Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Paul Taylor Brings Variety to Sarasota

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Paul Taylor Brings Variety to Sarasota

Article excerpt


Because the Sarasota Ballet's season is so tightly packed, with a new triple bill performed nearly each month, in recent years the company has given itself some breathing room by presenting another troupe in the early spring. This weekend it was the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the program of three of Taylor's works, spanning from 1988 to 2007, provided a refreshing opportunity for locals to expand their dance horizons.

What a pity then that a number of empty seats on opening night implied some subscription holders felt that if the program didn't feature their local darlings, it wasn't worth watching. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

This is a very different looking company than the Sarasota Ballet, made up largely of veteran dancers, many of whom have been with Taylor for a decade or even two. Their maturity, in particular the men, provided a startling visual contrast to the youthful slightness of the local dancers, provoking one patron near me to remark: "Isn't it fun to see grownups dancing?"

Taylor is, of course, one of modern dance's most seminal figures, bridging the gap from its founders (Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, Isadora Duncan) to the choreographers of the 21st century. His body of work is immense, diverse and still growing -- he continues, at age 86, to make, on average, two new dances a year -- and, because many of his dancers have been with him so long, they are intimately familiar with his repertoire, style and movement vocabulary.

That was evident in a polished program that had a little something for everyone -- "Brandenburgs" for the pure dance lover, "Lines of Loss" for those looking for obscure but meaty intimations of mortality and "Black Tuesday," combining, as life often does, tragedy and humor.

"Brandenburgs," created nearly 30 years ago, opened the program and while I've long been an admirer of Taylor's work, it was, to my mind, the clunker on the bill. Set to Bach's familiar Brandenburg Concertos (alas, taped), with five men in green velvet, tank-topped unitards, three women in muddy brown dresses with embroidered ribbon trim and one male soloist (Michael Trusnovec) with a bare chest and mustard colored tights, it reduced Taylor's enormous vocabulary to an eventually tedious barrage of leaps, skips, runs and twirls, frustratingly choreographed with a step matching almost every note.

The costuming and lighting call to mind something Greco-Roman and Olympian and certainly the dancers were heroic in managing to make it through this marathon of activity. The corps men skipped and bounced and leapt gaily through changing patterns while the women, with lots of scooping arms and off center leg extensions, twirled like whirling dervishes, seeming almost drunk on their movement. Meanwhile Trusnovec did a lot of slow walking about, looking intently at this bevy of handmaidens and begging us to admire his lean and chiseled torso. (Given that he has been with PTDC for two decades, it was, in fact, pretty admirable.)

While the sheer frenetic speed of the dancers was impressive, a limited number of steps and lots of repetition do not, to my mind, a winning combination make. …

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