Nuance in satisfying motion in the company of Taylor

April 03, 1997|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has what it takes to please an audience. Taylor's dancers are strong, technically clean and personable, and his choreography is at home in both serious works and flippant homages.

The company's opening program at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday night primed the crowd with "Brandenburgs," a work set to the familiar Bach concertos, then sailed into Taylor's newest work, "Eventide" -- a romantic poem of a dance set to the stately "Suite for Viola and Orchestra" and "Hymn-tune Prelude No. 1" by Ralph Vaughn Williams. Then Taylor finally roused the audience with his crowd-pleasing tribute to the 1940s, "Company B," filled with the toe-tapping sounds of the Andrews Sisters.

"Eventide," Taylor's dance for five couples, possesses all the refined charm of a twilight stroll through an English countryside. Its bucolic tone is underscored by romantic, pastel, period costumes and a set designed by Santo Loquasto.

In six sections, Taylor delves into the nuances of love, and the work is surprisingly fresh. In the opening section, he uses the simplest slow walk as his foundation for movement. This basic locomotive action is introduced as four couples present themselves in a series of well-timed entrances and exits until their slow walk evolves into simple country dance steps.

In "Carol," Francie Huber and Patrick Corbin prove themselves capable actors as well as dancers. Taylor zeros in on the simple act of holding hands, and the couple make this gesture of friendship a dramatic moment. A later duet, "Musette," reverses the pair's sensibilities, and the two sections become bookends to the three internal duets.

Most notable is Lisa Viola's and Richard Chen See's quick-tempo dance "Moto Perpetuo," in which their intricate steps match the upbeat music. Viola's fine sense of timing and See's response create a wonderful sense of coy flirtation.

While Taylor is often known for his strong endings, the resolution of "Eventide" seems to meander on and on. Will the couples exit together or won't they? They advance toward each other and retreat, then come together and split apart, only to repeat this motif again and again, as if there were just too much music left over. It doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper.

"Brandenburgs" is a marvel of a dance that expertly and often unexpectedly welds movement to Bach's beloved concerto No. 3 and selected movements of No. 6, as performed on stage by members of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

This asymmetrical work for nine dancers incorporates a corps of five men who act as chorus, counter-timing and commenting on the actions of Rachel Berman, Huber, Viola and Andrew Asnes. As Bach's themes coalesce, the movements reflect the sophisticated layers of the music.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company will present additional area premieres "Prime Numbers," "Dust" and "Offenbach Overtures" tomorrow evening and Sunday afternoon.

Paul Taylor Dance Company

Where: Eisenhower Theatre at Kennedy Center, off West Virginia and New Hampshire avenues Northwest, Washington

When: 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday; 2: 30 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $35 to $45

Call: 202-467-4600

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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