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A fresh luminosity from Paul Taylor’s skilled dancers

Skill and technique: Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company dancers, from left, Rei Akazawa, Sloan Pearson and Jake Deibert (Photograph by Laura Halzack)

Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company, the second offering for Bermuda Festival 2019 was crisp, clean and exquisitely elegant, both in terms of its choreography and its Rolls-Royce performance last Monday evening.

Radical at its inception, Taylor’s work boasts a multilingual modern dance movement vocabulary, yet woven throughout is a bedrock seam of classical discipline.

Following an upsurge in interest in Paul Taylor’s works in the early 1990s, the Paul Taylor 2 touring company was formed in 1993 to ensure audiences could see these pieces worldwide.

The seven company members performing in Bermuda were among those handpicked by the eponymous choreographer shortly before his death last year.

There was a fresh luminosity about these dancers who each exhibited a gratifying degree of skill and technique.

The fundamentals of classical training were evident in their footwork and upper body carriage throughout this performance.

Opening the programme and set to a collection of songs performed by the Andrews Sisters it was all bobby soxers and rhythmic swing in Company B echoing the dance styles of the period with a lightly crispy tempura edge.

There was a clarity to Taylor’s celebrated choreography and its lively, zesty performance in Pennsylvania Polka.

Irving Amigon made deliciously light work of the barrel turns derivative in his solo Tico-Tico.

Lively eccentricity of character flourished in Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!, with Johnny Vorsteg the subject of a female crush.

Jake Deibert offered a stellar solo in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B), and Sloan Pearson, accompanied by a cast of men, served up a silken, tropical cocktail in Rum and Coca-Cola, which left the house both amply stirred and shaken.

The orchestration of dance, lighting and costume was evocative and beguiling in Paul Taylor’s Images, one of the late choreographer’s most celebrated works.

Here was shape-shifting metamorphosis.

But although mysterious, movement was never vague or amorphous.

Dancers appeared as creatures or rays of sunlight or, moving in parallel as figure paintings on pottery or vivid frescoes, somewhat reminiscent of Nijinsky’s L’Après-Midi d’un Faune.

The chiaroscuro play of light and shadow (by Mark Litvin) on costumes (by Gene Moore) was captivating. Premiered in 1977 and set to Claude Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite and Pour le Piano, Images was inspired by Minoan culture and comprises a series of eight dances each with potent names, such as Totem Dolphins and Antique Cortege.

Enduring images included Amanda Stevenson in the angst-ridden solo Oracle, a celebration of female triumph, which was exhausting to watch and no doubt draining to perform.

Moon Reflections performed by Ms Pearson and Mr Deibert was a tantalising picture of control and exactitude in its nuanced detail.

Completing the programme was Paul Taylor’s Esplanade, a masterwork of pedestrian movement.

It featured a scattering of the ordinary and the everyday be it walking, running, sliding or falling, but each refined in the choreographer’s crucible and the dancers’ fire.

A simple touch, an intimate gesture, a glance, a sigh, a thought, the body becomes a living sculpture.

The work is seamlessly divided into five sections set to two Bach violin concertos.

Moments of frantic urgency, effulgent child’s play and romantic partnering climax in the fifth section danced to the allegro movement of Bach’s Double Concerto for 2 violins in D Minor.

Tumbling cascading movement is ripe with expansive energy until its quiet closure with a lost figure of a girl at its end.

Sadly, Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company is the only dance offering in this year’s Bermuda Festival programme, but this performance was one not to be missed.