Posted in dance, fairytale, modern American dance, modern dance

Wit and whimsy


“Fairytales can come true,” as the song “Young At Heart” says. They also often have a grain of truth in them. For instance, Snow White is about vanity and the dislocations it creates.

In Paul Taylor’s hands, Snow White is a witty, whimsical and untidy tale.

The Wicked Stepmother (Sean Mahoney, who also plays the Prince) is put off by the answer her mirror mutters– it is not she but Snow White (Parisa Khobdeh) who is the fairest in the land. She sets about dispensing with her rival. The self-polishing poison apple (A Bad Apple, in Mr. Taylor’s cast list, and played by Heather McGinley) is clad all in red by costume designer Cynthia O’Neal, who has given Snow White the familiar dress of a Disney creation.

Snow-White_header1-300x168This Taylor creation was first danced in 1983, and features music specially composed by Donald York, the PTDC music director who is conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Sets are by David Gropman and lighting is by Jennifer Tipton. George Smallwood, James Samson, Michael Appuzzo, Robert Kleindorst, and Francisco Graciano are the active, sometime vengeful dwarfs out of central casting.

Along with Snow White on the program was also Profiles, a 1979 dance, which has a
sculptural quality. The music for this piece is also specially composed for it–this for a violin, cello and viola quartet by Ian Radzynski. The movement, like the costuming (by Gene Moore) bears resemblance to cut-out figures. Michael Trusanovec, Laura Halzack, Michelle Fleet, and Michael Novak performed.

Larry Keigwin’s Rush Hour reprised on the bill, with original music by Adam Crystal. The piece is inspired by the images of sculptor George Segal, and has some of the herky-jerky feel of the long trip home after a hard day’s work.

The 1982 Taylor dance, Mercuric Tidings is set to excerpts from Franz Schubert’s symphonies. The piece has a lovely and somewhat languid soul. It also requires a large cast, including Jamie Rae Walker, Madelyn Ho, Christina Lynch Markham, joining many of those seen earlier in the day.

For more information on the PTDC New York season, which continues through April 3rd, please visit the David H. Koch Theater website.

Posted in dance, modern dance, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Dancing “with a generous spirit”

I may be running out of adjectives to describe Paul Taylor’s brilliant air-propelled aerodynamic troupe, Paul Taylor Dance Company, now properly called Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Here Paul Taylor, a man as adept with words as he is with dance steps, may be able to help. In a 1974 memo, Taylor exhorted his  dancers to give “zunchistic” performances.

“Zunch is the thing,” Taylor said… “that sets the exciting dancer apart from the adequate one….” He went on “Zunch is fullness. It is not merely authority and, naturally not technical brilliance…. Zunch is being generous with your spirit.” (I am quoting from The Diamond Anniversary book for the Paul Taylor Dance Company.)

PTAMD‘s New York season running from March 15th through April 3rd at the David H. Koch at Lincoln Center promises another opportunity to find new words

Spindrift Photo by Paul B. Goode
Spindrift Photo by Paul B. Goode

Truthfully, as I run out of descriptives for a Paul Taylor Dance Company presentation, so it seems that Taylor’s dancers nearly run out of stage when they perform. Having exhausted my own vocabulary to effectively explicate what they do, I am grateful to be able to describe their movements with the zesty expletive of “zunch.”

Snow White Photo by Paul B. Goode
Snow White Photo by Paul B. Goode


Modern dance uses less of the arabesque and en pointe than it does the expulsive and explosive whirl and jump. PTAMD is so often airborne it seems to lack connection with all earthbound action. When it does come down to earth, it offers surprise and amazement.

Mr. Taylor’s own work now numbering 144 pieces is equally impressively aerial/ethereal. The new dances, #143 and 144 added to this year’s repertory give an adrenal rush. This variety of excitement is no less breathtaking than what we experience when watching a blow-em-up blockbuster.