NextMove presented PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY, one of the most acclaimed and prestige dance company in the United States. Born in 1930, Paul Taylor’s career as a dancer and a choreographer is THE history of modern dance in US. While he founded his own dance company in 1954 and started to choreograph his own dance pieces, he also joined Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 as a soloist, the New York City Ballet in 1959 as a guest dancer with an invitation from Balanchine. He is one of the most important figures in the history of modern dance.
The three pieces in the program, Arden Court, Company B and Esplanade were first performed in 1981, 1991 and 1975 respectively. Each dance showcased not only Paul Taylor’s choreography but also artistic and social movements and ideologies from earlier time periods..
Arden Court is an idyllic and gracious piece, showing appreciation towards male dancers. Set to excerpts from glorious Symphonies 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8 by a baroque composer, William Boyce, six male dancers demonstrated valiant and energetic movements and poses resembling the sculptures of mythological heroes.
Three female dancers were there just to emphasize the differences between male and female not only in their physiques but also in their natures. Needless to say, the differences are from the one-sided of Paul Taylor, a male choreographer, and the society of an earlier era. However, the piece must have been ingenious back in 1981, when male dancers were often seen as more supportive roles for the female dancers, especially in the world of ballet. Interestingly, the direct expression of the manliness was almost refreshing and unique in the current social climate, when equity, similarity, and uniformity are more promoted than exaggeration of differences among genders.
The second piece was Company B, which brought back the 1940s to the stage with iconic songs by the Andrews Sisters and a fusion of swing, jazz, and modern dance. Ten short pieces of group and solo dances narrated the relationship and lives of young men and women around WWII. Hidden behind the charming and vibrant dances by smiling beautiful young dancers was the dark shadow that the war cast. Without depicting t pain and sorrow, the dance expressed the fear and despair.
The last piece of the program, Esplanade explored basic movements of human in the form of dance. To Bach’s Violin Concertos, the dancers walked and hopped, ran around, slid, twisted and turned. The natural, sincere, and joyful choreography advocates that dance is in anyone’s makeup and one does not need to be a dancer to experience the bliss of dancing.
Paul Taylor’s dance holds the virtue of human beings through graceful and profound choreographies. His masterpieces were innovative and will remain so as an apostle of the art of dance.
[Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] November 2-5, 2017; nextmovedance.org