New York — The first of two new dances Paul Taylor scheduled for his company's month of performances at City Center seems fairly lightweight, but for the choreographer it opens some new territory. ``Syzygy'' - the title refers to systems of attraction and conflict in planetary bodies - is a group piece for 12 dancers, with no other program than the buildup, subsidence, and interchange of energies. Taylor is usually very specific about the shapes his dancers make with their bodies, and the particular directions in which they travel. ``Syzygy'' is unconcerned with that. The quality of the movement is more important than where or how far the movement extends, and the work sometimes has the look of a disco dance floor, with people gyrating and skidding to a stop.
The movement vocabulary for much of the dance alternates between tight, contained shifts and isolated twitches with small segments of the body, and uninhibited exclamations, limbs flung out every which way. Dancers vibrate and jerk, explode into motion, slump to the floor. They turn boneless handstands, with the legs lazily pushing into the air; they lurch into stiff, robotic sequences that could have been borrowed from break dancing.
Linda Kent is a sort of Sun figure, slowly and serenely revolving among them, her hands flicking out like little spurts of fire but her gaze turned inward. She seems to be the source of energy for the rest of the group. At one point they sit motionless on the floor watching her flare into a dazzling, circling solo flight, then they come and touch her as if to recharge themselves.
Though the dance doesn't seem to follow any formal sequence, Taylor lets almost all the dancers emerge into view individually at some point from within the surging activity.
David Parsons and Christopher Gillis are like accessory power sources to Miss Kent, and, after a brief, frenetic dance for couples and another where they seem ready to expire, the group clusters together, and newcomers Constance Dinapoli and Barry Wizoreck orbit the stage, reviving them into action again.
Donald York's score combines a Latin beat with minimalistic, repeating motifs and colorful harmonics to brace up the dance and give it a pop feeling. The dancers wear mottled pearly leotards (designed by Gene Moore) with long white fringes on one leg, and Jennifer Tipton's cool, starlit space is their playground.
``Syzygy'' is a sort of ballet m'ecanique of the '80s. I kept getting images of dynamos and blinking computers and atomic particles racing around wildly, just barely in control. It isn't a very interesting dance, perhaps because it doesn't form itself spatially into designs or sculptural phrases. Taylor seems more preoccupied here with exploring the potential of the group, which now contains several very young, souped-up dancers as well as sprightly veterans.
During the first week of the season I also saw Kenneth Tosti's ``Diary of a Fly,'' the first of four solos Taylor assigned company members to choreograph. The short piece, Mr. Tosti's first, was a sort of autobiography. The young man out there on his own - he wonders what to do - tries some steps, his fastest, trickiest - surprises himself - remembers the audience and gets self-conscious - blasts into some more steps - do they add up? It doesn't matter. The piece is a good beginning.
Tosti reminds me of Daniel Nagrin, with his virtuosic legs, his high intensity, his rugged good looks. Like Mr. Nagrin, he seems to be an Everyman dancing - a man-on-the-street in rhythmic action.
Well, a city man anyway.