Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The high voltage that beamed continuously from the stage of the National Theatre Wednesday night suggested that not just the audience, but the dancers of the Paul Taylor Company too, were charged up for a special occasion.
The company was beginning a six-day run in the National their first appearance in this theater. It seemed a fitting tribute to the warm attachment that has grown up between the troupe and Washington over the last decade. Taylor has deep personal roots here and 10 years ago the company helped launch the city's first modern dance series under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society. By now, the Taylor company's visits always seem like homecomings.
There's also the sense of seeing an artistic unit in a peak phase in more than two decades of existence and through inevitable changes in personnel the troupe has traversed several periods of particular cohesiveness and impact. The present complement of 12 is as splendid as any of the past and has clearly reached a pinnacle of excellence in recent seasons.
There's a feeling of shared joy and commitment emanaiting from these dancers that has very few parallels elsewhere in the dance world. And during the same interval. Taylor himself, no longer dancing has been blessed with an onrush of creative fertility that has immeasurably enriched the repertoire. Hence each apperance of the company nowadays comes as a reminder of what dance and dancing are all about and why they have the power to move us as strongly as they do.
The opening program brought us the first of two works new to Washington which the company will present during the run Wednesday it was "Airs," a nine-movement work with designs by Gene Moore, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, and instrumental music excerpted from Handel's concertos operas and oratorios. The Handel score, and the corollary Apollonian qualities in the structure and tone of the piece relate it to the earlier "Aureole" and other works in a like vien. But "Airs" is not just old wine in a new container. It's a new and distinctive vintage of a mellowness and classic finish that give it a sublime autumnal glow.
At the start before the curtain rises, the music sounds forth strong, proud and noble by turns solemn and exultant in mood. Throughout the work, grave tenderness alternates with jubilation. Three duets and a solo for Victoria Uris are interspersed among movements for the full ensemble. The choreography stresses the wide-flung arms, the flexing torsos, the spacious leaps and lifts typical of Taylor's-classical mode, but it's also incredibly diversified and complex.
There are high points-a virtuoso duet for Elie Chaib and Ruth Andrien: an achingly poetic largo that includes an evocation of the "Rose Adaglo" from "Sleeping Beauty": a stunningly contrasted pair of duets for Christopher Gillis and Carolyn Adams. The whole work, thought, is a treasure.
The evening's other performances gave both the conceptual ingenuities of "Cloven kingdom" freshly profound dimensions.