Taylor Tops Himself

REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- For fifty years the Paul Taylor Company has been thrilling audiences with its bold, multi-faceted dance works. The 74-year-old Taylor brought his dancers to the Music Center recently, dusting off two older (but still exciting) pieces and unveiling a new one, PROMETHEAN FIRE, that quite possibly is one of his best ever.

Set to the the music of Bach and danced by Taylor's entire 16-person company, Promethean Fire deals with the non-specific struggles of mankind to respond to a cataclysmic event. The devastation wrought by gigantic forces (such as war, terrorist attack or nature) is powerfully delineated by the dancers (and by lighting designer Jennifer Tipton and costumer Santo Loquasto). Anguish and suffering are the result, but humanity, as represented in a defiant duet by Lisa Viola and Michael Trusnovic, fights back, culminating in a knitting together by the entire group. Viola and Trusnovic dance heroically and expressively, sometimes writhing in pain and sorrow, other times leaping and soaring as if heaven-bound.

Mercuric Tidings (1985) and Runes (1975) were equally theatrical, if less stunning. The latter is set to a harshly modern piano score by Gerald Busby and danced in a moonstruck nightscape peopled by semi-primitive creatures. The beginnings of human life on earth are explored in this dark, enigmatic piece which, again, features much virtuosic dancing, especially by Richard Chen See, Julie Tice and Viola.

Mercuric Tidings was noteworthy for its bravura choreography, calling for high-speed footwork by the dancers. The showiest leaps and steps were by Trusnovec again, plus Michelle Fleet, Andy Lebeau and Silvia Nevjinsky. This joyous affirmation of life was set to music by Schubert.

The Music Center has announced an impressive 2004-2005 dance season. In October the New York City Ballet will mount three programs in celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Balanchine's birth, including Carnival of the Animals with narration written and spoken by John Lithgow.

Other scheduled attractions include Garth Fagan Dance, Bejing Modern Dance Co., The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Co., American Ballet Theatre, Merce Cunningham Dance Co. and Elfman Ballet of St. Petersburg. For further information call (213) 972-0711.