For fifty years, Paul Taylor has been shocking audiences with his controversial material. Last night’s world premiere of De Sueños (literally, “Of dreams,” but probably more appropriate to the piece as “In dreams”) was no exception. Though the performance was lauded with a standing ovation, not everyone was pleased with the performance.
“The way they were degrading [the drag queen]! I just couldn’t stick around for that,” one offended audience member was heard to say.
Taylor’s newest work proved to be one of the more narrative pieces we’ve seen at this year’s festival. Beginning innocently enough, it begins with a short solo of a peasant girl in a white dress selling flowers. Yet, the piece takes a surreal, even macabre, turn when a strange troupe—including an antlered animal, a man carrying a pink skull, a lady plaited in gold and a drag queen—arrives.
The first, minor offense, in which the girl’s flowers are stolen, indicates the theme of corruption that pervades the piece. Living up to its title, the work quickly proves to be anti-realistic, combining characters and scenes that would otherwise be disconnected. While devoid of a comprehensible plot, De Sueños certainly created theatrical scenes that progressed based on the fluidity and openness of the dreaming mind, which is how the eclectic characters, including the pure, peasant flower girl, pink skull and drag queen, all intersect on a carousel ride and face the occasional threat of murder by a fellow rider as a two foot blade is passed around between the dancers.
Taylor cushioned this uncanny and surreal work in between two of his more traditional works; he began with the dainty Arden Court, and ended with a sure crowd-pleaser and one of his most famous works, Esplanade, in which veteran Paul Taylor dancer Lisa Viola shined.
Despite the strategic ordering of the program, Taylor is likely unfazed by any displeasure with De Sueños. He’s been challenging audiences since he began his career. And he’d probably like us to know, “Paul Taylor isn’t through yet.”