Showcasing Works Old and New, the Paul Taylor Dance Company Triumphs at City Center

His “serious” new work, Three Dubious Memories–a riff on Rashomon–is by definition more ambiguous. Yes, we have the married couple assaulted by the brigand–but it’s three different pairings of the two men and one woman who sustain the assaults. (Kurosawa might have been surprised to see that the third couple is comprised of the Man in Green and the Man in Blue, whose idyll is violently interrupted by the Woman in Red.) The fourth player in the piece is the group of seven “Choristers” led by the “Choirmaster”–a grave James Samson, who with his commanding height and imposing presence is taking over the commentator/leader roles that Taylor used to make for himself; Samson’s impressive performance as the Sun in Orbs is the most obvious current example. In this case, the chorus is observer, judge and jury–and more stimulating to Taylor, it seems to me, than the three antagonists, whose stories are efficiently, even effectively, told, but who can’t help seeming pallid when compared to Kurosawa’s great originals.

There were various revivals, most surprisingly of The Word (1998), to an original and far too long score by David Israel. It’s a vision of a regimented religious and/or political school with everybody, male and female, got up in Mädchen in Uniform garb–high white socks, shorts to the knee, white shirts, suspenders and striped ties. Conformity, suppression and then–enter sex, in the shape of the gorgeous Parisa Khobdeh, slinky and ultra-seductive, in a skin-tight beige unitard. She certainly turned my head. The Word is more dutiful than exciting, but it was good to be able to check it out again.

The stand-bys were on hand–Company B, Esplanade, Cloven Kingdom, Promethean Fire. For me, the most satisfying all-around performance was of Arden Court, the dance that proves that you don’t have to worry about running out of Handel: There are always the rousing symphonies of William Boyce to fall back on.

Every year we watch the Taylor company renewing itself, the more recent additions to the roster assuming larger roles and beginning to reveal themselves in lesser ones. This season Sean Mahoney, Eran Bugge and Francisco Graciano matured into major players, and Aileen Roehl, a blond kewpie doll, exploded onto the scene. Robert Kleinendorst, in everything, revealed his unique artistry. He lacks the lean and hungry look of many of his colleagues, but no matter what he’s doing, passionate or comical or tormented, every moment, every gesture, is filled with subtle musicality and deep personal accent. A hero.

Finally, alas, we come to Annmaria Mazzini. This tempest-uous, alluring, prime exemplar of the phenomenon of going all the way (and beyond) has worn out her hip in Mr. Taylor’s service, and ours. It was only yesterday–a mere dozen years ago–that she and her frequent partner Michael Trusnovec more or less took over the Taylor stage. Now she’s retiring, a devastating loss. My heart was broken when Carolyn Adams departed. Then it was Ruth Andrien. Then Kate Johnson. I still miss them. But I think I’m going to miss Mazzini more.

Two quick
notes on the end of the recent City Ballet season, to compensate for my exasperated review of its opening weeks. First, a thrilling reading of the Swan Lake score by the conductor Andrews Sill. I can’t remember hearing it played so forcefully and supply, aided, of course, by the vastly improved acoustics at what I can’t keep myself from calling the State Theater. (Alas, a badly miscast Sterling Hyltin was a wholly inadequate Odette-Odile.) And finally a superb Balanchinian performance by Andrew Veyette in Valse-
. He’s not only raised his game as a classical technician, but he’s grown more assured, elegant and musical. Another hero.

Showcasing Works Old and New, the Paul Taylor Dance Company Triumphs at City Center