Portland Ovations brought the Paul Taylor Dance Company to the Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Wednesday night in a program that included revivals of three works that represent different aspects of his genius – neoclassicism, social commentary and the apotheosis of dance.
All have in common highly innovative choreography that makes the human body as expressive as a musical instrument, a painter’s eye for shapes, both negative and positive, and a unity that makes the ensemble more than the sum of its parts.
The lack of an orchestra always detracts somewhat from a dance performance, but the recorded music in this case was well done and the dancers so precise that they didn’t need a conductor to accommodate changes in tempo or the duration of lifts.
The evening began with “Mercuric Tidings,” first produced in 1982, a perpetuum mobile to excerpts from Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. It was arranged in sonata form – fast, slow, fast – and the dancers interwove like the voices in the music. The poses and lifts were reminiscent of classical ballet, and there were steps that seemed en pointe even though the dancers were bare-footed.
One advantage of doing away with ballet slippers is that the movements flow together in perfect silence, without tapping on the stage.