Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano
in Brief Encounters
(© Tom Caravaglia)
Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano
in Brief Encounters
(© Tom Caravaglia)
If you think Dainty June and Her Farmboys were what killed vaudeville, wait until you get a load of the characters in Also Playing, one of two New York City premieres being presented by the venerable Paul Taylor Dance Company as part of its City Center season. These are third-rate acts that not even a mother -- nay, not even Momma Rose -- could love.

In the slight but consistently charming new piece, set to the music of Donizetti, Taylor quickly parades a passel of less-than-talented if decidedly enthusiastic vaudevillians, who take their turn, take their bows and take off for backstage. Taylor never lingers too long on one act, so the one-note jokes never get too stale.

The great fun of the work is watching the members of Taylor's troupe -- usually so precise, so controlled, and so elegant -- really let loose. Among the standouts: Julie Tice is priceless as an ungainly ballerina; Parisa Klohdeh is a hoot as a gypsy dancer who takes way too much pleasure in wielding a tambourine; Eran Bugger puts a lot a zip in her strip; and Orion Dickstein, Jeffrey Smith, and Michael Appuzo are simply the gayest bulls you can ever imagine.

The one bit of really fine dancing belongs to Robert Kleinendorst, who plays the quiet stagehand who turns out to have more terpsichorean talent in one toe than all the vaudevillians combined. He belongs on the Orpheum circuit.

A somewhat more substantial work, Brief Encounters -- the season's other premiere -- is a charming exploration of the young (and dare we say, the restless), set to Claude Debussy's lovely "Le Coin des Enfants" ("The Children's Corner"). As these 11 dancers -- clad only in Santo Loquasto's black undergarments -- couple, carouse, and cavort, we witness not just their first discoveries of love (carnal and otherwise), but their discovery of themselves. Michael Trusnovec, Amy Young, James Samson, Sean Mahoney, and Francisco Graciano make especially strong contributions.

Paul Taylor turns 80 in July, and we are lucky that he is not only still full of ideas and creating new works at his age, but that he has added such welcome dances to his company's vast repertory.