PAUL TAYLOR'S AMERICAN MODERN DANCE-Death and The Damsel
March 15, 2015
There’s a dark side to Paul Taylor expressed in dances that rip through social ills and sexual cravings. Two of the most riveting examples are “Big Bertha” and “Speaking in Tongues.” And once again, Mr. Taylor dangles ideas of forced sex shadowed by nightmares and the walking dead. A bit of Roland Petit’s “Le Jeune homme et la mort” (the young man and death) made famous in a film starring Rudolf Nureyev and Zizi Jeanmaire, scents Taylor’s new work, “Death and The Damsel.”
Sleepless in a small, surrealistic bedroom framed by windows and doors all askew, Jamie Rae Walker is plagued by
fathoms in black, shiny, suggestive outfits. Suddenly, Michael Trusnovic snatches a pillow and smothers her.
This fades into a gritty club scene where men and women stalk Ms Walker. In the most graphic moment, Ms. Walker is pitched to the ground; her legs grabbed by the ankles and spread apart revealing a man kneeling behind, spine upright, leering at her crotch. He doesn’t touch any other part of her body, but there’s no second-guessing the brutality of the gesture. To what end—is not clear.
Is this a comment on the current campaigns to address “date-rape” on campuses, or the coupling of death and sex? Partners embrace in a destabilized social dance punctuated by arms held tautly upright at an angle, bodies leaning apart. Regardless, the dancers commit themselves to the “dance macabre” designed and costumed by Santo Loquasto.
The program opened on Mr. Taylor’s visually satisfying “Beloved Renegade” (2008) and closed on the glorious “Esplanade” (1975).
In “Beloved Renegade” bodies combine and recombine, layering in an artistic human topography sculpted by Jennifer Tipton’s lighting. Supported by Poulenc’s “Gloria,” the dance nods to Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and brother love (philadelphia). Deeply poetic, “Renegade” is a fine counterpart to the giddily rapturous “Esplanade,” a musical romp that finds complex simplicity in pedestrian movements led by poignancy and sheer joy. Happily, live music by the Orchestra of St.Luke’s firmly conducted by Donald York accompanied the evening’s repertory.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis