The appearance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company over the weekend at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts marked something of a historic occasion. With this engagement, the 3-year-old Cerritos Center matched the number of performances given by modern dance companies on all the stages of the Los Angeles Music Center during 30 years of operation.
Of course, just about any Taylor program offers reasons to celebrate, with its inventive and sometimes inspired mix of athletic and lyric impulses. Comic, too--for the big news on the current tour is "Funny Papers," a seven-part suite "amended and combined" by Taylor from choreography by eight members of his company.
With music drawn from somebody's collection of dumb-and-dumber pop records, "Funny Papers" offers such antic delights as Patrick Corbin and Thomas Patrick bounding through the gloriously ricky-tick "I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones" and Denise Roberts turning the feminist anthem "I Am Woman" into a deliriously proud halftime display.
As a spectacularly springy, shadowboxing Popeye, Andrew Asnes looks more technically commanding here than in the adagio challenges of the lead role in "Spindrift," the other new work on the program. Set to music by Schoenberg (adapted from Handel), "Spindrift" casts Asnes as the lonely outsider in a community--an individual who nonetheless serves as the focal point in the geometric group patterns dominating the work.
In psychological terms, he's alien, but in design terms, he's essential, so his acceptance into the joyous circle formations and diagonal surges of the finale comes as no surprise. (In dance, geometry is destiny.) Less expected: the lushness and even fussiness of the choreography and the Santo Loquasto scene-paintings.
Two revivals provide more essential statements of Taylor's artistry. The plotless "Aureole" (1962) represents the first masterwork in which Taylor fused Baroque music and all-American athleticism. Edward Talton-Jackson may be overtaxed by the celebrated adagio, but he and Roberts make the duet the miracle of tenderness it should be. And Richard Chen See superbly embodies "Aureole" extroversion with his buoyancy and precision.
A depiction of soldiers on leave, the bittersweet "Sunset" (1983) expresses all manner of unfulfilled longings with a ravishing sensitivity. Currently entrusted to David Grenke and Patrick, the male duet takes you deep into feelings that the characters have never expressed while a sequence in which the soldiers collectively partner Mary Cochran conveys a shared naivete that will not survive what these young men and women are about to face. A work of great simplicity and poignancy from a modern master.