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During its premiere season at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center, Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance presented an eclectic evening of dance that had the audience experiencing a range of emotions. From wonder and awe to shockingly disturbing, glee to solemn reverence, the complex evening had a variety of pieces, but had one thing in common: simply exquisite dancing.

Under Paul Taylor's new vision, the Company seeks to present masterpieces by prominent choreographers and so for its premiere season has chosen to share the stage with two incredible modern dance company. This particular evening began with a presentation of Doris Humphrey's Passacaglia, performed by the ever elegant Jose Limon Dance Company. It was classic, true modern dance by a company whose technique and its precise execution of that technique was simply perfect.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company was up next, and rather than present a similar classical piece, instead presented the controversial Big Bertha. With a circus score, vaudeville dances, and a creepy little (or rather big) animatronic humanoid (played by the dauntless Christina Lynch Markham), this piece was a far cry from the previous one. As if the big-bosomed, big-bottomed Big Bertha were not extremely creepy enough with her clown-like getup and over-the-top robotic-like movements, the story of a family's interaction with the nickelodeon takes a nightmarish turn. Whimsical whirls and twirls transform before the audiences eyes from playfulness to utter darkness in an almost tragically beautiful and captivating way. Highly controversial when it first premiered in 1970, the piece's incest storyline is still as shocking.

The tone is then flipped over nearly 180 degrees as the curtains rise on Troilus and Cressida (reduced). As soon as the score for Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours begins, played live by the Orchestra of St. Luke, the audience knows they are in for something deliciously comedic. And the piece does not disappoint- three little cupids flittering about, Trojan soldiers shuffling around, and the most hilariously awkward love team, this piece had the audience rolling in laughter. And the added bonus? Little hints of brilliance as Mr. Taylor's choreography perfectly accentuated the already entertaining score.

The final piece of the evening was Beloved Renegade, which was inspired by poet Walt Whitman and set to music for soprano, chorus, and orchestra by Poulenc. Taking a much more grave tone, the focus was placed on the extraordinary artistic talent of the ensemble, orchestra, and choir, St. George's Choral Society. Laura Halzack was divine. Her presence was intense and the control and command of her body and its movements were phenomenal, making her look evermore ethereal. The piece highlighted each individual's talent as well as their strength as an ensemble.

On one of the most interesting nights of its premiere season, Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance showcased the amazing versatility of this beautiful art form and this accomplished dance company. Modern dance has the ability to captivate audiences and take them on such emotional journeys (Thank goodness for intermissions! Any audience member would never be able to recuperate without them!). Paul Taylor's new vision is a true testimony of the evolution and resilience of American modern dance, all while simultaneously paying respects to the art form's tremendous past.

Photo Credit: Paul B. Goode

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From This Author Jessica Abejar

Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she (read more...)