A new work by Paul Taylor is always an event, even though he has diligently created two a year and #142, Death and The Damsel, until recently simpley entitled New Work, was much anticipated by these old Taylor enthusiasts. Its arrival did not disappoint. Following the tag line “The City is of Night, perchance of Death,” attributed to James Thomson, Santo Loquasto clothed the night visitors in Dracula-esque costumes while James F. Ingalls bathed the scenes in a dim obscurity.
Sometimes you are outnumbered, as is the maiden in Death and The Damsel. There are 9 of her many tormentors to her one sunny self (Jamie Rae Walker, clad in pink.) The sets of a tenement and a dance club are engaging, as is the Sonata No. 2 by Bohuslav Martinů, and the choreography which blends in a little MMA with its movement.
On this last weekend’s program, we also caught Last Look, a kind of Bosch like work from 1985, which uses mirrors, colorful costumes (sets and by Alex Katz) and darkness to tell its haunted purgotorial tale. Death and The Damsel puts one in mind of the dystopian Last Look. In the former and newer work, the battle is livelier and the sets more colorful, with the pink dress and graffiti-like backdrops contrasting against the gloom.
Esplanade is one of the “fun” Taylor pieces; first performed in 1975, it is a pretty romp, with everyone chasing and racing and falling to an infectious Bach score. As with everything this season, these last looks at Taylor’s repertory were greatly enhanced by the live music.
As long-standing fans, we were surprised to find that Diggity and The Word are two of Paul Taylor’s works which we had never seen. Pleasantly surprised and glad to catch both on this first afternoon of Spring. (We thought we had seen everything after all these years of PTDC performances.)
In Diggity, a cast of 9 gambol amidst a dogs- on-a-lawn set (by Alex Katz), in sporty day-in-the-park casual costumes (also by Katz) to music specially composed for the piece by PTDC Musical Director, Michael York. Heather McGinley races through while Robert Kleindorst, Michelle Fleet, Eran Bugge, Francisco Graziano, Laura Halzack, Aileen Roehl and George Smallwood frolic agreeably in the sunshine of the dancepiece. (Overheard from a man in the audience, “It’s nice to think of this piece being created as Taylor’s dog was getting underfoot in the studio one day.” For what it’s worth.)
The dance vocabulary of strength, threat and aggression in The Word is matched by David Israel’s commissioned musical score. Santo Loquasto has dressed the cast in schoolboy short pants with suspenders and ties, and the “God,” (or demon–cause where there are gods there are demons) who “is a consuming fire” in a leotard. The men and women in this community are easily led, and their ardor is both decorous and licentious. They are unthinking adherents, who take devotion to extremes. Taylor often exercises a sardonic or wry wit in his works; here his commentary seems somehow purer.
Like everything in this Spring’s repertory, Esplanade benefits from the presence of a live orchestra. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s played the Bach music with Krista Bennion Feeney as soloist in the Concerto in E Major and Ms. Feeney with Mitsuru Tsubota as soloists in the Concerto in D Major. Esplanade is a lovely and lively work, in the Taylor repertoire since 1975.
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance is at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center through March 29th. For tickets, please visit www.ptamd.org/tickets.