Paul Taylor's dances light up the stage again

February 24, 1994|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

The program of dances by legendary choreographer Paul Taylor, which opened for a run of seven performances at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater Tuesday night, filled the theater and our hearts with enduring dances that delighted, amused and tugged at our emotions.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has a long history (more than 40 years), and Mr. Taylor has won a special place in the hearts of dance fans with works that resonate with little truths about human foibles and idiosyncrasies. The four dances -- "Arden Court," "Esplanade," "Fields of Grass" and "Snow White" -- each have Mr. Taylor's unerring wit and eye for connecting movement details to create larger portraits.

"Arden Court," created in 1981, opened the program. It is not only a well-crafted piece of choreography, but a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of chivalry. "Arden Court" hails a time when men were knights and women were either ignored or adored, and when unrequited love was an art form. Mr. Taylor opens and closes his work with his six men splitting the space with streaks of fancy leaps, jumps and rolls. Sandwiched between are several duets featuring women who either seek or repel the advances of the men.

"Esplanade" the closing dance is similar in temperament to "Arden Court," but has a more serious vein, especially in the dark second section. "Esplanade" makes the simple sublime as the ** nine dancers move from stately walk to careening circular runs. The stage is filled with bodies, moving in canon or in unison, solos or full company, small jumps or full-blown leaps in a dizzying display.

The highlight of the program for many was the Washington premiere of "Fields of Grass." Mr. Taylor's title has nothing to do with Walt Whitman and everything to do with the '60s. Dancers Patrick Corbin, Sandra Stone, Denise Roberts, Hernando Cortez, Richard Chen See, Caryn Heilman and Rachel Berman Benz -- outfitted in denim bell-bottoms -- danced to the songs of Harry Nilsson. Mr. Taylor takes us on a trip from the idealism of Woodstock to the tragedy of Altamont, and evokes conflicting emotions for a time that for many was a coming of age.

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