Notes and Editorial Reviews
Paul Taylor is widely considered to be one of the foremost American choreographers of the 20th century. Paul Taylor is among the last living members of the second generation of America’s modern dance artists. He has continued to win acclaim for his recent creations as well as stagings of his earlier works. As prolific as ever, he may propel his dancers through space for the sheer beauty of it, or use them to wordlessly illuminate war, spirituality, sexuality, morality and mortality. This program was recorded in 2012 at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris and is composed of two ballets.
First performed in 1988 to music from Bach’s Brandenburg concertos #3 and #6. “Brandenburgs” is cast
for a man and three women, plus an ensemble of five men. In an unusual stroke for Taylor, he uses the male quintet as a proper corps de ballet – that is, they frame the action and move only as a group, anonymously. The sharp hierarchical distinction between soloists and ensemble accounts for one aspect of the dance’s classical feel. More important, though, is the ensemble’s attitude toward the soloists.
Set to Francis Poulenc’s choral “Gloria,” the dance was inspired by the life and work of 19th Century American writer Walt Whitman, who revered the body and soul as one and who famously loved all with equal ardor. It depicts the experiences of an artist described in a line from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”: “I am the poet of the body and I am the poet of the soul.”
“Beauty is the only word for BRANDENBURGS…[which] celebrates the good things in life. Such a radiant, seamless flow of invention that the choreography seems an entirely natural way of moving to this music.” – Mary Clarke, Manchester [UK] Guardian
“The best new choreography in 2008. Deeply moving… a work of philosophic as well as dramatic power. Mr. Taylor ranks among the great war poets… One of the great achievements of his long career and one of the most eloquently textured feats of his singular imagination.” – Alastair Macaulay, New York Times (BELOVED RENEGADE)
Director: Andy Sommer
Bonus: ’Paul Taylor : Architect of Energy’
Length: 55 mins (ballets) & 11 mins (bonus) - Image: NTSC, colour, 16:9
Audio: PCM Stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: French (Bonus)
Zones: All Zones
Full Review: 3724560.zz6_Brandenburgs_1988_Beloved.html
PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY IN PARIS • Various Artists • BELAIR 095 (DVD: 55:00 + 11:00)
Brandenburgs (1988); Beloved Renegade (2008); Mini-documentary, Paul Taylor: Architect of Energy
This program was recorded in the Théâtre National de Chaillot during the Festival Les Étés de la Danse in 2012, and originally was shown on PBS as part of its Great Performances series. (One assumes that other works were performed that evening, but that only these two made it to American television.)
In Paul Taylor’s words, Brandenburgs (danced to Bach’s Third and Sixth Brandenburg Concertos) is a piece about gallantry, but not about romance. A muted eroticism is present, but it is masked by the piece’s joyous and energetic athleticism, which hardly ever lets up. (One dancer calls it “controlled chaos.”) Lead male dancer Michael Trusnovec is an Apollo-like figure, simultaneously attended by and attending to three of the lead female dancers. Even so, the piece can be enjoyed as pure, abstract dance. Bach’s buoyant music is perfectly suited to Taylor’s fluid, expressive, and yet at times geometrical choreography. Artistically, the piece is flawless, and the dancing approaches flawlessness as well.
Trusnovec’s charisma takes center stage again in Beloved Renegade, which was inspired by Walt Whitman. To the music of Poulenc’s Gloria—strangely appropriate!—the poet reviews episodes and themes from his life—tending wounded Civil War soldiers, observing the innocent play of children, “singing the body electric,” if you will—and, at the end, departs life, with dancer Laura Halzack serving as his Angel of Death. Near the end, there is a touching vignette in which Whitman bids farewell to several of his friends, and one feels that perhaps Whitman is being presented as a Christ-like figure. Again, the work is an artistic triumph. Taylor is one of those modern dance choreographers whose work is informed by classical ballet, but the incorporation of ballet into modern dance is seamless. In this work, the individual dancers are given the opportunity to be more individualized than in Brandenburgs, and here, one realizes what a strong ensemble this is. It is not carried by a few star dancers.
The Bach is danced to Neville Marriner’s recording with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on Philips. The Poulenc is danced to Stephen Layton’s truly outstanding Hyperion recording. The camera-work is good, although some viewers might not like the cutting from one camera to another, which is as frequent as the blinking of an eye. The 11-minute bonus video contains interviews with Taylor and several of his dancers, and, as is often the case, is beneficial to view before watching the performances themselves.
I have no trouble strongly recommending this to just about anyone, even to viewers who don’t generally watch dance, live or on video. I wish only that the program were longer!
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle Read less
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