Houston Ballet and Paul Taylor Dance Company

Article excerpt

Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy

Center for the Performing Arts

Washington, D.C.

April 9-13, 2003

Of all the images Paul Taylor created in his newest work, In the Beginning, the most lasting is likely to be that of God, or Jehovah, as the main character is called. Jehovah is a rare role for a danseur mur, a mature classical dancer. It requires an academic technique imbued with both expansiveness and gravity. There's nothing quite like it in the recent repertoire, in terms of dance and drama. Jehovah rising into the air during a solo, his left foot sweeping up at his side to waist level, seems to pull along part of the earth, so powerful is the impetus. The acting demands are very tricky: Taylor's take on God and the entire story of Biblical creation is both comical and serious, yet there's nothing ambivalent about this duality. Humor and anger both seem to arise from a great fountainhead of love for fallible humanity.

That said, Beginning seemed unfinished. Portions of it lacked the rich detail of Taylor's great works and its hopeful ending felt abrupt. But the piece's potential is enormous. As usual, Taylor made the choreography on his own company. Then it was set on Houston Ballet, which gave the world premiere in the Kennedy Center engagement it shared with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Houston dancers Dominic Walsh and Lucas Priolo alternated as Jehovah, establishing this role's centrality and suggesting its possibilities. That all the performers looked picture-perfect yet moved freely in their biblically inspired costumes is a credit to Santo Loquasto's designs. His sets, particularly the ultimate one with its rainbow, resonated. Friedrich Wanek's re-orchestration for woodwinds of Carl Orff's music, especially the extract from Carmina Burana, was an improvement on the original.

Altogether, this pairing of a ballet and a modern company was the most successful mix-and-match program the Kennedy Center has yet devised to attract balletgoers into a smaller theater while its Opera House is under renovation. As WITH THE ALL-BALLET GROUPS THAT PRECEDED HOUSTON/TAYLOR COMPETITION AROSE BETWEEN THE COMPANIES, ALTHOUGH IT SEEMED MINOR HERE COMPARED TO THE DEDICATION DANCERS FROM BOTH TROUPES SHOWED TO ONE CHOREOGRAPHER'S VISION. …