This weekend, Sarasota Ballet hosted a remarkable production of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, their only performance in Florida this season. Paul Taylor, 82, is arguably the greatest living choreographer working today. Earlier this month at the Ringling International Arts Festival, we were treated to a performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov, 62, the greatest living dancer, who performed with the Mark Morris Dance Company, another of the pantheon of the great American modern dance choreographers. So for Sarasota dance enthusiasts, October has been a rich month indeed!
Two of the pieces from this weekend’s performance, “Gossamer Gallants” and “The Uncommitted” were 2011 premieres, and were new to me. “Gossamer Gallants” was a comedic romp, which at the beginning reminded me of Matthew Bourne’s all male “Swan Lake.” The gallants were a group of muscular male fireflies, not what one might anticipate for the daintiest of insects. The male fireflies’ movements were bold and boisterous; and the female fireflies, who entered later, were cheeky and flirty. One of my favorite parts involved each of the gallants, in an act of chivalry, removing their gossamer wings so that the female flies’ feet wouldn’t get muddied. The female flies could care less and exited without a gesture of thanks, and the final gallant was left to wring out his soaked wings. Ultimately, the females triumphed over the gallants in the rousing conclusion. With the election a week away, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the candidates desperately seeking to court women voters. Perhaps the powerful ending was a harbinger of things to come.
The second piece, “The Uncommitted,” was a gorgeous tapestry of pitch-perfect movement. The Paul Taylor dancers are so versatile; and their extensions are glorious as they add dimension to every part of their choreographer’s vocabulary. I was picturing Taylor himself hand-selecting each dancer to satisfy precisely what he wished to achieve with his work. It seems such a gift for both the choreographer and his dancers that Paul Taylor is still able to place his work on his own company.
“Esplanade,” from 1999, which concluded the show, was also a beautiful piece; but I think I was waiting for the mood to change a bit from “The Uncommitted.” Taylor has some rousing works in his repertoire, and among my favorites is “Company B,” which the Sarasota Ballet has licensed to perform this November. “Esplanade” was lovely, but it felt a little tame for me. I left the performance wanting to see more of Taylor’s work, and lucky for me, I can! During the weekend of November 16 and 17th, the Sarasota Ballet will perform “Company B.”
During one of the intermissions, Mary Anne Servian, Managing Director, came up to ask my husband and me how we were enjoying the performance. I was interested to learn how the relationship with Paul Taylor came about; because I know that Iain Webb, Director, is a master at securing great works for the Sarasota Ballet to perform. Apparently, Emily Walsh, former member of the corps de ballet and sister of principal Kate Honea (and fellow mom to a toddler), had a connection with a Paul Taylor board member and voila — the company was opening the season and licensing the great “Company B.”
“Company B,” set to the music of the Andrews Sisters, is a true American original, capturing the mixture of sentiments at the end of the Depression and the beginning of World War II. “Company B,” which I haven’t seen performed for several years, is among Taylor’s most popular and frequently revisited works, so I can’t wait! For tickets to the Sarasota Ballet, go to www.sarasotaballet.org. The November 16-17th performances also feature works by company favorites, Sir Frederick Ashton and Christopher Wheeldon.