Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
All throughout his choreographic career, Paul Taylor has been fond of zigzagging. From one opus to the next, he's forever swerving sharply from one tack to another, as if trying to outwit expectations and keep his inspirations from settling into the predictable.
The latest demonstration came Thursday night with his most recent composition called 'Diggity," which is scarcely two weeks old. It's got a musical score specially composed by Donald York, lighting by Mark Litvin, plus costumes and a startlingly droll set by Alex Katz.
The key to the title is that "diggity" has to be snuggled, like a frankfurter on a bun, between the surrounding words "hot" and "dawg." The curtain rises to reveal a single female in a bright frontal pose amid 27 canines - flat metal cutouts in black, white and mustard pigments - arrayed on the stage floor. The dogs, all of them small, are arranged in various attitudes of alertness or curiosity; some are dozing in supine position.
What in blazes are these creature toys doing there, looking like so many props in a pinball machine maze? In previous works, from "Three Epitaphs" to "Cloven Kingdom," Taylor has drawn sundry parallels between human and animal life. "Diggity" is another in that line, with fresh twists of its own.
York's music is lean, muscular and spacious in a very coplandesque vein, with snatches of mariachi style a la "El Salon Mexico" thrown in for good measure. When the rest of the dancers come bounding on stage, the choreography turns out to be fast, athletic and jaunty.
The five women, in short white robes, and the three men, in khaki shirts and slacks, romp around busily and gleefully like puppies at play. Another prop, a large disk painted like a lettuce on one side and a sunflower on the other, shows up briefly, and thoroughout, the dancers have to thread their way giddily through the slalom course of the dogs. There's none of Taylor's frequent grotest-querie here. The mood is benign, but the humor is sly and eccentric. At first sight, the elements don't quite add up convincingly, but Taylor's works often creep up on you with repeated viewings. The performance was brilliantly exuberant.
Also on the program were the powerfully erotic, enigmatic "Private Domain," and the ever-dazzling "Esplanade."