Less hip, more fun

A few weeks ago, we went to see the Merce Cunningham Dance company, and just couldn’t get into it–they were too abstract, too cool, just too hip for us. Tonight, we had a completely different experience: we saw the Paul Taylor 2 company in Livermore, and  were completely enchanted.

The dancing was friendly, exuberant, accessible, and just plain happy.  Paul Taylor 2 is a small company–just 6 dancers, who play smaller venues that couldn’t afford the whole ensemble.  Those 6 artists, 3 men and 3 women, just overwhelm the large stage of Livermore’s splendid Bankhead theater corner to corner and back wall to footlights, running, jumping, dancing, flying, gyrating, rolling and projecting their joy.

The program is in 3 parts.  The first, Arden Forest, is just what it sounds like–Shakespeare’s elves and fairies dancing, flirting and carousing in the moonlight, to classical music by William Boyce.  It’s a good day when you are laughing at the ballet, and laughing we were.

The second movement is Runes, secret writings for casting a spell. This is an exercise in choreographic imagination–Mr. Taylor has invented an entirely new vocabulary for his dancers, all strange and awkward positions to symbolize the arcane and recondite knowledge hidden in the Runes.  The costuming was odd–the men had large pieces of fur attached to their backs, but none of us could really say what they meant.

The final piece is Funny Papers, a lighthearted opportunity for the dancers to shine to happy, modern music.  It began with the men dragging the women across the stage to the tune of Alley Oop, which left us all in stitches.  There was a strange laughing song (just laughter), which left me pretty cold, but then a hilarious dance to the theme from Popeye the sailor brought us right back into the mood of the piece.  We then segued through Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and a falsetto version of I am Woman into the finale, Does your chewing gum lose it’s flavor on the bedpost overnight? If you are one of the people who think dance is boring and staid, this show would readily disabuse you of the notion.

So we loved it.  The troupe is very strong, with six tremendously talented and vibrant dancers.  The program is enjoyable and light without being simplistic.  When they come back again next year, I’ll be there.




Before the theater, we had dinner at Terra Mia, a trattoria in Livermore I found on Opentable.  For a local place in a strip mall, the food was good and ther service was excellent.  I enjoyed the Crab Spaghetti, and Gail was particularly happy with her calamari steak–an item which is often a roll of the dice. The wine list is heavy on local Livermore wines, which isn’t much of a problem with both Wente and Concannon right there in town.  Prices are moderate and I’d go back again without a qualm.

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