BWW Reviews: Paul Taylor's ESPLANDE Outshines at Lincoln Center
Paul Taylor is the last of the living great modern choreographers of the 20th century. He began creating dances in 1954 and has worked with some of the biggest names of the dance world, including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine; he has collaborated with some of today's most important visual artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and Jasper Johns. Many, if not all, choreographers cite him as an inspiration for their work. Paul Taylor's repertory should be permanently placed on a syllabus for any dance enthusiast. Saturday night's performance at Lincoln Center's David Koch Theatre showed the highs and the lows of Paul Taylor Dance Company.
The program started with Byzantium, a revival work that was originally choreographed in 1984. The program suggests that Byzantium was influenced by the last line of Yeats' Sailing to Byzantium: "Of what is past, passing or to come." Taylor created a dystopian world where golden and bronze clad "citizens" are subjugated by a robed, ruling body. Do they represent religion? Government? Is there supposed to be a difference between the two in this world? Byzanitum is divided into three scenes. The first, taking place entirely in the proscenium of the stage in front of a long and narrow rectangular set, introduces the "citizens." They flail about on stage; a few wear metallic costumes but many are in grey. The second scene, in front of a square set and taking place primarily in the center of the stage, introduces the ruling body. They are costumed in robes and are wearing glittering skullcaps that refract the bright stage lights. The ruling body dances together, often connected during each movement, contrasting with the individual leaps of the earlier scene. When the ruling body is disconnected, they pose as icons with two fingers raised in blessing. The final scene, in front of a set covering the entire scrim and using the whole stage, shows the ruling body observing the citizens marching. The citizens have entirely assimilated and are wearing gold. The citizens run, skip, and march in time together under the observation of the ruling body. The scene is briefly interrupted with an uprising and ends with the triumph of the ruling body-although their superiority is never fully explained. While this work is entertaining, it feels very much rooted in the '80s, from the gold lame costumes to the sci-fi movie plot.