MASS LIVE – by Ken Ross – Northampton, MA – April 18, 2015
Does music move? Can you watch notes dance in the air? The answer is a clear, resounding YES. Any lingering doubts were quickly dispelled Friday night at the Academy of Music. There, six dancers flawlessly performed three different pieces by Paul Taylor, as master craftsman who knows how to create dances that bring music vibrantly to life.
Two of the pieces on the program in Northampton are among Taylor’s best loved works: “Aureole” and “Esplanade.” In between, the members of the Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company performed a newer work, “The Uncommitted.” “Aureole” and “Esplanade” were created 13 years apart: “Aureole” in 1962 and “Esplanade” in 1975. But these two works feel like they could have been made at any time in any place. They’re timeless.
Like Mark Morris and Martha Graham, Taylor has an amazing ability to create movements that seem effortless and inevitable. It almost seems as if the dancers in Taylor’s pieces are simply reacting to the music around them. And yet there’s no mistaking a work by Paul Taylor with any other choreographer. The way the dancers ebb and flow from one another, the graceful sweeping arm movements, the elegant aura that seems to surround every piece – all of these qualities and many more signal right away that you’ve entered Taylor’s enchanting world.
Then again, that’s what great artists do – create seemingly simple masterpieces that no one else ever thought of before. And, once they do, we can’t imagine a world without them or their art. Think Beethoven or Mozart, Van Gogh or Picasso.
Watching “Aureole” and “Esplanade” again Friday night, I was struck by how the dancers seemed to move like musical notes. When certain notes were played in both works, the dancers effortlessly glided from one part of the stage to another, like leaves swept into the air by a gentle breeze or the hands of a gifted pianist darting across a keyboard.
The crowd loved both pieces and erupted into rapturous applause after “Esplanade”, the final piece on the program. I also loved seeing both classic Taylor works again. But I was especially interested to see “The Uncommitted”, which was created in 2011. I was interested to find out if the now 84-year-old choreographer could still create masterpieces in his eighties. Judging by this powerful piece, he clearly can.
Certain reviews have described “The Uncommitted” as a darker, more somber work. For me, “The Uncommitted” simply came across as Taylor’s reaction to Arvo Part’s painfully haunting music. “The Uncommitted” is not really that different from “Aureole” or “Esplanade”, which is set to the music of Bach. In each case, each dance perfectly captures the spirit of each piece of music. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Paul Taylor’s pieces are all identical. I simply believe that Taylor has a magical ability to bring music to life in his own, unique wonderful way. And, I’m eager to see what he does with his dancers now and hopefully for many more years to come.