The Paul Taylor Dance Company performed at Wolf Trap, bringing back a wave of memories and thoughts about the future of this art form. The company was buoyant and energetic; the repertory included 1988’s Brandenburg, Phantasmagoria (a DC premiere), and 2008’s Beloved Renegade. It is impressive to see a span of 20 years of choreography, and tonight when I teach at GMU the students will be looking at other Taylor works dating back to the 1950s. How many choreographers in the United States have been able to sustain careers and companies for 56 years? Of the performers last night, Michael Trusnovec was particularly stunning. The purity and calm strength of his dancing reminded me of a favorite former company member Patrick Corbin.
But what other dance offerings are available at Wolf Trap this year? Students from the summer Appreciation course I teach have attended Cirque Dreams - Illuminations and Riverdance. This September they have a chance to see Chinese acrobats. When did these spectacle-extravaganzas become such a prominent part of dance programming? If it is economic, meaning the need to fill almost 4,000 seats (The Filene Center at Wolf Trap can accommodate 7,028 total: 3,868 in-house; 3,160 lawn), what impact does this have on the repertory that used to appear at such large venues… where do these companies go?
I remember in the early 1980s – maybe 1981? – seeing The Joffrey Ballet perform at Wolf Trap. The program included The Green Table and it left an indelible impression. It didn’t seem like a ballet from 1932, it was fresh and captivating. I think something is lost when dance history becomes a story of videotapes and DVDs, and live events are about catering to mass entertainment.