While the first week of the Taylor season at Lincoln Center has covered mostly classics they were given a boost by the new music arrangement with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s who are now the company’s resident orchestra. On Saturday’s program of old and newer music the orchestra conducted by Donald York added immeasurably to performances of “Eventide” and “Cloven Kingdom” respectively. The program finished with the obligatory recorded sound track of the Andrews Sisters songbook for “Company B”.
“Cloven Kingdom” (first on the program) and “Eventide” look and feel opposite in personality but both have a kind of bleakness at their cores. The twelve dancers in “Cloven Kingdom” pit a sense of animal instinct against a superficial civility. The women seem generally nicer than the men but by the end they also adopt (or are infected by) the menacing, flexed, over turned hands and bent elbows first taken up by the men. You can hear the opposing forces easily enough in the scrambled remixed music by John Herbert McDowell who layers Corelli, the American experimenter Henry Cowell, and Malloy Miller. All the ensemble sections in fact were superbly precise. The men looked particularly fine and marvelously together in their second section which ends with a rush to center stage and a final piled on tableau. At the conclusion, with arms up raised, they acknowledged their abrasive branch of the divided human spirit with a sense of defiant pride. The sex segregated casting, the pair of women who periodically streak across the stage, the mirrored headgear, and the forbidding contexts lurking in the title all finally add up to something more than the sum of the parts. Taylor may be jumping into deep water with “Cloven Kingdom’s “ artificial world, but he does it magnificently and makes you believe in its peculiar reality.
While the gloom at the heart of “Cloven Kingdom” is born of a kind of perversity “Eventide’s” dusting of darkness comes from lost or barely grasped romantic connection between the piece’s five couples. The muted glowing lighting (Tipton), Vaughan Williams’ bucolic 1933 Suite for Viola and Orchestra with an added prelude, period off white costuming and a wood enveloped in haze (Loquasto) all speak of an English place. Michael Trusnovec and Parisa Khobdeh were exceptional in their two sections “Carol” and “Musette”. Mostly made from walking and circling movement, they commanded attention for the distilled subtlety of their dancing and a palpable sense of thwarted emotion. The first duo is made with intimate movements and embraces, while the second plays with running and a hide-and-seek quality. Heather McGinley and Francisco Graciano were fevered and airy in their duo, “Moto Pertpetuo”, the only section that briefly lifts spirits. Tied deeply in mood and structure to Vaughn William’s music “Eventide” uses two ensemble sections to bookend the procession of duos. It shares an affinity with Taylor’s “Sunset” in mood (a work similarly appointed with music by Elgar) to create a sense of nostalgic solemnity. Maureen Gallagher was the viola soloist in the Vaughan Williams suite.
Coming roughly ten years apart Balanchine, Tharp and Taylor with “Who Cares”, “Sinatra Dances”, and “Company B” opened the doors for companies looking for avenues to create suites based on popular music. Taylor’s “Company B” a buoyant often comedic work wanders purposefully among a collection of Andrew Sisters recordings that embrace novelty music (Pennsylvania Polka), Yiddish favorites, and ballads. Michael Trusnovec, who had heavyweight parts in “Cloven Kingdom” and “Eventide”, dug deep to release his inner dork in the goofy “Oh Johnny, Oh” while Michelle Fleet made an earnest wishful solo out of “I Can Dream Can’t I” . At the heart of the work is a beautiful moving duo to the torch song “There Will Never Be another You”, on Saturday danced with a deep heart by Heather McGinley and partnered by Sean Mahoney. With its procession of men in silhouette passing behind the soloist the staging amplifies the song with an overwhelming sense of regret. It shows Taylor at his best as a creator of potent metaphors with striking visual appeal.
(The season at Lincoln Center continues Tuesday through Sunday for the next two weeks until March 29th. Photos are from previous performances)