By Walter Rutledge
Paul Taylor’s Marathon Cadenzas, his 141st work, premiered on Friday, March 14 at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. The ensemble work for twelve dancers was inspired by the 1969 Sidney Pollack film They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, which depicts a depression era dance marathon. The curtained opened with the house lights still up revealing two large signs suspended downstage. The signs not only described the rules and restrictions of the dance hall competition, but also displayed Taylor’s satirical wit.
Now that the audience understood the rules and conditions we unwittingly became part of the impending movement melee. As the house dimmed and the signs rose we literally stepped into the seedy dancehall. The minimal set featured a mirror balls and worn draping streamers, which included multicolored triangles illuminated by small clear lights.
The master of ceremonies arrived clad in a white double-breasted suit and white and brown wing-tipped shoes. His slicked back hair and cigarette completed his sleazy demeanor. As the contestants arrived it became clear that their hopeful and effervescent enthusiasm would soon give way to hopelessness and despair.
In recent years Taylor has created abstract narrative works. Many depict a bygone era of Americana, and they usually explore the darker elements of society. What makes this period in his artistic journey so enjoyable is his succinct and Euclidean directness. Taylor is the master of establishing and then developing/defining characters with uncanny natural timing and clarity.
These works are not an exploration of new movement and themes, but a rendering of reality through the eyes of Taylor. Marathon Cadenzas like many of Taylor’s recent abstract narrative dances recalls a view of life illustrated by John Steinbeck. The characters created by both Steinbeck and Taylor are shaped by combining sympathetic humor and keen social perception.
A true master craftsmen his work has also acquired a quality reminiscent of the later paintings of Matisse. They are rich and vivid, and defy the rules of his own artistic convention and code of conduct. Taylor’s works in this present period are witty and fully developed, lacking the needy angst of trying to please. Instead they are simply creating for creation’s sake.
In Photo: 1) Francisco Graciano and James Samson 2) Paul Taylor
Photo Credit 1) Andrea Mohin 2) Paul Palmaro