Paul Taylor Dance Co. executive director John Tomlinson claims credit for The City’s gorgeous weather after a stormy March.
“It’s always like this when we are in town,” Tomlinson says.
As someone who has attended every Paul Taylor tour here through the years, I can verify the claim that the sun always shines when this company is in residence.
Yet if an arctic wind blew through the Yerba Buena Center theater during the company’s opening performance Wednesday, zephyrs still would flow and bluebirds sing. Never in all these years has the company performed better. The first night of a five-day run was a heady mix of entertainment and art. Bravura dancing spread contagious joy from the stage.
The 1976 “Cloven Kingdom” pulsates with energy and imagination of something brand new, leaving 35 years behind with ease — a period that erased the memory of hundreds of other dance creations.
Taylor’s consistent artistry in honoring and elucidating music shines through “Kingdom” with a peaceful Corelli score interrupted multiple times by offbeat rhythmic patterns, as the choreography switches instantly and effortlessly from elegant to grotesque, stylish to hilarious.
John Rawlings’ bizarre headpieces, showering the audience with reflected light, would be in the center of a piece by somebody lesser. But in this Taylor piece, so many wonderful things are going on that the mirrors on the head are just a minor extra.
The funny and moving 2001 piece “Black Tuesday,” set to “Songs from the Great Depression,” speaks to the heart while dazzling the eye. It glows with humanity, embracing the down-and-out of the 1930s with Tin Pan Alley classics.
Amy Young and Jeffrey Smith are brilliant in “There’s No Depression in Love.” Robert Kleinendorst exploits and abuses working girls in “Are You Making Any Money?” Annmaria Mazzini is heartbreaking in “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Jamie Rae Walker is hilarious in “I Went Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf Was Dead.” And Michael Trusnovec is at his usual eloquent best in “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
Taylor’s choreography and Jennifer Tipton’s design combine for a striking finale highlighting outstretched hands from the dark stage. “Promethean Fire” from 2002 is one of Taylor’s most dramatic, gripping works.
In Santo Loquasto’s striking black, gray-striped costumes, accompanied by the Stokowski orchestration of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Mazzini and Trusnovec lead the company in majestic configurations, illuminating the music and holding the audiences’ attention with an intensity that makes patrons forget to breathe.
The first part is so different from most of Taylor’s many works that the viewers feel as if they are encountering an unknown choreographer.
The second part, also set to Bach, brings back some of Taylor’s signature moves and motions, taking the audience to terra firma from a wondrous terra incognita.
Today’s Program B includes “Orbs” (1966) and “Also Playing” (2009). Saturday and Sunday’s Program C includes “Three Dubious Memories” (2010), “Brief Encounters” (2009) and “Brandenburgs” (1988).
Paul Taylor Dance Company
When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Novellus Theater, 700 Howard St., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Tickets: $35 to $60
Contact: (415) 392-2545, www.sfperformances.org