Paul Taylor Dance Company
7 November 2000
Somehow I missed Paul Taylor's last visit here 9 years ago. I guess, like many, I just didn't know how good he and his company are. People in the know always tip you the wink about Taylor - usually a massive wink, accompanied by a smirk and/or words like 'seriously classy stuff'.
Well now I understand too.
What I don't understand is how anybody this good can still be so relatively unknown to the wider world. For example where were all those who routinely turn out for modern dance, whoop, whistle and stamp at the end of every piece?
At least when Taylor comes over again you will know to forgive me if the site drops references to almost everything else and goes totally Taylor mad.
On to specifics: there were 3 diverse pieces on display...
A light piece with a Mark Morris feel - joyful, light, playful, natural dance. Whereas Morris is more folksy, Taylor is the more classical, though all is done barefoot. The other thing that brought Morris to mind was the choice of music: Bach, Concertos for Piano and Orchestra. A piece created only last year, it pleased me no end with its modern feel but 19th century references - just loved the boys lying down and wafting the air as the girls do in Swan Lake for example.
I remember people raving about Mark Morris and on a first encounter really being rather depressed at what I saw. But for Taylor I came out of Cascade beaming at the musicality and luminosity of it all, beaming at the designs (Santo Loquasto) - a shimmering old-gold backcloth was to die for in its sumptuousness - and beaming about the dancers particularly.
A note on the dancers...
The Taylor dancers are amazingly chunky, it has to be said. I'm convinced they could easily go to Bangkok and win Thai kick-boxing bouts. And that's just the girls...
Compared with what we normally see in the UK, American dancers always look to have more chunk and muscle, though mainly in the legs I think. The Taylor Dancers, though, are strong up top too - in the arms particularly. It's an athletic, muscular look, honed for no-messing speed and exhilarating partnering. Taylor also makes the arms much more prominent, often assuming apparently incongruous positions that just happen to look so right and natural in the overall line.
Le Sacre Du Printemps
If the first piece left me on some kind of 'cloud 9' the second, perhaps better known by its English title of The Rite of Spring, left me perplexed and very enthusiastic to see it again.
Any connection with the original theme - of fertility and sacrifice are loose at best, though it does shock with its distorted angular look and the antics of a couple with a baby - for whom the rigours of a violent shaking would come as a merciful relief, I'm sure. Taylor gives his dance the alternative title of The Rehearsal and there is indeed a ballet mistress from hell involved, but so too are a private eye, crook, stooge, gangsters moll, Keystone Cops, to name but a few. The surreal action is matched by the strangeness of the staccato dance vocabulary. You could see this tens of times and still miss stuff.
A piece that is all sex, using the Tango as is base. Again Taylor colours this with his own classical modernism and its as 'filthy' and fun as you care to see! And all set off by more great designs (Santo Loquasto again) of a seedy dance room, with gorgeous floaty dresses and stockings. Wanton dance with a vengeance.
I can't finish without a brief mention of Lisa Viola who featured much in the evening - unfashionably short, she had a power, magnetism and above all passion which commanded you to watch and wonder. But the whole company is just terrific - he said with a tipped wink.