Performing Arts: Dance
November 18, 2019
The Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company entered into its Lincoln Center season full of fresh new faces and riveting new commissions. In a historic period of transition for the company following Taylor’s passing in 2018, new artistic director Michael Novak presented a company with a revived vision for its future.

The program opens with classic Taylor work, Airs.Accompanied by the Saint Luke’s Orchestra, six dancers float onto the stage. Costumed in Gene Moore’s elegant blue garments, the women’s dresses soar, while the shirtless men in blue tights are a staple of Taylor masculinity. Soft, sustained pique glides are effortless while petite-allegro is musical, quick, and clean. At times the choreography scuttles, at others it slides. Soloist, and Taylor veteran, Michelle Fleet is a true representation of grace and skill.

Pam Tanowitz’s all at once is a stunning portrayal of technique and swagger. With reference to the title of the work, the entire company bursts in view whimsically filling the space. Clothed in pastel green, blue, and yellow unitards which are draped in a gauzy white cloth, costume designers Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme clothe the dancers in garments which move even in stillness.

Each dancer follows their own rhythm and score, with accompaniment by Bach’s Violin Concerto and Oboe Sonata simply floating over them. Tanowitz’s choreographic vision is carried out with rapid sequencing and alert shifts of weight. The dancers’ technical abilities are highlighted as the choreography tests them with syncopated jumps and shifts back and forth into pedestrian postures.

Composed of continuous sections and uninterrupted dancing, the framework of the piece is a welcome compliment to Taylor’s traditionally segmented work. Dancers move from duets, to solos, to group phrases scattered about. They flee into and out of relationships with one another seamlessly. Sometimes there is an acknowledgement of partnership with a head nod or a hand gesture, other times they are simply occupying the same space.

While this unending sequencing had the potential to exhaust the audience, the dancers’ tranquil demeanor made it so that had they gone on for hours it would have felt like minutes. Through it all, the dancers remain calm in a humorous juxtaposition of exertion and serenity.

After completing a challenging passage of sporadic footwork and gestures across the floor, the dancers relax and shrug as if to say ‘yea... we did that’. Her structural choices, combined with a precise and amusing movement quality, is what makes the piece shine, and highlights this renewed company of dancers.

Closing the program with a sweet nod to nostalgic times, Paul Taylor’s Company B is a quirky, fanciful, and sentimental tribute to war time America. A trio of women harmonize their way through American classics such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “Oh Johnny”. The structure of the piece follows the musical score, as dancers move through swing, jazz, and classic Taylor movement. Though it references the past, this closing piece of the program reminded Taylor audiences that this company is a group capable of executing a wide array of repertory in the future.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

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