Editor, Daily Nexus,
Stephanie Cain’s review of the Paul Taylor Dance Company (“Modern Master: Campbell Hall Performance Solidifies Taylor as One of the Greats,” Daily Nexus, May 4) praised the dance company too highly. Cain not only lacked a sense of critical analysis, but she also jumped to assumptions without first researching the background of the company.
As I am working on a bachelor of fine arts in dance, I attend dance performances from the UCSB Dance Company to the New Works Concert, from State Street Ballet to Alvin Ailey, from Stan Won’t Dance to Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, and, of course, Paul Taylor. At times, I attend such performances with a strong expectation of the choreographer or company. Other times, I purposefully ignore the program and see what the concert has in store for me. With the Paul Taylor Dance Company, there was no way to ignore the famous, world-renowned name discussed time and time again in my technique classes as well as dance history classes. However, my high expectations — and those of my fellow dance friends — of such a well-known company were utterly shattered. In short, Paul Taylor failed to impress.
The opening dance “Spring Rounds” was not a modern piece. I tried as hard as I could to classify it in either the ballet realm or the contemporary realm, but it seemed to be in stasis. The dancers — although seemingly athletic — failed at their technical abilities as well as their performance energy. With fake, plastic, Vaseline-forced smiles, half-parallel and half-turned-out feet and legs positioned in between straight and bent, the dancers looked as if the movements were too challenging for their bodies. The execution on the choreography was not up to par with what a professional company should maintain. After due consideration of the bifurcation of men and women, the structure of the opening grand entrance, the pas de deux and the men and women’s variations, I placed this piece in my book as a badly choreographed ballet on bare feet.
“Nightshade” was one of the most disturbing pieces in the production. Although I enjoyed the strong linear digression of the little girl’s innocence and the portrayal of the strains of the adult world, Cain repeatedly ignored the feelings of a real critic in saying that “The choreography was noticeable.” In fact, the olden day costumes, especially the petticoats on the women, completely hindered any movement to be seen.
Cain was correct in stating that “Promethean Fire” was the one work in the concert that redeemed the company, but she was completely incorrect to describe it is as futuristic. If even a minimal amount of research was done, it would have been clear that “Promethean Fire” was actually created shortly after 9/11. Although not the intention of the choreographer, Taylor did include several choreographic lifts that seemed to emulate flying planes. And, as for the piled heap and “Adam and Eve” rising from the bodies, doesn’t this statement actually seem more to relate towards 9/11 than the futuristic?
The goal of a modern dance company may be to “defy one’s expectations,” but clearly, Taylor broke down one of my highest expectations for a great choreographer. With dancers too athletic for the movement and a choreographer too built up with a reputation, the Paul Taylor Dance Company failed to give the audience something to walk away with. Personally, I wanted my $19 back.