The marvelous Paul Taylor Dance Company in "Esplanade."
Pop open the prosecco, throw up a cheer and maybe even a prayer of thanks to Terpsichore.
After 15 months of no in-person dance performances in the Capital Region, dance is back.
And no group of dancers could have embodied the joy we dance devotees feel more perfectly than the Paul Taylor Dance Company – one of America’s most cherished modern dance ensembles.
At PS/21 in Chatham on Friday night to a full house, this brilliant and buoyant company presented a shortened program of two favorites -- “Company B” and “Esplanade.”
These are typically curtain-closers for the company as they are so effervescent. And because of the long-shut down, these favorites felt all the more celebratory. Better yet, the dancers – with their fine-tuned, springy bodies – were bursting and ripe to perform them and perform them well.
The opener of “Company B,” Paul Taylor’s ode to the Andrew Sisters music and World War II era in America, features the cast of 13 wandering onto the stage, looking up in wonder, reflecting back exactly what the audience was feeling –awe at being in a theater again.
The horns of “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein” could be heard and the skipping and swinging began. Together, in a suite of hits from the era, the dancers carried the viewers through a high-stepping polka, comical pursuits of love and romance with songs like “Joseph! Joseph!” and “Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh” and of course the dance’s signature song performed with charming zip by John Harnage.
But Taylor is sly. Not all is well in “Company B” or with the greatest generation. In the shadowy area upstage, we watch the soldiers march in synch – forward to perhaps their death. It was a stark reminder that though we are happy today, the future – including that of in-person shows – is uncertain.
“Esplanade,” to Bach’s bright “Violin Concerto in E Major,” reawakens the contentment. This is another one of Taylor’s amazing works as much of it is running and walking – no pyrotechnics – but it completely thrills and satisfies the visceral soul.
In ever-moving circles and lines, the dancers formations are an enchanting kaleidoscope of comings and goings of those who travel an esplanade.
As the music moves into the adagio movement, Taylor highlights the inner lives of the players. A lone woman and close couples who grow sleepy as the light dims, showing the audience a shift in the day. An angelic figure moves among them, an agent of care, compassion and protection. It is a lovely scene.
Of course the final festive allegro movement and lights shine, the dancers are once again exuberant – with dancers jumping, tilting backwards, falling, rolling and sliding across the floor. Devon Louis was a standout, flying higher than the rest – in a finale of finale.
The audience was enrapt. A standing ovation ensued. But something else did too -- applause with foot stomping. They wanted to show they more than appreciate the return and knew more than the usual clapping and standing was appropriate and due.
These artists, our artists, make the world a better place.
Paul Taylor Dance Company will dance again at PS/21 in Chatham on Saturday, July 3 and again on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6 and 7.