Paul Taylor American Modern Dance’s timely staging of Kurt Jooss classic ‘The Green Table’

4th April 1953: The ‘Gentlemen in Black’ sit around the conference table and discuss war in a scene from Kurt Jooss’s award-winning modern ballet ‘The Green Table’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 6477 – 20th Century War Dance – pub. 1953 (Photo by John Chillingworth/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 2014, Paul Taylor, who died in 2018, expanded his company’s repertory to include a new initiative, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, through which major historic works from the modern dance canon were included during the company’s annual three-week New York City seasons. Launching the project with two matriarchs, Taylor selected Doris Humphrey’s Passacaglia and Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels to be performed by his own dancers. Ensuing seasons brought in guest companies to perform works by Merce Cunningham, Isadora Duncan, Trisha Brown and Donald McKayle.

American Ballet Theatre dancing “The Green Table” photo Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

But the company’s latest nod to the past is a surprising and exciting (although distinctly not American) one: the Taylor dancers will perform Kurt Jooss’ 1932 classic, The Green Table. This distinctive and timely anti-war masterwork became known to American audiences when Robert Joffrey added it to his company’s repertory in 1967, and it became a Joffrey mainstay and signature work over many years. The Limón Dance Company has performed it, and American Ballet Theatre took it on, most recently in 2015.

This new production will be unveiled on April 6 when the Paul Taylor Dance Company performs it on a stage that has its own historic resonance: Kaufmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y in NYC. It was a regular showcase for modern dance companies in an earlier era; it’s where Ailey’s Revelations was first seen, and where Paul Taylor performed his then-controversial 1957 program Seven New Dances.

Kaufmann Concert Hall is being transformed to accommodate this production, with seats removed to add a stage extension for the set and two grand pianos. The Green Table has an original score by F. A. Cohen that will be performed live by musicians of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, which is the regular orchestra for PTDC’s New York seasons.

The single April 6 performance will be available to a larger audience since it will be live-streamed and available to view for 72 hours.

Artistic Director Michael Novak said of his choice of the Jooss wok: “Although it is a work usually performed by ballet companies, I knew the Taylor dancers would execute it with abandon, ferocity and precision.

The ballet’s anti-war themes have made it relevant throughout the decades, and the evening will include a related discussion: Policy experts Dr. Stephen Biddle and Janine di Giovanni will discuss the work and its relationship to war, policy and atrocity with David Rubenstein.

Susan Reiter covers dance for TDF Stages and contributes regularly to the Los Angeles Times, Playbill, Dance Australia and other publications.

The Green Table | Paul Taylor Dance Company, Kaufman Hall, with live stream | April 6 7:30 eastern

Leave a Reply