Paul Taylor Dance Company in “Cloven Kingdom” at PS21. Photo by Paul B. Goode
In the open-air pavilion theater at Performance spaces for the 21st century (PS21) in Chatham, NY, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, with its precision and the physicality of the movement, put the audience on their feet last Thursday evening, July 7. The evening’s repertoire arc took us from a graceful borderline in ‘Airs’, to an eerie but metaphorical commentary on humans as social beings in ‘Cloven Kingdom’, to a liberating final outing in ‘Syzygy’. .
To the music of Handel, “Airs” (established in 1978) conveyed a dynamic, warm and seemingly sacred atmosphere. Coupled with the natural breeze of the outdoor theater, the flowing watercolor blue fabric of their costumes enhanced the ebb and flow of the play’s progression. Spiraling turns across the stage at merry-go-round of jumps in a circle, the movement of each dancer gave the impression of violent winds, sometimes almost tornadoes and turbulent, but which never completely lost control. The dancers have always mastered the choreography with a particular respect for the piece and for each other. “Airs” was pleasant and at ease, never completely swaying to one side or the other emotionally (a feature less and less common in contemporary works), but certainly astounding us with its grace and seamless flow. effort.
“Cloven Kingdom” (established in 1976) married the Dutch philosopher by Baruch Spinoza quotes “Man is a social animal” and resembles that of a dance-theatre work. With the music of Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Cowelland Malloy Miller, through a juxtaposition of Baroque-inspired formal movements and movements mimicking that of a horse (coupled with the occasional sounds of a horse trot), the intent of the piece, “Man is a social animal” , became evident towards the end of the work. The setting of “Cloven Kingdom” is a formal ball, with the men in tuxedos and the women in long evening dresses. Perhaps the most intriguing costume pieces were the Cubist-inspired reflective metallic headpieces worn by four of the female dancers whose movements began to more clearly define the narrative of the piece with their abstract choreography. These headdresses evoked images of experimental haute couture, royal headdresses and parade horses, favoring the juxtaposition of seriousness with complete abstraction. The physique of the male quartet created a tension that was animalistic, as the title suggests, in the athletic, gymnastic movements of the dancers leaping over each other, lifting each other up and changing levels, from floor work on the ground to jump high in the air. The public greatly appreciated this part of the work. “Cloven Kingdom” asked the audience, who’s to say that humans and horses don’t all really impersonate “something” other than ourselves all the time?
To conclude the evening, “Syzygy” (created in 1987), the liberating release of tension and emotion that we had been waiting for all evening. With music composed by Donald York specifically for this piece, “Syzygy” was electric. His bursts of energy with a quivering arm pattern exuded genuine excitement. The dancers really let loose and conveyed joy, anger and euphoria. The soloist, Madelyn Ho, MD, was really brilliant in this work. Ho led the dancers on a folksy journey, further encapsulating the outdoor stage on a July evening. “Syzygy” wasn’t entirely a joyful work, however. The tension and anger surfaced as the dancers began battling each other in combat duets, with martial-inspired moves incorporated into the choreography, eventually releasing into a cacophony of movement. To complete the work, the joy returned with twirling music and movement, allowing the electricity of the work and the evening to conclude with an upbeat hum.
PS21 is increasingly becoming a top dance destination in the region. With people like Paul Taylor Dance Company and others this summerPS21 is essential for the dancer, the dance enthusiast or the curious about dance.