PAUL TAYLOR DANCE CO/Banquet of Vultures/A Field of Grass
March 29, 2014
Paul Taylor is that uncle at family gatherings, armed with jokes you only laugh at from hearing them relentlessly, who occasionally breaks character for profound thoughts – at least that was Wednesday’s portrayal (of twenty-three others). Armed with a marriage of virtuosic versatility and a compellingly diverse palate, the company tackled the obstacles of interpreting a choreographic chameleon and doing so in the mammoth space of the David H. Koch Theater to a result of pure totality, which, even when distant in framing, remained fully and consistently whole in execution.
Robert Kleinendorst smokes a joint. He executes a variation of dainty skips in circular paths, digressing to puff out exhaust in sukhasana. Company arrives, commencing the hallucinogenic trip, A Field of Grass. 1960’s dance tropes are tossed into disembodied numbers from community theatre productions of Hair. In a redemptive ending, a solo becomes a duet multiplying until the final odd number ejects Kleinendorst from his own party – this and his blunt signal his sole material existence.
Imagery may be light, but musicality is subtle. Set to groovy crooner Harry Nilsson, Kleinendorst first establishes himself “Mother Nature’s Son.” He and Michelle Fleet represent freedom in “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City” as interracial romance. Feminism manifests through women undulating to a man’s backfired aspirations of being a “Spaceman,” and “The Puppy Song” levels animal and human partnerships of all orientations. The 1993 piece, through unthreatening presentation, employs subversive hindsight.
A masterful programming move, 2005’s Banquet of Vultures displays anti-war fervor the previous piece’s characters would undoubtedly support. Michael Trusnovec hollows space wherever he goes. Spotlights are cages in which blindfolded soldiers clash and the suited antagonist displays himself, his leg in flexed-footed side attitude resembling a bazooka. He erratically tangos with himself until Jamie Rae Walker dares to resist.
The two carry out an unnerving duet – the inevitably thwarted heroine holds a candle tight until the crooked commander snuffs it and her. The folly and power of groupthink reveal as the ensemble faithfully emulates their leader’s movement only to be chopped down; whether they prosper or fall, they are together. Curiously, it is the victorious villain rendered replaceable among faceless soldiers as Kleinendorst follows Trusnovec, thrashing to the ground, recovering like nothing happened, and marching onward to an unseen sequel in a keen nod to Kurt Jooss.
Cloven Kingom confounded the programmatic through-line, preventing complete emotional exhaustion. High-society folk are possessed by primal spirits and clunky geometric headgear to the sounds of Corelli injected with seductive rhythms. The dancers surrender control of their shifts between propriety and animalism. In what reads as innocent absurdity, one can’t help but notice that women become liberated by their “misbehavior,” while the men are rendered buffoonish.
Uptightness is rewardingly practiced to percussion while Corelli ultimately gets ironically sophisticated pelvises. It shows not hierarchies, but complete societies whose DNA have more in common than surmised. The sections seem to happen simultaneously and continuously, developing elsewhere. We conclude seeing every individual for who s/he is. They, like the movers embodying them, are self-aware but far from self-conscious.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews