Piazzolla Caldera

Completely in love with “Piazzolla Caldera” by @paultaylordancecompany tonight!!! 😍😍😍

A gorgeous tango (and waltz!) that blends beautifully with modern movements, this choreography is going right up there with my other all-time favorites!

On Sunday, I wrote about Esplanade, a stunning piece of work about the joy of dance. Paul Taylor dancers moved with so much spirit, so much heart, and so much energy. Even from the audience’s seats, we could feel the dancers’ passion, welcoming us onto the stage, inviting us to join the celebration. I didn’t think another choreography could possibly live up to the expectations of Esplanade. Yet, Piazzolla Caldera did tonight.

I’ve always enjoyed how Paul Taylor seamlessly merges concert dance with vernacular dance forms — bringing out not just the best of both worlds, but creating something unique, remarkable, and extraordinary in the process.

His group movements often remind me of contra dance patterns (on crack!). There are the polka mazurka steps in Eventide, lindy hop and polka in Company B, swing in Black Tuesday, disco in Changes, and so on.

Piazzolla Caldera is the most exquisite of such a fusion that I’ve seen so far.

The tango was absolutely beautiful, including the 12-person movements in the opening scene, the subsequent solos and duets. I never imagined that tango could be danced in such a manner. The piece retained the intensity, attitude, and connection traditionally associated with tango. Staying true to the dance form’s roots, two men even had chest-to-chest lead-follows!

Yet, the work inserted even more energy, dynamic, and theatricality into tango (as if tango needed any, but apparently it could!!!) with leaps, turns, upper body gestures, and more.

My favorite part, you ask?

Back in 1913 and 1914, when Argentine tango was first introduced to the US, New Yorkers used to dance tango to triple-time waltz music, creating a tango-waltz fusion known as “Hesitation Waltz.” Midway through Piazzolla Caldera, the music transitioned from 4/4 tango music to 3/4 waltz music. Replacing the hesitation step with by modern movements, Paul Taylor created a new modern-tango-waltz fusion. Mind blown! WOW!!!

Cloven Kingdom

Paul Taylor American Modern Dance: Another wondeful night at the Lincoln Center, plus a backstage tour with Michael Novak.

Tonight’s program opened with the 1960s-themed “Changes” featuring dancers all dressed in hippies fashion. Memorable moments included…

Christina Lynch Markham‘s solo to California Earthquake.

The unusual but fascinating movement quality that combined modern dance, 60s dancing, and the “relaxed feel” that came from having a little too much grass. Modern dance is no cake walk, but I suspect the “relaxed look” is even harder to dance… especially while sober and under the Lincoln Center’s stage lighting???

And, of course, the dancing bear by James Samson and Michael Apuzzo. The father-son moment in the dancing bear was wonderful, but I’m too young to get the reference. Why is there a dancing bear? How is the bear connected to the 1960s?

“Continuum” is full of contrasts… Between the uplifting Madelyn Ho in red, Heather McGinley in pink, and the rest of the company fading quickly into grey. Between the graceful goddess-like Laura Halzack and the tormented Lee Duveneck who picked himself up only to fall, drop, crash into the ground over and over again.

In “Cloven Kingdom,” the dancers portrayed the dual roles of being members of the high society while clinging onto the inner animals inside each one of them. It was great to see this choreography in its full glory (with the full set of costumes, stage lightning, and live music) tonight vs. the earlier studio preview.

This choreography had the dance historian in me thinking…

Back in the 1910s, Vernon and Irene Castle brought couple dancing to upper middle class Americans. Elegent and fashionable, the Castles made social dancing such as the Tango, Foxtrot, Hesitation Waltz, Maxixe not only acceptable but respectable by the high society.

However, it’s also during the 1910s, that animal dances such as the Grizzly Bear, Turkey Trot, Crab Walk, Duck Waddle, Kangaroo Hop swept across America in one of the biggest dance craze in US history.

Could “Cloven Kingdom” have any relation to the defining years in American social dance leading up to 1914? (Vernon Castle was killed in WWI.)