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Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Paul Taylor Dance Company

New York City Center, NYC

February 22-March 6, 2011

As reliably as the seasons change, Paul Taylor Dance Company presented two premieres in its annual stint of 15 repertory works at City Center--one dramatic (Three Dubious Memories) and one whimsically macabre (Phantasmagoria).

Taylor's curious and often inspired ideas unspool as Memories progresses. Foremost is a love triangle (Amy Young, Sean Mahoney, Robert Kleinendorst) told from each participant's viewpoint. A Greek chorus as witness and jury, led by James Samson, observes the protagonists. The trio wears primary hues of red, green, and blue, in vivid contrast to the grayscale jeans and tops of the chorus of seven (Santo Loquasto designed the costumes). The courtship/consummation cycle, refracted through the prism of the trio, ranges from romantic to caustic to jealous; the last viewpoint interestingly pulls the two men into a relationship. Peter Elyakim Taussig's peculiar music--which varies from easy-listening jazz to a dramatic choral song--reflects the perpetually shifting emotional ground.

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Taylor here effectively deploys his "archaic" language--epitomized in his Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal)--imagery that brings to mind Grecian urns, Rodin's sculpture, or Nijinsky's Faun. In this Taylor idiom, stylized gestures are inserted strategically: a fake slap merits a stiff palm rubbed over the stung cheek; a kick elicits a delayed folding in half, cartoon-style. Simple, clear, naive, it feels completely fresh, indicative of Taylor's everyman genius. How gratifying to see lead roles being set on Amy Young, an elegant, lucid dancer both lyrical and powerful. Samson, with his Taylor body-double physique, is now deservedly prominent in the repertoire. He projects vulnerability, compassion, and intelligence and has matured into a formidable presence.

Phantasmagoria, set to early music, evokes Bruegel's paintings through Loquasto's peasant garb (although the multi-hued scrim, designed by Loquasto and lit by Jennifer Tipton, felt atypically inadequate). The characters portray a time not unlike today, in which Dionysian appetites vie with religious zealotry for public sentiment. The cavalcade features a gilded queen and king (Parisa Khobdeh, now the reigning female comic, with Mahoney and a trusty snake), a hypocritical nun (Laura Halzack, putting her peerless posture and sangfroid to work), a hale step-dancer (a beclogged Michelle Fleet), a drunk (Kleinendorst), and three "Isadorables"--incarnations of Duncan (including the lush Annmaria Mazzini, who, sadly, is retiring--see "Transitions," p. 59). Michael Trusnovec, jolting and electric despite his disintegrating mummy wrappings, transmits a disease named after St. Vitus, the patron saint of dance--one touch quickly, if temporarily, levels the stratified society. Taylor's perverse black humor comes through loud and clear, despite the piece feeling more sketch than fleshed-out portrait.

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REVIEWS ON THE WEB Read about Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (below), PearsonWidrig, NYCB, and more at www.dancemagazine.com/reviews.

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Title Annotation:Phantasmagoria; Three Dubious Memories
Author:Yung, Susan
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance review
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:458
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