Review: Paul Taylor Presents ‘Soup To Nuts’ and More at Lincoln Center
By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, March 21, 2017
I hadn’t seen Paul Taylor’s signature dance, Esplanade, for many years, and I’m happy to report that it is still the joyous experience that I remembered. Beginning with everyday movements—walking, skipping, running, and even crawling—I felt as if I could have joined the dancers on stage and run with them to the irresistible music of Bach. It all looks so simple and easy until the piece develops and the dancers seem to fly across the stage into astonishing falls, recoveries, catches and throws and “baseball slides”—it’s a wonder that they don’t break bones regularly. Clearly the wonderful dancers of this company are able to dance with such apparent ease because they are so strong, flexible, and talented. Since Paul Taylor, modern dance’s elder statesman, created Esplanade in 1975, audiences have long enjoyed and applauded it, and I’m happy to report that it still stands strong today as a company staple.
While Esplanade was the last dance on the program, the performance began with another piece choreographed by Paul Taylor, Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (translated as From Soup to Nuts). The fact that it used the music of P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) was a hint that it might be fanciful, and it was. Using an ancient-Greek theme, the men wore very short togas and tights with furry bits on them, seemingly indicating body hair. The women wore prettier Greek-styled tunics. Sometimes they stood or moved on pedestals, looking like classical statues. The movement was a lighthearted frolic, making fun and causing laughter. If you like classical music and you’re not familiar with the compositions of P.D.Q. Bach (nom de plume of Peter Schickele), make an effort to look up some of his music so you may appreciate his musical jokes and parodies.
Continuum, receiving its world premiere in this run of New York performances, is choreographed by a former member of the company, Lila York. Although it had no plot, it was dramatic and emotionally touching. The tastefully pretty costumes designed by Santo Loquasto were in pale shades of pink and beige, edged with white satin ribbon; in contrast the female soloist wore bright red/orange. Choreographed to a recomposed version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (by Max Richter), it had particularly beautiful violin sequences played by Krista Bennion Feeney. During a pas de deux, a man danced in an angular, frenetically distressed manner on one side of the stage, while on the other, a woman danced in an exquisitely elegant manner. I found myself drawn to the quieter, more subdued movements of the woman; her part could have easily been a solo unto itself. It’s possible to see the influence of Paul Taylor in some of the movement, but York has created a sophisticated dance vocabulary all her own, and the result is a lovely and sensitive piece worthy of seeing more than once.
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The Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on March 19, 2017. Performances through March 26, 2017. Paul Taylor, Founder
Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (from Soup to Nuts) choreography by Paul Taylor, music: P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele), Royal Firewater Musick & Howdy Symphony (first performed in 1986). Conductor: Don York; sets and costumes designed by Alex Katz; lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton.
Continuum (world premiere) choreography by Lila York; music: recomposed version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by Max Richter; conductor: Ted Sperling; violin soloist: Krista Bennion Feeney. Costumes designed by Santo Loquasto; lighting designed by James F. Ingalls.
Esplanade choreography by Paul Taylor; music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Violin Concerto in E Major, Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor; first performed in 1975). Conductor: Don York; soloists: Krista Bennion Feeney and Naoko Tanaka; Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Costume design by John Rawlings; lighting design by Jennifer Tipton.
Dancers: Michael Trusnovec, Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson, Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Sean Mahoney, Eran Bugge, Francisco Graciano, Laura Halzack, Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Apuzzo, Michael Novak, Heather McGinley, George Smallwood, Christina Lynch Markham, Madelyn Ho, and Kristin Draucker.
Cover: (l. to r.) Michael Novak, Eran Bugge, Michael Trusnovec, Aileen Roehl, James Samson, and Heather McGinley in ‘Esplanade;’ photo: Paul B. Goode.