I'm probably the last to know but the Rubinstein Atrium across the street from Lincoln Center sells same-day tickets to certain performances at half price. So yesterday I bought a first ring seat to Paul Taylor Dance Company at the New York State Theater.
Cloven Kingdom (1976) opened the program. Set in a debutante cotillion, dancers in formal dress start moving to a baroque piece Arcangelo Corelli. Then the choreography turns primal, almost ape-like, as the soundtrack morphs into a modern percussive score by Henry Cowell and Malloy Miller. It was a fascinating study of primal impulses that lurk beneath civilized behavior, marred only by the occasional lack of synchronocity among the dancers.
House of Joy (2012), a new work with music by Donald York, was a bit of fluff about prostitutes and their clients, a sailor, an old man, and a biker chick who each get their pick, and a young client who is beaten for his inability to pay. There was nothing particularly interesting about the solos or storyline.
Big Bertha (1970), on the other hand, was quite shocking. It starts with Mr. B, Mrs. B, and Miss B dancing innocently to big band tunes. Then Mr. B starts behaving lewdly towards his daughter, ultimately raping her with his wife's knowledge (or consent). This is the dark, violent side of Paul Taylor that I had only seen once before in Private Domain.
Piazzolla Caldera (1997) was all about tango, set in a working class bar (or brothel?) but without any overt tango steps. The piece seemed derivative of Jerome Robbins's choreography in West Side Story. The male duet, in particular, seemed inspired by the male duet in Goldberg Variations, another Robbins piece, with Taylor substituting the tenderness of the original with a suitably drunken, bromantic vibe.
The program pretty much summarized Paul Taylor's strengths and weaknesses. I'm still ambivalent about him but was happy to see his work again after almost a decade.