LAST EDITED ON 22-Jan-00 AT 08:54 AM (GMT)
Paul Taylor Dance Company has been touring a lot this winter. After its Asia-Pacific tour in November when I saw its performances in Macau, its first stop, the Taylor company appeared for a week at the Opera Garnier in Paris in early January giving two different programmes as part of its current European tour. It is amazing that Paul Taylor, one of the greatest living choreographers who is soon to celebrate his 70th birthday, is still so very much active as a choreographer, and is creating at least one new work on average every year.
The novelty of the Paris season was "Arabesque" which was actually premiered in America last autumn. "Arabesque" is an Arcadian work set to excerpts from Debussy's music, and was no doubt intended by Taylor to be a homage to the classical Greek Hellenistic age. The female dancers are clad in white tunics, while the male dancers wear turbans and loosely-fit pantaloons. The recurring patterns in this work are diagonals and circles; and Taylor makes extensive use of epaulement in this work. Nice, visually attractive curves are constantly formed by the dancers' torsos. The choreography has a flowing rhythmic pulse.
The dancers showed a wonderful command of space, which was exhilarating to watch. The men, especially, looked so free in their bare-chested athleticism. The first female soloist, Heather Berest, impressed by her fleet legwork and her airy leaps. Silvia Nevjinsky danced gracefully as the second soloist.
Another work not shown in Macau in November was "Le Sacre du printemps" (1980). I personally prefer this Taylor version of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" to Kenenth MacMillan's version danced by the English National Ballet last week. This work was great fun to watch. Taylor wove together several stories - the abduction of a baby, a ballet mistress conducting a rehearsal, a crook collaborating with his stooge to kill his mistress, and an apparent theft of jewellery. The climactic sacrificial solo in the music was compellingly danced by Lisa Viola, after her kidnapped baby was returned to her by the Private Eye. But then, after the solo she unexpectedly dropped the baby emphatically before falling dead herself. Francie Huber and Patrick Corbin were also superb as the mistress and the Private Eye.
The other four works in the two programmes in Paris were also seen in Asia. In "Syzygy" (1987), Lisa Viola was the centre of calm in the midst of all the frenzy. In the first half, there is a sense of control in the dancers' energetic movements which seem to be deliberately reined in. In the second half however, the frantic bustle gradually becomes more explosive, as well as more desperate in tone.
Lisa Viola also dazzled in "Esplanade", a sunny Taylor classic dating from 1975 with steps consisting mainly of nothing more than walking, running and jumping. Viola's runs across the stage had such poise, and seemed to have a variety of layers. It was also a joy to see her jumping over the group of dancers one by one in a passage. Michael Trusnovec impressed in a solo full of turns. And the rich plasticity of all the dancers' upper bodies enhanced the volume of their movements. The climax saw four girls hurling themselves one by one into their partners' arms. The slow section of the work, with dancers crawling dejectedly on the ground like ants, is typical of Taylor's darker strains.
"The Word" (1998) is a fascinating study in the conformist behaviour of a group's members. Human pyramids are a recurrant motif. Lisa Viola, dressed like a green lizard, was the lone figure, and she danced a very aggressive solo.
"Piazzolla Caldera" (1997) is a spectacular ensemble work inspired by the tango form. Francie Huber danced stylishly a dreamy solo, before becoming part of a trio with Lisa Viola and Patrick Corbin with their arms interlinked at one point. This work is full of sexual ambiguities, especially in a duet towards the end for two drunken men, which was marvellously danced by Richard Chen See and Andy LeBeau, who after the end of their duet then unexpectedly danced a quartet with Andrew Asnes and Silvia Nevjinksy. The bright costumes were designed by Santo Loquasto. Jennifer Tipton's lighting is evocative, and effective theatricality is generated by the overhead lamps.
After this splendid Paris season, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is due to return to London Sadler's Wells Theatre next November, nearly ten years after its last London season in 1991; and it will be interesting to see what repertory it will bring.