Slipping into the Brooklyn Academy of Music recently for a miniseason before embarking on a national tour, the Paul Taylor Dance Company once again proved what an invigorating troupe it is -- and happily unpredictable in its repertory.
For nothing could be further from last spring's smash hit premier, "Arden Court," than the dance Taylor has just introduced, "House of Cards." If one can encapsulate a dance in one image, "Arden Court" brings to mind a brawny man delicately posed in midair, in a spectacularly baroque figuration. The trademark for the new "House of Cards" might be of dancers sprawled out in heaps , looking fairly disheveled and possibly played out.
"House of Cards" is one of Taylor's sardonic works, where he seems to be distorting dancers' natural vitality and aplomb so as to make a social comment. As is often the case with Taylor, correspondences between music and dance yield the clues as to what's going on. Aided and abetted by the dancing, one hears in Darius Milhaud's familiar "Creation of the World" a new deadbeat quality.
Composed in 1923 during the height of the jazz and flapper era, the score nevertheless sounds like a parody rather than a celebration of its age. One hears in it a certain sourness that is both amusing and depressing. Milhaud seems to be saying not that this era shall pass, but that this era hasm passed.
Mimi Gross' decor also lends a sense of time passing irretrievably. As the dancers' mechanical movements are creating a distancing effect, a wide scroll is continually rolling upward and out of sight, taking images of the 1920s along with it. "House of Cards" is a vanishing act.
While Taylor's view of the roaring '20s is refreshingly individual, the most impressive factor about "House of Cards" is the absolute complicity of tone Taylor forges between the dance and music. The meaning of the dance unravels only in its connection with the music, and the music takes on added meaning only as it is being danced to. This two-way process of discovery makes" House of Cards" exciting, even if the choreography per se isn't especially inventive.
"House of Cards" is more a think piece than a dance piece, and for this reason will probably take its place in the minor leauge of Taylor's repertory. Yet one can't be sure how dances eventually shape up.For instance, I had always thought "Profiles" to be a fairly academic exercise in two-dimensionality. Seeing it again in Brooklyn where it plays in repertory with "Arden Court" and other works, "Profiles" has an extra dimension of emotional tension added to its profile. The rigidity of two-dimensional movement translates into feelings of stress and resistance. With form and content so intertwined, "Profiles" has become a major piece.