Paul Taylor on Dance

Last night I saw the Paul Taylor Dance Company at the SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center. This was the final dance performance of my three-company subscription treat this year, the other two being Savion Glover and Pilobolus.

Not quite sure what to expect, the dances turned out to be a satisfying mixture of modern and classical ballet. I was struck by the fleet-footedness of the dancers, and the meshing of classic body moves with angular arm and head movements, though none of it ever abrupt; all of it a continuous, graceful flow.

Perhaps what struck me most, though, was watching the dances and listening to the music after having read the program notes. The biography of Paul Taylor included this line about the marriage of his choreography to his choice of music:

He has set movement to music so memorably that for legions it is impossible to hear certain orchestral works and popular songs and not think of his dances.

Excerpts from Franz Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 accompanied the first piece, Mercuric Tidings, and I can still vividly conjure the dancers, their costumes, and the sprightly music. Ah, the welcoming of spring! You can listen here to parts of Schubert’s symphonies.

This is a troupe I hope to revisit in order to see Funny Papers, the second dance that was replaced by a piece whose name I did not catch. Why Funny Papers – because it is “Dedicated to all those who, before reading front page news, turn to the funnies first.” As a kid, that’s how I read the paper. And with dances named Alley-Oop, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I Like Bananas Because They Have no Bones, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, and Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight), these dance names remind me of the musical ground of my childhood!

Paul Taylor writes about why he creates dances, and I was captivated by the inner workings of his creative brain – the urges that propel him forward. He is a man who is in his element, as Ken Robinson would say. 



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