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Flash Review, 3-1: Hearts
Cloying "Valentine" from Paul Taylor
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Paul Taylor
Dance Company performed the New York premiere of "Antique Valentine"
at City Center, seen on Wed. Feb. 27. "Valentine," though cloying,
at least departed from the standard Taylor vocabulary, and its brevity
helped to forge a shiny, if gaudy, bauble. A score comprising a
variety of classical music performed on music boxes and a player
piano set the tone for the wooden-jointed movement. The costumes
by Santo Loquasto (who created costumes for all dances on this program)
were an eyeful: candy-cane striped, with bonnets, boaters and spats.
Lisa Viola at once personified
the balky, robot style while conveying a great depth of emotion,
all with great humor. She and Patrick Corbin continue to be the
most riveting dancers in the company, managing to interpret Taylor's
vocabulary without over-muscling it, as some of the newer dancers
seem to do. As a bumbling, betrothed couple, they performed a pratfall-filled
courtship ritual that might have been overkill in less skilled hands.
The three remaining couples took turns on the floor, waltzing stiltedly
as the others posed in the corners. The dancers carved a circle
with abbreviated leaps accompanied by tiny circular hand motions
-- mini-Taylor. Taylor's keen eye for a tableau shone in opening
and closing poses, like big bouquets.
This throwback to innocence
managed to be somewhat endearing despite being tooth achingly-sweet.
However, following "Dandelion Wine" on the program, "Valentine"
was like death-by-chocolate. "Dandelion," which premiered last year,
is a suite performed to Locatelli's "Concert No. 2 in C Minor."
The dancers wore white costumes with colored accents, except for
the athletic Richard Chen See, who wore yellow. (I doubt it was
a factor in casting, but the four women were all blonde, making
it look like some sort of weird family affair.) All wore forced
smiles all the time. The movement was classic Taylor but on ballet
steroids. In arabesque sautes, the men kicked their jumping leg
forward, Lipizzaner-like. Although it was high energy, it distorted
the naturally graceful line that makes Taylor's style so accessible.
A closing section of mega-Twister finally broke the Stepford-like
atmosphere, forcing the dancers into improbably awkward moments
as they knotted themselves up, and yet they continued to try to
shine their forced smiles at us.
"Speaking in Tongues,"
from 1988, countered the sweet factor with its heavy eponymous subject,
based on the religious experience. Its near hour length stretched
the dance thin, but Corbin, as the "Man of the Cloth," offered an
intense acting performance to accompany his sharp dancing. His gaze
pierced the audience, even as he stood stock-still in a doorway
or on a chair. (Corbin was aided by Jennifer Tipton's atmospheric
lighting; she designed lights for the entire program.) Michael Trusnovec
was impressive, matching physical prowess with cat-light jumps,
and Julie Tice performed with a terrific sense of purpose. In the
end, I felt an uncomfortable disconnect in the segues between the
lyrical phrases of choreography and the frenetic dramatic action,
and the length detracted from its intensity. The score was "Music
for Magnetic Tape" by Matthew Patton, a collage of sound and music.
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