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BWW Reviews: Sixty Years Young, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is Still Relevant and Resounding as Ever


The Paul Taylor Dance Company performed to a nearly packed house at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater on Sunday, March 10th. The matinee performance included three of Paul Taylor's more recent works: "Offenbach Overtures," "Promethean Fire," and the world premiere of "Perpetual Dawn."

In "Offenbach Overtures," which premiered in 1995, the fourteen dancers are dressed in Russian-inspired red and black costumes. The women wear black feathers in their hair, red dresses, black fishnet tights, and bright red "pedini" shoes. The men look like circus "strong men," with red unitards and black curly mustaches. The performance is comical - not your typical modern dance concert. Taylor draws upon folk dance steps and seems to parody the seriousness of traditional folk dances.

The highlight of the "Offenbach Overtures" is a sort of dance duel between two male dancers and their supportive sidekicks. The men leap and twirl, taking turns trying to "out dance" one other. While this is going on, their sidekicks fuel the competition by pantomiming and cheering from upstage. Eventually, the two battling sidekicks start their own little rumble while the main competitors make amends and skip offstage together without their "trusty" sidekicks.

Along with the "dance duel" scene, the rest of "Offenbach Overtures" fuses modern dance with musical theatre. In a partnering sequence between a male and female dancer, the man repeatedly knocks the woman off her feet, requiring some serious acting skills from all the dancers in order to make this scene look spontaneous and funny.

"Perpetual Dawn" is a stark contrast to the humor of "Offenbach Overtures," though still light-hearted. While this work is a world premiere piece, it is also clearly traditional "Paul Taylor" in style. In the 1960s, Taylor captivated audiences with his modern choreography juxtaposed with classical music. "Perpetual Dawn" is lovely and graceful; Taylor's "modern" choreography doesn't resist the classical music of Johann David Heinichen's Dresden Concerti, but complements it, and, in effect, bridges the two hundred year gap between music and movement. The pastoral pastel-like backdrop, austere costumes, and gold lighting all add to the dreamy and romantic work.

The final piece, "Promethean Fire," shows off the athleticism and strength of Taylor's choreography. All sixteen dancers wear matching black velour unitards with silver slanted thin stripes. Like "Perpetual Dream," "Promethean Fire" combines modern and barefoot choreography set to the music of Bach. The work involves intricate running patterns that look like optical allusions, thanks to the black backdrop and the black and silver costumes. Compared to the other two pieces, "Promethean Fire" features more dynamic and athletic movement: falls to the floor, quick jumps, somersaults, and swift arm slices through space. The speed of the number pauses for a moment as all sixteen dancers literally pile on top of each other. The still dog pile of dancers slowly begins to breathe as one and the dancers gracefully spill out of the pile.

Though all three of these pieces are from the latter half of Taylor's career, the trio illustrates the company's versatility - from comic to romantic to athletic - and exemplifies why Taylor has had such a long and successful career as a choreographer.

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