- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Nothing could warm a balletomane’s heart during the holiday season more than a visit by one of the world’s greatest dance groups, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, performing the founder’s imaginative, varied and downright brilliant choreography.

There was even a touch of Hanukkah spirit on the program at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater with the local premiere of “Klezmerbluegrass,” a work commissioned by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture to mark 350 years of Jewish life in America. By going to this country’s most distinguished choreographer, the commission has honored the excellence that has marked the Jewish contribution to this country’s cultural life.

Mr. Taylor has emphasized that this is his reaction as an artist to traditional klezmer music, not an attempt to reproduce authentic folk dance: much the same approach he took with the tango in “Piazzola Caldera.”

Although not in the same class as his two masterpieces on the program that closed Saturday — the tender, sensitive “Eventide” and the ebullient “Arden Court”— “Klezmerbluegrass” was suffused with Mr. Taylor’s inimitable juxtapositions of the joyous and the melancholy, the playful and the heroic. A great master of form, he uses the familiar slow walking step performed in a line with hands grasped shoulder height in fresh, kaleidoscopic patterns that become metaphors for bravery, for community, and for rollicking high spirits.

The score, played on tape by Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys, is traditional klezmer music reflecting Slavonic, Greek and Turkish influences and more recent jazz and American bluegrass.

Form becomes more than dazzling technique; in the choreographer’s hands, it is transformed into spirit.

The dance begins with couples, wearing vivid costumes in shades of red (with the women in underskirts of blue), moving with bright fast steps in a post-modern suggestion of a flirtatious courtship dance. The men ogle; the women are coyly demure. Following this, the Taylor men — always a powerful, impressive group — are linked in a slow, sustained chain dance, their bodies eloquently reflecting the somber pace of the music as they sink to the floor, somersaulting in unison while still linked together.

The dance is touched with humor. Richard Chen See bounds acrobatically; Silvia Nevjinsky leads a serene community of women; Michael Trusnovec and Julie Tice collapse after racing through a fiendishly fast duet; and Annmaria Mazzini is gravely concentrated in her heroic solo.

“Eventide” has an organic connection to Mr. Taylor’s roots as an artist. He has always been interested in “found” movement — the everyday gestures one can observe on city streets or country roads.

The ballet is the least virtuosic of Mr. Taylor’s dances —though there was a fast, skimming duet performed with quicksilver partnering by Mr. Chen See and Lisa Viola. “Eventide” uses the simplest of means — quiet walking, occasionally quickening to running. The work was suffused with the understated emotion of a Chekhov story in the interaction of five couples, or possibly one pair of lovers in different stages of their relationship.

The autumnal grace of the work was perfectly realized by the choreographer’s acute sensitivity to the nuance of movement, the haunting music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Santa Loquasto’s light-colored bucolic clothes and sepia-tinted background of trees, and Jennifer Tipton’s soft haze of lighting.

It was heartwarming to see the admirable Patrick Corbin back on stage as part of the central couple after time out for injury. Everyone danced this inspired work with special grace.

“Arden Court,” created in 1981, continues to entertain with its athletic daring and slyly humorous, playful juxtaposition of fast and slow, grandly tall and squat-short movement. Even more, it continues to awe with the ever-fresh beauty of its choreography.

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