Paul Taylor Dance Company
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR
Part of BankBoston Celebrity Series
At the Shubert Theatre
Bach and ballet may not seem like the most obvious pairing, but then the obvious and Paul Taylor never made good bedfellows either. During his recent Boston visit, the legendary pioneer of modern dance showed that he is still in a position to surprise -- something he has done with admirable vigor for the last five decades.
“Cascade,” a dance piece set to concertos for piano and orchestra by J.S. Bach, opened the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s three night run at the Shubert Theatre last Friday. The choreography for “Cascade,” strict and symmetrical just like Bach’s music, came across as effortless and elegant, making the compositions seem like the perfect ballet score. The contemplative quality of the music was beautifully enhanced by precise and graceful movements, effectively creating a visual equivalent of the baroque compositions. The only slight problem was with the male dancers, who struggled to achieve the grace and fluidity necessary for the piece. On the other hand, the female troupe members were excellent, especially Francie Huber, whose solo was one of the evening’s highlights.
Next on the program was “Arabesque,” another Boston premiere. The abstract style of the piece was similar to “Cascade,” with the notable difference that the score was by Debussy, not Bach. Having a dreamlike -- rather than a contemplative -- quality, Debussy’s sonorous world was filled with unlikely figures, both mythical and fantastical, whose enigmas were expressed in imaginative movements, rather than through costumes or effects. The strict choreography of “Cascade” was traded for a less formal and freer flowing dance style, and, as a Halloween treat, Paul Taylor introduced the audience to yet another superb female soloist, Sylvia Nevjinsky.
Despite the abstract nature of “Cascade” and “Arabesque,” there was plenty of emotion in both pieces to keep the audience engaged and entertained.
More emotional discharge came in the evening’s finale, the fiery and fast “Piazzola Caldera” -- a fitting tribute to the Argentinean tango guru Astor Piazzola. Performed in front of a blood red backdrop, it managed to bring out the essence of tango without imitating the dance itself.
The raw and liberating Latino rhythms made for a perfect conclusion to an evening that showed us how modern dance can remain original and challenging while still being accessible and entertaining.
Friday’s performance was part of the BankBoston Celebrity Series and, although Paul Taylor’s short stint is over, the Series will be putting on a few shows this coming week that are well worth noting. Tomorrow, the legendary Cuban band “Irakere” is playing at the Berklee Performance Center, and on Sunday the Flying Karamazov Brothers bring their juggling act to Symphony Hall. For more information on Celebrity Series events, check out their web site: <http://www.celebrityseries.org>.