Performing Arts: Dance
April 5, 2012
Paul Taylor Dance Company’s matinee performance in its new Lincoln Center digs was short on dance, choosing instead to focus on his more theatrical works.

The show opener “Oh, You Kid!” is a slice of Americana set to ragtime tunes that references popular period dances of the early 1900s. Surprisingly, the work was only choreographed in 1999; dressed in black and white swim costumes, the work relies heavily upon obviously dated humor. In one section a grown man comes crawling onto the stage dressed as a baby and manages to interfere with a woman’s attempt to marry the reluctant father.

The movements that link the patches of period dancing are quite basic; there is a repeated reference to a slowly rotating attitude—a position where one leg is held out at an angle either in front or behind demonstrating a bend at the knee. Much of the time, however, the dancers merely walk or run around the space.

Choreographed in 1970, “Big Bertha” is a shockingly bold look at incest and rape hidden behind the appearance of a simple carnival amusement. Dressed in a shiny gold suit with a red cape and jaunty hat, Amy Young portrayed the namesake doll that eerily comes to life, executing the mechanical movements with precision and a disconcerting intensity that foreshadows the role the doll will play in destroying the unsuspecting family.

Eran Bugge displays a youthful exuberance when she first gets to dance with the doll, which makes her disheveled and bloodied return all the more poignant. Long-time Taylor dancer Michael Trusnovec and the lovely Fleet were also well cast in this uncomfortable work that leaves you squirming in your seat.

After sitting through “Oh, You Kid!,” the world premiere of the truly questionable “House of Joy” and the bizarre “Big Bertha,” the opening strains of Bach’s “Violin Concerto in E Major” swept through the theater like a breath of fresh air as the curtain came up on Taylor’s signature 1975 work “Esplanade.”

The dancers looked joyous executing the familiar patterns of runs and walks that constitute the majority of the piece. Particularly thrilling was the final section where the dancers dart across the space at a quick run before launching themselves in the air, only to catch themselves in the last possible moment on an extended leg to slide and roll off the floor. Michelle Fleet shone as the playful ringleader, handling the section of impossibly fast, continuous little steps with ease and grace.

“Esplanade” received a roaring ovation, particularly noteworthy considering the sleepy matinee audience. The appreciation for this piece was certainly well placed.

EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jessica Moore

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