The Paul Taylor Dance Company brings its emotionally-charged style to CSUMB.
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Photo: Perfect Lines-Patrick Corbin lifts Lisa Viola in "Piazzolla Caldera."
Following up brilliantly on the promise of last spring''s inaugural season of dance performances, this Tuesday evening the stage of CSUMB''s World Theatre will welcome New York''s dynamic Paul Taylor Dance Company. Lauded by Newsweek as "the world''s greatest living choreographer," Paul Taylor, 71, is celebrated for a style of dance that one critic has described as "quirky, beautiful, dark, inventive and visceral."
In a phone interview from the company''s New York office, General Manager John Tomlinson talks about Taylor''s approach to dance. "One sometimes hears the question, ''What is the piece about? What''s the story?'' People don''t ask that question of music. For Taylor, choreography is to the eye what music is to the ear. It''s about emotion, brought to the forefront in a visual way."
Tomlinson stresses the importance of music to Taylor''s dance creations. "He likes to solve the puzzle of the music, find the rhythm, the relationships." When Taylor danced to music by the 18th-century composer Handel in his breakthrough 1962 work "Aureole," he was accused by his avant-garde friends of "selling out" by choosing "old" music. "It''s new to me!" replied Taylor, who had grown up without any exposure to classical music.
At CSUMB, the company will present three very different pieces that display Taylor''s "variety of output," says Tomlinson. "Dandelion Wine," a work from 2000, was inspired by a Three Stooges routine in which the comedians, all in handcuffs, attempt to free themselves from one another. Set to music by the Baroque composer Locatelli and featuring one-armed cartwheels and loopy daisy chains, this opening number is full of joy and humorous energy.
"Cloven Kingdom," from 1976, is one of the company''s signature pieces. The title refers to the divided or "cleaved" nature of human beings, who occupy a world of society and manners yet are fundamentally animal in nature. Taylor creates a soundtrack of contrasting Baroque and 20th-century music to emphasize this split. Its most famous section is a virtuoso performance of four men in tuxedos whose gestures explore the relationship between the formal and the primitive, a tension that marks so many of our social interactions.
The third work on the program, from 1997, is "Piazzolla Caldera." This piece about sexual energy and confrontation was inspired by the tango music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, yet it contains no actual tango moves. "Paul wanted to express the idea of what tango means to him as an American," Tomlinson says. "It''s a modern dance piece that gives feeling and expression to what tango is about, to the question of what is the essence of tango."
"Piazzolla Caldera" will also give the audience the opportunity to see Patrick Corbin and Lisa Viola, the company''s glorious senior dancers, strut their stuff. The New York Times recently said that these two dancers "make the difficult look passionate and easy."
"I get my energy from being afraid," Taylor once said. His most recent work, "Promethean Fire," was created in the aftermath of September 11th. Set to the monumental music of Bach''s Toccata and Fugue, Tomlinson says "Promethean Fire" evokes "the dominance of the human spirit in the face of adversity." (The company will present this work in San Francisco next March.)
This is the kind of art we need right now. Truthful, imaginative art that takes stock of our physical bodies as the source of both our fragility and our strength. A London critic recently praised Taylor''s dancers as "whole-hearted, whole-spirited, whole-bodied." Art is often described as an illusion, but the Paul Taylor Dance Company is the real thing.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company performs Tuesday at the Monterey Bay World Theater. Call 582-4580.