PAUL TAYLOR AMERICAN MODERN DANCE: CLOVEN KINGDOM/CHANGES/CONTINUUM
March 19, 2018
There is nothing like the live experience of a dance that is beautiful, odd, funny, strange, elegant, animalistic, ritualistic, uncanny, and constantly thought-provoking – especially to the wonderfully three-dimensional sound of a live orchestra. Paul Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom, first performed in 1976, is that kind of masterpiece – the kind of dance that you want to see again – the kind that changes you a little, every time you see it.
Danced to baroque music and a percussive score that intrudes and sometimes overlaps (Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Cowell and Malloy Miller, combined by John Herbert McDowell), the men and women both inhabit two different worlds, alternating between genteel court-like dancing and base, animal instinct-like movement. Taylor creates a strange community, where both genders embody the civilized and the raw (a quartet of men in tuxes cavort and compete with each other) creating unlikely juxtapositions that simultaneously cause consternation, surprise, and laughter. When the women reappear wearing geometric mirrors (one woman jetés across the stage with a mirrored sphere attached to her head) the strangeness intensifies: Taylor constantly sets up artifice, lifts the veil of appearances, then drops it back down with a thud.
Part of the Taylor company’s remade image includes presenting new and old American modern dance, a formula that works well. Paul Taylor veteran Lila York, who has choreographed for dozens of ballet companies since, created a dream-like world in Continuum. This one, less strange than melancholy, featured “young” girl with a pink ribbon in her hair (danced by the tiny, lovely Madelyn Ho) with an ensemble that variously holds her aloft, stops her, envelops her and eventually lets her go. Waterfall lifts in canon and dreamy, slow sequences allude to loss, and resignation.
Opening the program with Taylor’s Changes (2008), to the Mamas and the Papas, sets up through a benign nostalgia the more interesting dancing to come. But even this piece has its own strange interlude with a grown man in footie pajamas “dreaming” in a cartoon-like setting – perhaps the effects of what they smoked in a previous scene. In the context of a short repertory evening, it’s hard to seriously conjure up the angst and rebellion of that era, but it’s still fun to see the Taylor dancers, with lots of hair, bell bottoms, and attitude, changing things less than just having a good time.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson