The Paul Taylor Dance Company offers a fine overview of its strengths including a touch of whimsy.

Dance review |

Dance, in its joyous weightlessness, can lift the spirits like no other art form, and the members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company are particularly skilled practitioners; the opening-night audience Thursday practically floated out of the theater on a happy cloud. Taylor, now in his 54th year of making dances for his company, is a master of lyrical movement, and his white-clad 1962 work “Aureole,” which opens the company’s Meany Hall performances, beautifully exemplifies his style: open, soaring, meeting the music like an upturned face to the sun. Michael Trusnovec danced the male solo (originally created for Taylor himself) with reflective calm, his long arms and legs seeming to grow even in stillness.

The four dances performed by the company made for a fine Taylor overview: something old (yet new, as “Aureole” never ages), something new, something startling, something silly. That last quality was ably represented in “Troilus and Cressida (reduced),” a brief romantic “drama” set to the whirling “Dance of the Hours” and featuring the expert pratfalls and stumbling of Lisa Viola and Robert Kleinendorst. (Those two could teach a master class in dance comedy; just the way Kleinendorst adjusted his rather ample purple velvet trousers inspired helpless giggles.)

Something new, and yet warmly familiar, was “Black Tuesday,” which along with “Troilus” was making its Seattle debut. Set to vintage, brassy recordings of songs from the Great Depression, it ranged from romantic pas de deux that might have been danced in a heaven-sent 1930s movie (squint, and you see Fred and Ginger) to more unexpected movement. Annmaria Mazzini brought a slinky fierceness to her solo to “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”; Viola, costumed as a slouchy newsboy, impishly flew through “I Went Hunting And the Big Bad Wolf Was Dead.”

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“Cloven Kingdom,” from 1976, showcases Taylor as provocateur. Its cast is beautifully costumed — the men in white tie and tails; the women in formal gowns, as if at a society ball — and its movement at first seems predictable: elegant, calm dancing set to restrained classical music. Suddenly we hear a jungle beat, and the movement changes for some of the dancers: it becomes raw and feral, with hands drooping loosely forward like paws. The tuxedo tails whirl as the men pounce and leap, or writhe on their backs on the floor. Back and forth the movement and the music goes, as the two extremes seem to blend together. Like the entire evening, it’s an intoxicating mix that leaves you wanting more.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or