Paul Taylor premiered "De Sueños" in Page Auditorium Thursday night — the 16th time he has presented a new work to the world with an opening at the American Dance Festival. The Taylor company, which appears annually at ADF, gets a lot of love here, and the large audience was demonstratively appreciative of all three pieces danced on the 12th.
Taylor knows the difference between the mysterious and the merely obfuscatory and between the thing that may have multiple meanings and the thing that has no meaning due to the artist's lack of clarity. His "De Sueños," appropriately, is mysterious in the way of dreams. Each scene is propelled by its internal logic and makes sense at the time, but, as in a dream (or a Fellini movie), resists firm interpretation by the wakeful mind and its narrow habits. In "De Sueños," time is relieved of its linearity and tempo, of its consistency. Anything may happen at any moment, at any pace.
Set to music by seven contemporary Mexican composers (performed by the Kronos Quartet, recorded on "Nuevo" on Nonesuch Records), "De Sueños" is performed in a set and costumes by Santo Loquasto rich with references to Death and the Day of the Dead. It is not surprising to find the same references in the dancing. Michael Chen See was excellent as jesting, tempting, seductive Death in top hat and tailcoat, his grin a red slash in his white face. He walks about like the authoritative ringmaster, carrying a bright pink skull which he offers to others, who lick it as if it were an ice cream cone. Michael Trusnovec was really beautiful as a deer shaman. With a full rack of antlers on his head, his movement was different from what we are accustomed to — he was very like a deer, leading with that massive head, his flanks quivering, his powerful haunches rippling above his neat hooves. But what is going on with that Almodovar-style transvestite (Robert Kleinendorst, in anklets and maryjanes!), and who is that gold lady?
Covered in clinging gold from feet to headdress, Laura Halzack was a glorious sight even before she began to demonstrate her lovely capabilities as a dancer. Sometimes I think all the great sculpture these days is being made on the dance stage, and, instead of years, we only get a few seconds to see it. If only sculptors were making figures arranged with this kind of balance of masses and forces, this kind of elegant line and form and gesture! Gold Lady is the kind of personage you always hope will visit your dreams, and there she was: radiant, epitomizing grace; calming and exciting at once. You have no idea what she means, but you know you'll remember this dream, and feel blessed by it, when Death makes its next visit to you.
The program opened and closed with two joyous dances. "Arden Court," from 1981, is a blissful thing. Set to excerpts from Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8 by William Boyce (1711-79, "the English Bach"), it includes three women but is more of a showcase for the considerable glories of the six men, whose thin tights look almost like full lower body tattoos. There are some great dances, rich in patterningl for them, and many sequences of delightful frolic for all. The company was effervescent, with Annamaria Mazzini particularly spirited and smiling. After all the dark Argentinian theatrics of the last several ADF performances, the intense pleasure of seeing happy dancing to spritely music flooded through the audience.
That readiness of the audience to be blissed out was well served by the evening's final dance, the much loved "Esplanade," from 1975. It is set to the Bach Violin Concerto in E Major and the largo and allegro from the Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, and the dancers express both the formality and the playfulness of the music as they skip and tumble and leap and fly through virtuosi variations on simple movement phrases. The incomparable Lisa Viola was in vivid form, especially in her leaps, but everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. The life force in all its bubbling fun is still with us, something that is hard to remember these days. It is very encouraging that Taylor surrounded his meditation on death with two such lively pleasure pieces. I'm sure if anything can keep Death from seducing the whole world away from Life, it is happiness, and the Paul Taylor Company supplies a lot of that.