Paul Taylor Dance Company – Extreme Taylor Series

Duet 1964 (1964)
Music: Joseph Haydn
Costumes: George Tacet, Ph.D leotards with distracting graphics unsuited to the dance
Dancers: Devon Louis, Maria Ambrose

Devon Louis, Maria Ambrose– Photo Steven Pisano

Ambrose is a terre/on the floor. Louis holds her extended hand and slowly pulls her, sliding, up. She revolves to his back, arms around her partner’s neck and shoulders, feet slightly folded around his legs. His arms outstretched, they move forward as if two-legged. Reach…lean…pull… lift…arabesque… twirl…fluid and focused. Louis bends, Ambrose slides under. He lifts, she curves over. They’re never more than inches away from connection. Graceful and controlled. Beautiful balance. One another’s pole star.

Airs* (1978)
Music Excerpts: G.F. Handel
Costumes: Gene Moore – Silken, flowy
Dancers: Madelyn Ho, Alex Clayton, Maria Ambrose, Jada Pearman, Jake Vincent, Jessica Ferretti, Austin Kelly
*Air (music) An air (Italian: aria) is a song-like vocal or instrumental composition

(L-R) Alex Clayton, Jada Pearman, John Harnage, Maria Ambrose, Jake Vincent, Madelyn Ho
Photo by Jamie Halbritter

Airs is made up of related, often sighing segments, now adagio, now allegro. Slow walk, sudden run, revolve, bend; arms are almost always in motion. Men perform (show off?) for women and vice versa, genteel mating dances. Ballooning (playful light jumps) arrive in addition to familiar leaps. Transition from floor to a partner’s shoulder is seamless. The women hold one another’s hands. Complicity. Smiles are infectious.

Pairs break off in unison. A soloist weaves among or exults in lack of ties. Pride. Backs bend as if unboned. A dancer stands at 60 degree angle on another’s thigh. Limbs fly, no turn emerges without arms and legs extending. Floor work is smooth. Whoosh! They arrive at formation, one woman out front, on her knees—welcomes. Curtain. ‘Entirely lovely.

Big Bertha (1970)
Music: The St. Louis Melody Museum collection of band machines (bands, calliopes, organs…)
Additional Special Effects: John Herbert McDowell
Set and Costumes: Alec Sutherland- Terrific!
Dancers: Eran Bugge, Christina Lynch Markham, Kristin Draucker, Lee Duveneck

Christina Lynch Markham, Lee Duveneck, Kristin Draucker
Photo Ron Thiele

Think Ray Bradbury, The Twilight Zone, now darker. This story-dance is magical and alarming. Big Bertha, a life-sized automaton, is activated by a nickel she noisily masticates and swallows. “When the Saints Go Marching In” plays as it might in a carnival or circus. Bertha climbs off the platform and looks around. She’s stiff, but mobile. A fresh scrubbed, Midwest looking family enters- mom, dad, and pig-tailed daughter in a poodle skirt. Delighted at the curio, they give her a nickel. She briefly moves.

The girl is having a wonderful day. She dances (think Billy Bigelow’s daughter from Carousel alone on the beach), encouraging her parents. “My Blue Heaven” plays. The couple whirls- until Bertha touches dad with her wand. His movement becomes trance like, expression wiped. He reaches for his wife, Bertha pulls him back. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” plays.  

L-R Lee Duveneck, Christina Lynch Markham, Eran Bugge, Kristin Draucker – Photo Ron Thiele

Puppeted by the automaton, dad sexually approaches the innocent girl, now powerless, horrified. He carries her behind the sideshow platform… Bertha dances with dad. She has plans for him. Aroused, mom rips off her dress and…

The piece is extraordinary; naïveté bewitched. All four dancers are marvelous, clearly embodying differences between normalcy and possession, between humanness and machine. Dynamics are artful.

Private Domain (1969)
Music: Iannis Xenakis
Set /Costumes: Alex Katz

L-R , John Harnage, Kenny Corrigan, Madelyn Ho – Photo by Steven Pisano

This is the only piece that didn’t work for me. Two panels divide the stage into sections. We often observe an arm or leg or a portion of group interaction because of impediments.  Music and choreography are dissonant and uncohesive. Technique is admirable.

All choreography is Paul Taylor
All deft lighting by Jennifer Tipton

A Taylor program can surprise. The company is focused, symbiotic, precise, refined.
Three other dances are included in a second program.

During intermission, Taylor Ambassadors, a hand-picked group of dedicated volunteers, engage with audiences fielding questions about the repertoire and the company. ‘A charming and illuminating new tradition.

Opening Photo: (L-R) John Harnage, Jada Pearman, Jessica Ferretti (Photo by Danica Paulos)

Paul Taylor Dance Company- Extreme Taylor Series
Founding Artistic Director Paul Taylor
Artistic Director Michael Novak

Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street
Through Sunday June 30

About Alix Cohen (1793 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.