One of our favorite contemporary dance ensembles, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, performed on Saturday evening. The evening featured two revivals and a new work, Phantasmagoria, which proved to be a disappointment.
Phantasmagoria, first performed at Wolf Trap this summer, was the second of the three pieces. The music, by "anonymous Renaissance composers," was spiked with modern percussive sounds. Taylor based the fragmented, satirical work on Pieter Bruegel the Elder's earthy peasant painting The Wedding Dance. Then, as if to take us through the history and geography of dance, he introduced an Indian "Adam and Eve" garbed in stereotypical gaudy costuming wielding a cheesy bright green plush snake. An Irish step dancer came clogging out to bagpipes. A nun confiscated the plush snake and found a lewd use for it. And, finally, a leper-like creature infected the other dancers with the plague. This could have been a rollicking piece had the preliminaries been strong enough to support a real send-up with a clear through line but, alas, none of those fell into place.
The last piece, Cloven Kingdom, was the program's most coherent. Although created in 1976, it was not as dated-looking as the as the opener, 1981's Arden Court, a bare-footed contemporary ballet. The women in Cloven Kingdom danced in long, stretchy, elegant gowns which seemed to hearken back to Martha Graham's oeuvre. By this third piece, the troupe had found its footing as the dancing--especially by the men in tuxedos--was superb.