The 1998 film “Dancemaker” about choreographer Paul Taylor opens with a backstage look of a performance of “Esplanade,” a dance first performed in 1975 that is memorable for the amount of running and falling throughout the piece.
Viewers who attended opening night of the Laguna Dance Festival on Thursday, Sept. 15 saw this classic work performed live and were impressed by the stamina of the dancers who did not wane in their exuberant execution of choreography despite the gasps for air undoubtedly taken offstage.
Practitioners of a true warrior art form, dancers cross from the darkness where they can’t be seen and step, or in the case of “Esplanade” and many works by Taylor, hurl, themselves into the light – something that is only successful when done with complete abandon.
And at the measure, the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s performance was a triumph.
Works such as “Esplanade,” which closed the program at the Laguna Playhouse on Thursday night, make dancers and aficionados appreciate the hallmarks of modern dance from a bygone era and prove their relevance in today’s contemporary dance climate.
The choreography does not out-right resemble a formal dance phrase, it rather looks like a spontaneous eruption of movement for movement’s sake – so inviting that it’s almost as if we would be welcomed to join if we happened our way onstage.
There is an element of play that reminds us of a sweet, carefree childhood. A game of tag mixed with twirling skirts and the unbridled confidence to leap into the air knowing that someone will be able there to catch us.
If dance reveals emotion, “Esplanade” is about joy and the dancers’ buoyancy is the manifestation of that feeling.
Yes, there are snapshots of a more a somber, isolated existence performed during the largo, or slow, movement in Bach’s “Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor,” but this only heightens the elated feeling that the work circles back to by its close.
The 3-work program opened with “Arden Court,” a piece that looks more balletic than the other two selections because of the continuous dance phrases and codified technical choreography.
But the dancers soften the virtuosic dance steps – leaps over one another that switch orientation mid-air and counter-balanced, upside-down arabesque turns – with humor, inviting the audience to laugh during a “serious” dance performance.
A series of duets show Taylor’s ability to layer contrasting movement…