Every Sunday afternoon at Jacob’s Pillow, aficionados have the choice between two performances. This Sunday in late July, the Paul Taylor Dance Company performed in the Ted Shawn Theatre. This was part of the Paul Taylor Legacy Tour, in honor of his passing in August 2018. This tour includes a performance of all Taylor works, one of his earliest works, one of his latest works, and one of his greatest works.
The highlight of the afternoon was “Promethean Fire” (2002) which is considered one of Taylor’s greatest works. The costuming and music set the scene beautifully for the most evocative work of the day. Dancers were were clad in black against an all black stage. The costuming was dramatic, black unitards, women with an open back, showcasing beautiful lithe musculature. The unitards were lined with nude chevron-style v-shaped stripes. As all 20 dancers twirled across the stage, this striping created an additional element of movement and spin. The effect was mesmerizing, an added dimension of spin. Memorable moments were when the dancers literally laid on top of each other, at one point aligning their bodies, and at another in this earthy pile of human forms -- unity and connection more deeply portrayed than words or movements possibly could. This, all set to Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” Break-taking, awe-inspiring, mesmerizing, it felt like the entire dance took place in a heartbeat, one couldn’t tell that time was passing.
The other dances were not as memorable. “Aureole” (1962) mis-matched Handel’s somber music with jubilant, upbeat movements. “Concertiana” (2018) combined a graceful, almost jungle-like theme to Eric Ewazen’s intense and fiery violin piece. In “Promethean Fire,” however, audience’s jaws dropped, breathe was abated, and time passed without anyone realizing it.
Next door in the Doris Duke Theatre, Caleb Teigher & Co. performed “More Forever”. Caleb Teigher began his professional career at Jacob’s Pillow. He was an alumnus of the Dance School of Jacob’s Pillow. The live piano music serenaded the audience in perhaps the highlight of the performance, with an energetic, jazz-like style. The performance itself was reminiscent of a scene in Fred Astaire’s “Top Hat” (1935) when he dumps sand from a near-by ashtray on the floor, so that he can tap dance without the woman downstairs hearing him. After being regaled by 10-minutes of a beautiful piano solo, the audience heard a confusing candy-wrapper-opening type sound. Next the performers come on stage with sand and began to sift the sand from their hands to the floor. What followed was a tap-dancing performance that lacked unison. However, between the engaging piano performance and the uniqueness of the program itself, most of the audience enjoyed their afternoon.