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This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on March 1, 2006.

March 1 (Bloomberg) — In filmy costumes tinted the pale green of budding leaves, a boy and girl enjoy an innocent caress. The music surging around them like delectable weather is by Richard Strauss. The choreography is by Paul Taylor.

“Spring Rounds,” a pleasant, innocuous ballet evoking English country dancing, had its New York premiere last night as the curtain raiser for the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s season at City Center, which runs through March 19.

That first couple, danced by Lisa Viola and Sean Mahoney, is quickly multiplied into a whole world: seven pairs of friends and lovers meeting and greeting, pairing off in ever-shifting combinations.

They’re all happy in each other’s company, except for a few misunderstandings and fleeting glimpses of the notion that another person — perhaps of a different gender — might best be the object of one’s affections.

Both men and women get to operate in single-sex groups. Full of rowdy energy, the guys cluster and butt heads. Their girlfriends show how delicacy and lyricism can civilize oafish partners.

Couples pair up once more, then merge into a fleet-footed communal celebration, presumably of the season in which the natural world is reborn.

Distinct little trios and solos, soulful or exuberant, offset the ensemble work. They serve as a reminder that being part of a group — say, a dance company — needn’t squelch one’s singularity.

Importance of Community

The subject of community is often on Taylor’s mind. Many of his dances even suggest that it may provide more support than the relationship to a significant other.

Admittedly, “Spring Rounds” is far from the most compelling piece Taylor has ever created. It can be admired for its flawless construction, which is simple, logical, and natural looking. You’d think the choreographer had been born with a gene for making order interesting.

Taylor regularly creates two new dances a year. Typically, one of them is, like “Spring Rounds,” light. It evokes unquenchable joy or tender romance, often seen through a prism of nostalgia.

Its dark opposite deals with physical or emotional deformity — distorted bodies, depravity, and the madness of crowds. “Banquet of Vultures,” which will have its New York premiere on March 3, is this year’s nightmare piece.

Seen in rehearsal, it’s an antiwar work, the most politically specific statement Taylor has ever made.

Death Triumphs

On an ominously dark stage, a tense, conservatively suited man (Michael Trusnovec) oversees a roiling mass in camouflage. The anonymous crew fights an unending directionless battle, creating and submitting to horror after horror.

Gradually the suited figure emerges not just as the instigator of the carnage but its sole victor: death.

Taking on the devouring gait of Death in Kurt Jooss’s famous antiwar ballet of 1932, “The Green Table,” he singles out a lone woman (Julie Tice). Vulnerable in appearance but spirited in her resistance, she is mourning her losses.

He rapes her, stabs her in the groin, belly and breast, then flings her body away like so much offal. In the upstage corner where he first appeared, another man, twisted and violent, comes to take his place.

Taylor’s dancers are extraordinary — all of them lusty athletes, each one a unique personality.

Annmaria Mazzini, who manages to be both sweet and sexy, is the girl everyone’s in love with. Pale and long-limbed, with quiet strength, Michael Trusnovec can play both haunted figures and the modern-dance equivalents of ballet’s noble princes.

Taylor rejoices equally in fiercer types: Richard Chen See makes dancing look like a venerable form of martial art. Lisa Viola’s daredevil force approaches the grotesque, which Taylor understands as a kind of beauty. She might even be this choreographer’s muse.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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