By Sheila Abrams
The thing about true beauty is that it has staying power. A case in point: the Paul Taylor Dance Company. In an Oct. 15 performance at Raritan Valley Community College, the company performed three works from the last century (strange though that sounds). And among them, there was not one that didn’t hold up.
Paul Taylor’s work is full of light and air. Since its beginning in the 1950s, it has been pushing the boundaries of dance as form, as expression, as visual art in motion. Taylor has used all kinds of music, tackled all kinds of subjects, and always dazzled the eye of the beholder with the unremitting beauty of his work.
It is a tribute to the timelessness of Taylor’s creativity that, although there is new repertoire, works from the company’s past remain active and fresh. The program at RVCC consisted of three such dances: “Mercuric Tidings,” first performed in 1982; “Roses,” first performed in 1985, and “Company B,” first performed in 1991.
Danced to excerpts from two symphonies by Franz Schubert, the music creates a classical framework to the movement of thirteen dancers, dressed in Santo Loquasto’s blue unitards and looking for all the world like young gods at play. Led by Michael Trusnovec and Amy Young, the dancers bubble with a joy that is irresistible. A visual expression of the music, it is nonetheless dance for its own sake.
“Roses” could be used as a definition of the romantic movement in music, danced as it is to Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Heinrich Baermann’s Adagio for Clarinet and Strings. Five couples, the women in long black dresses and the men dressed in gray, are fluid and passionate, their intimacy expressed in a total trust demanded by the gymnastic movement. Each couple has its own style of interaction, but that their dance is about love is indisputable. Then, as the five couples retire to the rear of the stage, another couple emerges, dressed in a virginal white. They dance with a tender lyricism. Their beauty is truly breathtaking.
The third and final piece of the evening was “Company B,” a two-sided exploration of the music of the World War II era. Danced to tunes by the Andrews Sisters, the ultimate girl group of the era, several of the nine short pieces exploded with positive energy. The lindy hop and the jitterbug are at the heart of much of it. One tune, “The Pennsylvania Polka,” is perhaps the rowdiest polka ever performed. But the shadow of war, of loss, of separation is in the background, injecting a poignancy into some of the dances. This is a wonderful piece, aglow with the incredible abilities of this troupe of dancers, whose American roots shine through clear as day.
Paul Taylor is, at the age of 81, still a working artist, and his creative output is a gift to anyone who loves dance. The company consists of modern-dance-trained dancers and ballet-trained dancers from all over the U.S., each bringing his or her own distinctive gifts. They are an absolute joy and we are grateful to Raritan Valley Community College for bringing them to New Jersey.