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Laura: Dance Response

Before this class, I had never really been exposed to such distinct forms of dance. From Asian to European to Classic American, the wide variety and interpretations of dance that I have been able to see in less than two weeks have all brought me to a new level of awareness of the culture that resides within New York City. In his short essay “Why I Make Dances” Paul Taylor said, “I make dances because I believe in the power of contemporary dance, its immediacy, its potency, its universality.” I think that his answer can speak to styles of dance, which is essentially an expression, story, image presented through the body’s movement and capabilities. Different dances said different things to me, yet they all spoke.

The opera ballet presented by the New York Baroque Dance Company was nothing like what I expected it to be. I took a ballet class for teens a few years ago, but I only got as far as tendus before I gave up. When choreographer Catherine Turocy came to visit the class, I knew I was in for some major re-evaluation of what ballet, especially baroque style, was. In her demonstration of how a man and woman would interact with each other before a dance, the customs and fluidity of movement that these people were expected to have really came to light. At the show that night, I felt physically energized by the dancers and singers. Although most of the story was lost to me because of the language barrier, the power with which the opera singers belted out their lyrics and the synchronization and gracefulness of the neighbors gave me chills. It all seemed unreal and I felt all the more lively just sitting there and watching them all onstage.

The first routine of Fall for Dance, Shu-Yi & Company’s [1875] Ravel and Bolero, was bizarre from the beginning. Why was this cluster of people standing in front of a fan, with their clothes on backwards, screaming? It all seemed to have no cohesion and I thought the dancers were here only from Taiwan. And then the routine really began and I had to change my mind again. Even among the chaotic chorus of screaming and rising and falling of the dancers, they were all synchronized and ingeniously used the side-to-side motion of the fan to keep their motions together. As the movements progressed and started to build, I began to take notice of the dance within the dance; some of the girls utilized ballet twirls, others more modern sashaying. It was all so much yet it needed to be there. There didn’t seem to be a clear story in the routine, but there didn’t need to be; the movements themselves told a story. With all the dancing and repetition of movement, the audience had to take notice of how the elements of the stage (curtains, screen, lighting) were all being removed until the stage was bare, and the dancing had to speak for itself. Dance is all just movement, and it should be powerful enough to just stand on it’s own. I thought that was a pretty powerful statement.

And last, but certainly not least, Paul Taylor Dance Company’s Company B. This dance was my favorite of the five, and not because of flashy costumes of out of this world dance moves. As the Andrews Sisters began to be played from down in the orchestra pit, I was taken out of this decade and transported to the 1950s. Coupled with the dancers in all-out garb and make-up of the time, the entire performance was evocative of a whole other world. I also enjoyed the lineup of songs and dances; it was like a mini play with each dancer sharing in the spotlight. Without having to change around the set or costumes, and just utilizing their own bodies, the dancers were able to be funny, moving, upbeat, and sexy. The small details really made the greatest amount of difference – a smile, a wink, a little twist of the hips. The choice of music appealed to me personally as well. I have always been a fan of fifties music, and it felt oddly comforting to see “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Johnny, Johnny” being danced to onstage as if that were the only way it should be performed. After having seen his dances in action, I was able to understand Paul Taylor when I went back to his writings or writings about him. “The remarkable range of our human condition” was all over the stage as he had his dancers prancing, leaping, and crawling in a way most people cannot even fathom doing. The dancers looked like they were aware of every part of their body and utilized that control to it’s full potential.

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