Paul Taylor Dance Company in the choreographer's final work before he died, "Concertiana."
When Paul Taylor died last year, there was a fear that the vessel for his work – the Paul Taylor Dance Company – would die with him. It’s not an unfounded anxiety. Taylor was the creative breath that filled the company’s lungs –producing the movement that enchanted both dancers and audiences for more than five decades.
As seen on Wednesday night at Jacob’s Pillow, the Paul Taylor Dance Company instilled hope as much as it did concern about its ability to endure. Now under the direction of veteran dancer Michael Novak, the company appeared tentative and nervous. The bold abandon, that I used to enjoying while watching the company, was, at times, insecure, uncertain.
It was most obvious in the first work -- the classic “Aureole.” The beautiful joyous work, seen at the company’s first showing at the Pillow in 1964. With the dancers dressed in white and moving to excerpts from Handel’s “Concerti Grossi in C, F” and “Jephtha,” the five looked on edge and nervous.
That transferred to audience, which was apprehensive until the final work, “Promethean Fire,” when the company finally appeared to settle.
I was most surprised by Robert Kleinendorst and Michelle Fleet, two senior members. They looked stiff and uncomfortable. (It was at that moment that I longed to once again see Michael Trusnovec, whom I adored. He retired after 21 years of dancing with the company just last month.)
I hope no one judges “Aureole” from this performance as it did not inspire the infectious jubilation for which it is known.
The program moved on to "Concertiana,” Taylor’s last work. At that point, the evening started to radiate the Taylor company glow. Much has to do with Taylor’s masterful choreography. The George Balanchine of modern dance, he artfully deployed dancers in endless captivating patterns that kept the eye alert and interested.
Yet “Concertiana,” to music by Eric Ewazen, also revealed Taylor’s mindset at the end – one that was angrily staring down death and then willingly surrendered to it. It was both frightening and beautiful as dancers passed in silhouette upstage and swarmed around like angels before being swept into a final ecstatic journey.
The evening ended with one of Taylor’s more moving works – “Promethean Fire.” Said to be inspired by the horrors of 9/11, the work has the dancers fleeing and falling in a portrait that appeared both chaotic and orderly, replete with images of heroics and death.
It’s all so Taylor. He had an uncanny ability to enthrall audiences as much as ground them in the reality of our troubled world. He will be sorely missed.
I do hope that the company, which will dance through Sunday at Jacob’s Pillow, lives on.