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Paul Taylor
American Modern Dance

Sunday, March 11, 2018 2:00 PM

Cloven Kingdom

Choreography by Paul Taylor

“Man is a social animal,” said Spinoza. Just below the surface of humans’ civilized veneer lurks an animal nature that cannot be ignored. The scene is a cotillion ball where members of high society are dressed in formal attire – the gentlemen in tailcoats and the ladies wearing gowns and mirrored headpieces. A baroque score vies for dominance with urgent, percussive 20th-Century music, reflecting the struggle between our gentler and more savage natures. As primitive impulses emerge, the women plant seeds and bear progeny, while the men seem no longer to wear tails but bear tails. They prance and stalk on all fours, and their totemic friezes suggest the prehistoric ancestors from whom we have descended. Although the dance ends on a triumphant note with social structures intact, it has become clear that we are not separate from animals, we are animals.  

Paul Taylor New Work

Choreography by Paul Taylor

Piazzolla Caldera

Choreography by Paul Taylor

Neruda wrote of poetry that mirrors “the flawed confusion of human beings,” poetry “worn away as if by acid by the labor of hands, impregnated with sweat and smoke, smelling of lilies and of urine, splashed by the variety of what we do, legally or illegally… as impure as old clothes, as a body, with its foodstains and its shame, with wrinkles, observations, dreams, wakefulness, prophecies, declarations of love and hate, stupidities, shocks, idylls….”  He might have been describing the predatory dance that originated in the brothels of Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th Century: tango. The music of tango – with Spanish, Italian, Indian, African and Jewish influences – was taken to new heights by Astor Piazzolla.  Without a single authentic tango step, Paul Taylor captures the essence of tango culture. In a dimly lit dive, working class men and women confront each other in sizzling sexual duets and trios: men with women, men with men and women with women. Two men too drunk for conquests perform a loopy dance as lamplights sway dizzily overhead.  A woman who has searched desperately for a partner but failed to find one, collapses – as if mortally wounded by a night without passion.

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