With 142 dances under his dance belt, produced within a 61-year career, seeing any of Paul Taylor’s dances is always a combination of a modern dance history lesson and retrospective. Programs C was no exception with works created from 1961 to 2006 that in some cases parody themselves and in other instances felt more like dances choreographed for a Broadway light opera production. “Fibers” which started the program has two male dancers in stylized fencing masks and bodies taped up with colored plastic attachments, like a cross between men in bondage and the presented day robot in the film “Ex Machina.” One can’t help but to wonder if dance aficionados of the 60s found “Fibers” to be avant garde or preposterous with its two sturdy male dancers handsomely moving from ritual gesture to aggression. As they verged on the edge of combat two female dancers leap about looking like a combination of the Greek drama masks of tragedy and aliens. “Fibers” with its strong Graham influence is as heavy-handed as Schoenberg’s score and both are self conscious of their impact, which attempts to create a vaguely menacing statement. Despite the potential for chuckling during a very serious and faux futuristic piece, Robert Klienendorst and George Smallwood deliver formative performances and give the piece its dignity.
“Troilus And Cressida (reduced),” Taylor’s most recently choreographed dance in this program, equally felt dated by its slapstick humor despite being created just seven years ago. It isn’t uncommon for Taylor’s work to alternate between a Punch and Judy comical style and dead serious. “Troilus And Cressida (reduced)” has the appearance of a Trojan war Bugs Bunny cartoon and is as dimensional and equally shameless in its manipulation to milk a laugh. Robert Klienendorst as the King of Troy (Trolius) is literally, and frequently, caught with his purple velvet pants down and, delightful Parisa Khobdeh as Cressida clowns it up to the point of nearly landing on her face. Cupid (as a chorus of three female dancers) flits around eventually getting ransacked by three brazen male Greek invaders. If farce is your thing then this is your chuckle, but if you’re not entertained by gimmick then it may feel like dance (reduced.)
“Eventide” followed and was tenderly and beautifully danced by five couples that were bathed in a twilight colored set with a backdrop of tree silhouettes and identical costumes by Santo Loquasto. It portrayed a simpler time when women swooned and men wore linen colored trousers held up with suspenders. A time when dainty women could be slung over men’s shoulders and men could get away with gallantly holding out their hands to the weaker sex. This romanticizing of stereotypical relationships with its coy and innocently superficial emotions was set to two selections of Ralph Vaughan William’s music and was eloquently danced by Michael Trusnovec and Parisa Khobdeh. The two, who are frequently partnered, are a perfect lyrical match and the bond between them is tangibly felt. The choreography was simple with grapevines and do-si-dos that at moments vaguely resembled a contra dance, especially at the end when a walking sequence divided the men from the women into two lines almost bring these couples finally together but at last separated them, moving them apart.
While “Eventide” means the archaic for “evening” and apparently an archaic way of sentimentalizing the power dynamic between men and women—“Fibers” looks dated and “Troilus And Cressida (reduced)” employs comedy from another era. Only “Esplanade” stands the test of time and remains Taylor’s definitive work and gravity defying brilliance. Dancers ran, leaped, and then flung themselves through space rolling across the stage, all in the same breath, before running off again. In their never-ending repetition of movement they became inseparable from Bach’s momentous “Violin Concerto in E Major.” Captivating Michael Trusnovec is such an exceptional dancer effortlessly floating across the stage and is worth seeing again and again as is “Esplanade.”