn together, with a touch of the hand, then pulled apart and sucked back into the circle. As most peeled away, two stayed for a glorious coupling.

Taylor composed this dance as if in a cyclone. Every movement was circular. They swirled around each other, brushing, caressing or embracing for just a moment before they were blown away again, replaced by another longing pair. Sexual tensions permeated throughout, keeping all aroused. It was an energy that the players could only toy with and not satisfy.

Of course, Taylor can’t resist a touch of humor too. In the end, these perfect bodies abandoned their whirlwind and played leapfrog, tag and held each other’s feet wheelbarrow-style. It was the last hurrah before they lined up in formation and became motionless — classic sculptures once again.

The company also electrified in “Piazzolla Caldera,” Taylor’s sendup to tango without the tango. However, there is enough posturing to fully symbolize the passion and machismo that is connected to this electric dance.

Annmaria Mazzini was sadly wonderful as the lone lady who was cast aside by all. Parise Khobdeh and Robert Kleinendorst were sharp and sassy in their duet while Michelle Fleet and Michael Trusnovec floored the audience with their high-flung tussle. Orion Duckstein and Jeffrey Smith provided the comic relief as the tipsy, combative onlookers who got into the fray.

“Piazzolla Caldera” was hot. But it was the Taylor dancers who made this work spectacular.

The night opened with a work from 1968, “Public Domain.” The piece, set to a collage of music and film clips that are part of the public domain (everything from Bach to Sousa), was once a hoot. The finale, in which the dancers pose in crazy position at the music’s height, still is. But if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of the dancers, “Public Domain” would no longer be in public view. A rare flop for Taylor? Yes, indeed.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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