Above: Michelle Fleet and ensemble in ESPLANADE; photo by Paul B Goode
Wednesday March 11th, 2015 - Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance, which most of us will continue to refer to simply as "Taylor", are at Lincoln Center for a three-week season. Tonight's programme featured one of the great dance-maker's newest creations, SEA LARK (New York premiere), book-ended by two of his best-beloved classics, ARDEN COURT and ESPLANADE. My special thanks to the Company's Lisa Labrado for arranging things so smoothly and generously.
An eager and wonderfully attentive audience welcomed conductor Donald York and the Orchestra of St. Luke's who provided the Company's return to live music for this current season. The regal, 'olde England' strains of William Boyce's symphonies set the tone for curtain-rise and ARDEN COURT delighted us yet again.
Under the softly glowing image of an English rose, the Taylor men, bare-chested in confetti-flecked white tights, enter in boldly elegant leaps. Their opening ensemble (above, photo by Paul B Goode) gives way to a series of duets, led off by the dynamic and witty pairing of Aileen Roehl and Sean Mahoney, both dancing with fresh clarity. Parisa Khobdeh and Michael Apuzzo have a gorgeous rapport; their duet melds into a solo for the handsomely energetic Francisco Graciano. James Samson and Robert Kleinendorst bring a gently ironic competitive spirit to their duet.
In the ballet's most lyrical passage, Taylor paragons Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec (about, photo by Paul B Goode) radiate tenderness and a sense of quiet mutual joy. A stylized pas de trois for the three women (Laura, Aileen, and Parisa) leads back to the men's ensemble...
...and this iconic Taylor moment (photo by Paul B Goode).
Above: Michael Apuzzo in SEA LARK; photo by Whitney Browne
The New York premiere of SEA LARK followed; here Mr. Taylor turns to the score Francis Poulenc originally penned for Bronislava Nijinska's 1924 salon-ballet LES BICHES. Taylor's take on the score transports us to la plage where a bright sunny sky and aquamarine waves (set design by Alex Katz) serve as a backdrop for a group of romping beach-goers.
Duets (Christina Lynch Markham and Sean Mahoney, above, in Whitney Browne's photo), solos and small ensembles are playfully strung together, and a small, crisply white sailboat is manipulated across the set by the men. The choreography has a juvenile simplicity; it is the Poulenc score that gives SEA LARK its naive charm.
Above: Francisco Graciano and Sean Mahoney in SEA LARK (a Whitney Browne photo)
Above: from ESPLANADE, photo by Paul B Goode
The ever-resounding glory of Paul Taylor's 1975 classic ESPLANADE brought the evening to its ovation-inducing close. As the ballet unfolds against the same Bach score that Balanchine used for CONCERTO BAROCCO, we are able to savour the individual appeal, mind-boggling physicality, and generous artistry of these stellar dancers who keep the Taylor repertoire fresh and brilliant: Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Eran Bugge, Laura Halzack, Heather McGinley, Jamie Rae Walker, Michael Trusnovec, James Samson, and Michael Novak.
ESPLANADE's centerpiece, a uniquely expressive duet danced superbly today by Eran Bugge and Michael Trusnovec (in Paul B Goode's photo above), seemed to distill all that Paul Taylor has said to us in the many danceworks he has crafted over the decades. When the choreographer appeared for a bow at the end of the performance, we were able to express both our gratitude and our respect for an American hero of dance.