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Paul Taylor Dance Company’s Diamond Anniversary Season at the David H. Koch Theater….

March 26, 2014

Grass 3During the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s 60th Anniversary at the David H. Koch Theater, the company performed 23 of Paul Taylor’s works, spanning seven decades, from 1953 to the World premiere of Mr. Taylor’s 140th work, Marathon Cadenzas. The Season began on March 11 and continues through till March 30 and includes the New York premiere of American Dreamer.

On Friday night, March 14, three works were seen, the Premiere of Marathon Cadenzas, A Field of Grass from 1993 and one of my favorite of Paul Taylor’s vast repertoire, Arden Court from 1981.

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A Field of Grass from 1993, is a carefree light-hearted romp through yesteryear. A time of bellbottoms, headbands and tie-dyes…and for some… lots and lots of Cannabis! Set to songs by Harry Nilsson, with costumes by Santo Loquasto, there is sense of 60’s cool to the work. The New York Times has referred to it as representative of that pre-”Rent” crowd in bell-bottom jeans who could never say no.

The curtain rises to find Robert Kleinendorst setting cross-legged on the floor,  above his head floats a billowy cloud of smoke, of which he adds more smoke as he pulls on a specious looking cigarette. It is then that you realize why the work is entitled a field of GRASS…

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The work travels through the era’s blissfully stoned moments to the dissention and perhaps regret that became a hallmark of the 60’s. The choreography is ripe with tongue-in-cheek references of a time of free love and bell-bottomed anti-establishment hippies. Francisco Graciano best signified the feel of the age wearing a headband and a denim vest over his bare-chest.

In every season Mr. Taylor is known to premiere a new work or two, this year it was Marathon Cadenzas, with music by Raymond Scott. This is Mr. Taylor’s 140th work and at the age of 84  he is known as the greatest living pioneer of America’s indigenous art of Modern Dance…it’s in the program’s bio…who am I to argue….

Marathon Cadenzas is a reflection upon the dance marathons that were the rage during the Depression era. They were human endurance contests in which couples danced and often times dragged their partners almost non-stop for hundreds of hours for prize money. Is this a statement upon Mr. Taylor’s own longevity within the dance community, perhaps, if you view it from some deep psycho-analytical aspect? After all he has been in the business of dance-making since the early 1950’s, creating his first work on his own group of dancers in 1954 and this was when he was still performing for Martha Graham.

Brilliantly portrayed by Sean Mahoney, a rather dubious looking, cigarette-smoking emcee fires the starting pistol and off they go. Each dancer, wearing a number on their chest begin to dance, Mr. Taylor has cleverly referenced some of the social dances of the era such as the Charleston and the Lindy-hop.

Santo Loquasto, who created the costumes and set transform the stage into a Depression era dance hall with strings of colored lights and a mirror ball. One of many highlights of the work was the duet by two-sailors, James Samson and Francisco Graciano, not so much as a statement on same-sex couples as it was the desperation of the age and everyone willing to get in on the chance to win much needed money. Michelle Fleet’s solo has to be mentioned, for her dancing portrays such elegance that is unmatched when she’s on stage. But it was Michael Trusnovec and Heather McGinley who spun, twirled and out lasted everyone on the floor. A very slinky Laura Halzack dazzled us in a sexy red dress, but she showed questionable ethics, for as the Marathon ends she departs arm-in-arm with the equally and morally questionable emcee, Mr. Mahoney.

It is the simplicity to the style of movement combined mixed with the complexity of patterns utilized that makes Arden Court so appealing. Set to William Boyce’s Symphonies No. 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8 it is a work that one just sit back and enjoys. No deep analytical thinking or inner Socratic dialogue is needed.

Arden Court just is what it is, a fun, light and airy dance that is physical without being overly so. With a giant rose emblazoned on the backdrop, the fast-paced work flows through the melodies with a scalpel’s precision. It’s a grand work that celebrates the joy of life.

At the beginning of the season the Paul Taylor Dance Company announced that contemporary modern-dance choreographers (still unnamed) would be asked to create works for the troupe, and that “modern dance masterworks by celebrated choreographers” (also unnamed) would enter the troupe’s expanding repertory, this is in addition to live music once again be part of the Taylor season.

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The Company announced that that it had commitments of $10 million to reinvent itself next year as Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. This is being financed partly through Mr. Taylor’s sale of four postwar modernism works by Robert Rauschenberg. The paintings were gift from Mr. Rauschenberg, a friend and frequent collaborator of Mr. Taylor.

Sotheby’s has announced the paintings are expected to bring in between $5 million to $7 million. Rick Stone, chairman of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation has announced that the money raised will be matched by the board. Mr. Taylor is said to want to remake his company so that it will last beyond his lifetime.

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