David Koch Theater, New York, NY; March 29(m), 2014
This year the Paul Taylor Dance Company is celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. I, however, am a virtual newcomer to the choreography of the last surviving modern dance pioneer. The March 29th matinee is my third time seeing a complete Taylor program. I saw the Taylor group dance ‘Company B’ at the 2010 Fall for Dance Festival. I have also seen American Ballet Theatre perform ‘Company B’ and Taylor’s ‘Black Tuesday’.
The afternoon begins with ‘Black Tuesday’. It is set to recordings of eight songs popular during the Great Depression. Except for “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” the tunes are musically upbeat and the dancing seems lively and fun. When you listen to the lyrics, however, the sadness and bitterness of the era are apparent.
All the performers in ‘Black Tuesday’ are excellent, but a few of them really stand out. Robert Kleinendorst is very funny as a pimp leading around his three prostitutes to the tune of “Are You Making Any Money?”. Dancing to “I Went Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf Is Dead” Jamie Rae Walker is full of nonstop energy and spunky sass.
In “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” Annmaria Mazzini is all gritty sexiness. Her powerful portrayal of a streetwalker who fights to stay strong even when she is gang raped brings tears to my eyes. Fortunately she is finally rescued by Michael Trusnovec’s World War I veteran.
Trusnovec is a wonder as that vet dancing to “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”. He spins on his knees and pivots on the ground as Bing Crosby sings of how far the World War I vet has fallen. At the end of the song Trusnovec thrusts out his hand in a begging motion. As the piece concludes, only his hand is lit up, as are the hands of the rest of the men in the cast who are lined up behind Trusnovec. It is a hauntingly poignant finish.
The second dance is ‘Perpetual Dawn’, a romantic pastoral work set to Johann David Heinichen’s ‘Dresden Concerti’. I have never heard of Heinichen, but his score for ‘Perpetual Dawn’ is lovely and extremely danceable. It reminds me somewhat of the music of Vivaldi.
‘Perpetual Dawn’ is a pretty piece but there’s not much depth to it. I find a sameness to the lovers’ duets that makes the work drag. I am entertained by ‘Perpetual Dawn’ but I don’t know if I’d like to see it again.
The afternoon ends with ‘Gossamer Gallants’, a lively romp set in the insect world to music from Bedrich Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’. The audience is first introduced to six male happy-go-lucky houseflies who race around the stage, poking their hands out front like feelers. When five female bugs dressed in tight green outfits and caps with antennae invade their territory, the horny flies could not be happier. They hold out their wings for the lady bugs to walk across, like they are the Walter Raleighs of the insect world.
The hilarity ramps up when the ladies show their true natures and begin chasing the males across the stage. As the work concludes, five flies are dead in a heap on the stage floor. The lady bugs celebrate, unaware that one of the males has escaped.
All the dancing is done at a breakneck pace and the split second comic timing is perfection. If the laughter and cheering of the March 29th matinee audience is any indicator, this is a dance fully enjoyed by both adults and children. ‘Gossamer Gallants’ is a witty satire that I hope to see many times in the future. It was a wonderful way to end the afternoon.