Five Fast Facts: Paul Taylor Dance Company

Mar 04, 2020

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Paul Taylor Dance Company in "Esplanade" Paul Taylor Dance Company in "Esplanade"
Photo by Paul B Goode

Paul Taylor Dance Company hits Northrop on Mar 21 with three of the famous choreographer's greatest works. Here are some facts to know about the performance.

1. Polaris is the first piece to be performed in Northrop’s The Celebration Tour repertory. It explores audience perception in a two-part work in which the dancers move to music by Donald York within and around a large metallic cube designed by Alex Katz. The choreography of the first section is repeated step for step in the second section, but performed by different dancers to different music and different lighting. As the score changes from pastoral to menacing and the lighting darkens, the second set of dancers perform the steps with different emphasis and attack than the first set of dancers. And as a result, the viewer’s perception of the exact same choreography is altered.

2. The second piece to be performed is Last Look. Paul Taylor and two of his long-time collaborators—designer Alex Katz and composer Donald York—created a dystopian world inhabited by survivors of an apocalyptic event. Desperately clinging to life but repulsed by their own mirrored images, the survivors straddle the edge of madness. Never prone to hyperbole, Taylor called this brilliant, riveting and disturbing work “the most unpleasant dance ever made.”

3. Esplanade, the name of the last piece, translates to an outdoor place to walk; in 1975, Paul Taylor, inspired by the sight of a girl running to catch a bus, created a masterwork based on pedestrian movement. If contemporaries Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg could use ordinary “found objects” like Coke bottles and American flags in their art, Taylor would use such “found movements” as standing, walking, running, sliding and falling. The first of five sections that are set to two Bach violin concertos introduces a team of eight dancers brimming with Taylor’s signature youthful exuberance. An adagio reflects life’s somber side for a family whose members never touch. When three couples engage in romantic interplay, a woman standing tenderly atop her lover’s prone body suggests that love can hurt as well as soothe. The final section has dancers careening fearlessly across the stage like Kamikazes. The littlest of them—the daughter who had not been acknowledged by her family—is left alone on stage, triumphant: the meek inheriting the earth.

4. Since 2012, The Paul Taylor Dance Company has presented at the Lincoln Center every year, which The New Yorker calls “an anomaly in the cash-strapped world of modern dance.”

5. Paul Taylor’s legacy of creating a dynamic dance experience is not lost on Artistic Director Michael Novak’s curation, “Paul wanted every audience member to feel like at the end of the evening they had seen three different choreographers.” Novak assembled nine different programs of 147 Paul Taylor works to achieve this vision.

Watch a preview of Esplanade.

Paul Taylor's Esplanade - Part 1/5

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