Monday, March 14, 2011

Paul Taylor brings light and dark to Atlanta

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Phantasmagoria.
  • Tom Caravaglia
  • Paul Taylor Dance Company in "Phantasmagoria."
You can tell a lot about a person by how they walk across a room. You can tell a lot, but Paul Taylor can probably tell even more. The giant of choreography, now 80, holds open auditions whenever there's a space in his company, and hundreds upon hundreds of hopeful dancers show up with the dream of working with this icon of American dance. He begins each session by simply asking all the participants to walk across the stage one by one. It's a process that dancer Parisa Khobdeh—who walked the walk in 2003—says was almost more intimidating and intense than dancing in the audition itself.

“It was an audition of almost 400 women,” she recalls. “He just said 'I want you all to walk across the stage. Come in every 12 counts,' and then one of Paul's dancers sort of mumbled, 'Just do whatever you want with your arms.' I remember I walked across the stage, and, being the first person, I choreographed something simple for my arms. But then I looked back, and no one was doing anything! I was the only one! I just about melted in the corner, thinking I had messed up the whole audition.”

But whatever she did with her arms (and during the rest of the audition) must have impressed Mr. Taylor: Khobdeh was accepted, has been with the company since 2003, and will be performing when the Paul Taylor Dance Company stops at the Rialto this Saturday, March 19.

On the program are three works from various stages of Taylor's career. “Brandenburg” is from 1988 and features evocative and athletic movement to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. “Phantasmagoria” is a brand new work (incredibly, Taylor's 134th piece). Surreal and dreamlike, inspired by the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, the Alice in Wonderland-like piece features parts for Flemish villagers, Adam & Eve, a nun, an Irish step dancer and a troupe of Isadora Duncans and is set to anonymous Renaissance music. And last on the program is one of Taylor's signature pieces “Company B” from 1991, set to the music of the Andrews Sisters and meant to evoke the political and social milieu of World War II. It's also among the personal favorites of Khobdeh, who will perform in the work.

“When I first saw this dance 12 years ago, I saw the innocence, the innocence of the world and of the social aura during the war,” she says. “But the older I've gotten, the darker I've realized the dance actually is. There's duality. Paul is showing us the dark and the light. It's social and political commentary, too. It's Paul doing what he does better than any choreographer.”

The Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform at the Rialto Theater in Atlanta on Saturday, March 19, at 8 pm. For more information, visit the Rialto or call 404-413-9849.

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