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Brief Encounters – Paul Taylor (2009)

March 10, 2010

On July 29th, Paul Taylor will turn 80 years old. Think for a second about the men in your life who are coming up on their 8th decade on earth. Think of your fathers and grandfathers who, at this age, are or were beginning to slow a bit in their thinking. Maybe a few of their jokes were becoming borderline racist or at least sadly nostalgic. If this man were to create a work of art, dance or otherwise, it would seem that some of the more crude topics would be off-limits. So what did Paul Taylor create for his latest piece? Notes on the dance will tell you it is “a dance about people more concerned with momentary connections than ongoing relationships,” but a few seconds into the dance, it is quite apparent that the more conservative term ‘momentary connections’ is a thin veil for ‘casual sex.’ Yes, far into his senior years, Paul Taylor creates a dance about youth and sex.

[The following music clips are the sections of Le Coin des Enfants]
Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

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As such, the costumes for this piece are barely there. The black lingerie is see-through mesh over a nude undergarment, giving the illusion of naked yet sexy dancers. One could swear if they looked closely enough, there really was nothing under all that mesh. And so as the music fades in, the dancers begin to touch, slide and spin around each other.

Jimbo’s Lullaby

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Credit: Mary Buttolph for The New York Times

Le Coin des Enfants, or Children’s Corner, is Claude Debussy’s tribute to his 3 year old daughter. The music is intended to evoke the quality of childhood. Although this dance is clearly about adult themes many of the characters within it do act like children. One woman dances while gazing into a mirror, enamored by her own beauty. Even as a man comes to try and entice her, she cannot break her focus. It is not until she throws the mirror off stage that she begins to feel that she has made a mistake. Another section portrays an uneven number of dancers partnering in duets, leaving one man to feel left out and angrily so. In the end, they scramble after each other until one woman flicks her foot in exasperation at her inability to find a mate.

Serenade for the Doll

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There is one section that includes a duet between two men. The sexuality of Paul Taylor has never been determined and most would say it neither matters nor should be determined in the wrongly accepted gay or straight binary. However, it has always baffled me as to why choreographers who identify as homosexual would want to create pieces that only portray heterosexual couples. Perhaps the tradition of heterosexual relationships makes for great dance creations. Since Paul Taylor has been acquainted with both, it is very fitting to include it.

The Snow is Dancing

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To keep with the theme, the relationship between the two men is not romantic. They look at each other sternly and with clenched fists. It is difficult to tell if they are trying to fight each other or make love. By the time one man has been turned upside down with his crotch dangerously close to the other man’s face it seems pretty clear as to what their relationship entails. But just as quickly as they begin, they have separated and run off stage holding hands.

The Little Shepherd

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Credit: Gloria Wright / The Post-Standard

Paul Taylor has a knack for beauty. Whether it be the billowing skirts gracing the women’s thighs or the shirtless expansiveness of the men’s chests, he embellishes the loveliness of the human form. Although these situations portrayed in the dance may not have happened to Paul, with its sensitivity and believability and the naked beauty of it all, one has to wonder at the ‘brief encounters’ he must have had in his long life.

Golliwogg’s Cakewalk

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Did any of the sexuality of the piece surprise you?

Is this piece similar to any other Paul Taylor dances?

Did you relate to the characters?

How often do you dance in your underwear?

March 6th, 2010, 8:00pm
New York City Center
New York City, New York

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